My last living grandfather passed away last week, and his funeral was today.
I was fortunate to have three grandpas in my life. While one was a step-grandpa (my father’s stepfather), all I really understood as a kid was that I had three of them. They were each unique, remarkable in their own ways. My mom’s dad was a jokester, a pastor, and the most self-giving person I’ve ever known. My dad’s biological father was deeply analytical and had an entrepreneurial spirit that would never let him settle for things as they were. And my dad’s stepfather, the one who passed last week, was perhaps the most gentle, tenderhearted person in my life.
It’s strange having all three of them gone. An entire generation of men in my lineage has passed. I feel the weight of it, as if a mantle has been passed to my father, and the mantle he wore has been passed to me. This feels like a silly analogy to make because nothing has really changed in my day-to-day life. I haven’t been very connected with my grandpa for the last several years, so his passing isn’t deeply emotional for me; I have no children to whom I could pass this figurative mantle, so if there is any such thing, it seems that it will end with me; and I generally resist the strained concepts of masculinity and manliness.
Yet as I consider my life and the impact I hope to have in the world, maybe it’s not altogether absurd. I have nephews and a niece I can pour into. They have a good, hard-working father, so they don’t need me trying to be that figure in their lives, but all of us need people in our lives to encourage and support us. And beyond my family, people all around me need someone in their lives who can embody the character traits I learned from my grandfathers. I don’t have to pass on stereotypical traits of masculinity – after all, those weren’t the traits that were handed on to me! Instead, I can show them how to laugh in difficult circumstances, how to give of themselves to care for the people in their community, how to think creatively and challenge the assumptions we’ve inherited, and how to see the best in every person we encounter.
I don’t know. Call me crazy. But I kind of think that sounds a little bit like Jesus.