With tears in our eyes and hope in our hearts, the celebration of a life well lived.
So many of my peers never knew their grandparents, or even more commonly, lost them before they started their families. It is with the most humble gratitude that I can truly say that from early childhood vague glimpses of memories to vivid stories of my adult life, my Papa Taylor has been a constant part of every season of my life.
I remember the flat roads of Fremont from our road trip visits when I was in early elementary school. I remember pulling down one of the main streets to see him at work at Napa Auto Parts. I remember their carpeted seemingly magical basement and fighting between ourselves each night over who got to sleep on the floor of a tiny cozy closet. I remember bowls of cereal at Papa’s hexagon breakfast table and dried apricots in his car. I remember my first football game was to cheer on his beloved Nebraska cornhuskers. I remember Saturday mornings high school cross country events and Papa’s shouts at so many of my races even as I most of the time finished last. I remember him at my homecoming coronation, in the stands, pride beaming from his ear to ear grin. I remember him dutifully de-petalling roses for my wedding decor and spending hours helping tie tiny bows on over 200 wedding programs.
All of these growing up memories are so rich and full in my heart. But it wasn’t until I started having children that I began to truly understand just how deeply my Papa loved his family. My Papa made it a priority to meet his great-grandchildren practically within hours of when they had been born. He held them in his arms and in his lap as they grew. He tied their shoes and held their hands and turned their hats back round the right way. His warmth was real and sincere and he glowed contentment and joy when he could share their passion, celebrate their dreams, join them in their own unique pursuit of life.
What a gift it is to have known and loved a person so well that it hurts this much to lose them.
It’s a sacred season, this present season of raw grief. It resonates differently in different ways, in different patterns for each person.
For me, these tears have washed away some of the callous distractions of daily routines, leaving me once again a little softer, a little quieter, a little more tender to the important things of this oh so short, fleeting life.
Today I sit here, pouring over these photographs and film from the day we celebrated his life, soberly resolving to never take any of the expressions and experiences of love for granted. I’ve been gifted so many in my life- profoundly in even just the last few days.
See, it’s one thing to gather for celebrations, for lighthearted cheers, birthdays, graduations, weddings. It’s another to come alongside those who are hurting.
I don’t want to ever forget the lifetime friends who showed up to cry alongside us. I don’t want to ever forget being able to embrace my cousins who drove hours and flew miles just to be together in sadness.
These are the moments that make friends family and family friends - the moments where we shoulder each other’s pain in the darkness and choose for each other to allow ourselves to feel it fully. To carry each other’s burden doesn’t make this sort of weight lighter, but to not be alone in the journey, it is everything.
These people, these amazing people, these family and friends, after how they’ve given their very selves to my story, I can only hope they’re all a part of who I am.
I see reflections in little ways already-
I see it in the way I am smiling now, nearing 34 years old, looking more like my mother each day in the lines that extend from her brown eyes in my face.
I sense it in the way I fold my hands and lace them together and bring them up to graze against my temple, just as my father does when he gathers his insights to share.
I know that it’s from the blood of my mother’s whole family how I feel it in the way salt tears burn my eyes when I mean something with all of my heart, passion and depth running down my cheeks in place of the words that get choked in my throat.
Red breasted robins and the sapphire wings of blue jays float past me and my eyes can’t help but follow their dance. My grandmother loved their flight as well, studying them and crafting them from clay and painting their colors with delicate brushes, displaying them then for her friends, gathering, gathering just as I love to do.
I know the drive that spurs so many of my pursuits comes from my father and his father, I see the same the high expectations in the many of us who share their name, the seeking and relentless pursuit of knowledge and betterment and good.
And then as soon as these reflections fill my mind, my heart swells and chills with the parallel I know to be truth- Just as my earthly self is shaped daily with the realities and nuances and delicate details of those that go before me, I was created in my Heavenly Father’s image.
And while I’m unique and individual, woven intricately and uniquely by The Great Designer, the life that was breathed into me was there before the beginning of time.
His life flows in my veins and I am but a tangible reflection of the Greater Glory who lives within me.
And so, with tears in my eyes and hope in my heart, when looking back through these photographs and film, I’m awestruck by the joy that transcends our grief and am left with two truths.
First, what undeserved grace it is to have love poured so freely into my life, a gift that comes with such a divine responsibility to reflect unhindered the same light it sheds.
And secondly, when the last page of this chapter on earth turns, one of the greatest marks of a life well-lived must be when that passing,
though expressed with tears of missing the daily rhythms of humanity shared with that loved one,
can be sincerely celebrated with a rooted real joy knowing we will meet again and embrace in the home we were created with deepest longing for.
Yes, I want to live my life so that my funeral is, just like this, a celebration, filled with more laughter than tears because
in the place of my heartbeat is hope and in place of my breath is the belief unshakeable that I am more alive than I’ve ever been before.