Part of the Bury Yourself writing project
Then I heard a voice from heaven say, “Write: Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.” “Yes,” says the Spirit, “they will rest from their labor, for their deeds will follow them.”
Death has not been a common experience for me through my lifetime. There have been many family pets that have passed on. There has also been people in the community that I was aware of that have died, but none of them I knew personally. Unlike most people I have crossed paths with in my 30-some years, I have known only one person to pass away: my grandfather, Karl Stange.
The day I was notified of his death, I was in Grade 11. I remember that night, I was to perform in a production of Grease. I can also remember being more distraught over my mom missing that opening night performance than I was over the death of my grandfather. A very selfish reaction when I look back at it now. Merely a 17 year-old kid, instead of a man approaching 35.
His death, ultimately, wasn’t much of a surprise. My grandfather had survived a heart attack in his 40s, heart complications later on, and a bunch of dramatic surgical procedures in the final years of his life. Death was inevitable.
At the time, I was rather unemotional about it. I had believed that moving on from hardships quickly was better than letting thoughts linger in the mind. I still believe this now. You do need to allow some period of mourning to release the built up tensions and axieties inside, but the important thing is keeping that period short.
I really never mourned over his passing. I regret it to this day. This project is both inspired by and devoted to my grandfather.
His death never really sunk in for me until just over a year after his passing. I had moved in with my recently widowed grandmother, acting as a father-figure in the house for two years. Through conversations with my grandma, the many other family friends, or relatives who visited, I learned a great deal about his life and personality. I spent a lot of time learning even more by looking through the numerous books in his office, in the basement, in boxes in storage, not to mention all the albums of photographs.
Surrounded by his history brought back my own memories of him, more than any personal meditation could. This had a profound effect on me, without fully realizing it until later.
Now, as I sit here writing, I am aware of what I am leaving my daughter (possibly grandchildren 20+ years away.) I have thought of this since I entered University. Do good work for future generations to discover.
My grandfather left a lasting legacy through his work in life. Working with the Y.M.C.A in southeast Asia, a minister of a small church, and as a professor at the University of Regina. The majority of his writing can be found in the archives of the Y.M.C.A or at the University of Regina. A collection of his sermons given in southeast Asia are still in the family’s possession. This is all accessible for our family members and any who may be interested in learning more about this man in the future. He laid the foundations for other projects in the cities he lived in, as well as, a foundation within the people he connected with to foster spiritual or academic growth.
His death and the rediscovery of his life, taught me how valuable the human existence truly is. Life may be finite, and we may believe that history only belongs to well-known authors and celebrities, but that is wrong. Our existence extends well beyond our mortal life and can touch people we will never meet.
It is only a matter of doing the work, leaving something behind for others to discover, or leaving a piece of your experience with others directly. Death is not the end of life. It can and should be the beginning of a whole new life, the birth of a legacy of who we were to the people we touched.
My grandfather has been the best example of this in my personal life. His legacy began on that solemn day in June, nearly 18 years ago.