Happy Birthday, George

It was the end of May 2014. The leaves were beginning to emerge, the wildflowers were blooming, and I just found out that my grandpa appeared to be nearing the end of his life.

George was 92 years old and it would be a lie to say he didn’t look it, but Esther, his wife, who was 9 years his junior had a way of keeping them both young. When the winter had finally released it’s cold grip on the land, they would celebrate by going for a walk in the woods that they both loved. That rite of spring would always end with them finding the first crocus of the season; its light purple petals rising through the brown oak leaves of previous autumn. And now, it seemed, they would never again have the chance to walk together and welcome the spring.

I was living four hours away when I got the call and found out. Grandpa was in the hospital and if I wanted the chance to see him and say goodbye, I would have to leave right away and travel North to Steinbach, Manitoba. My work visa finally came through only weeks before and I was now able to travel across the border without forfeiting my right to work in the USA. I talked to my partner and she told me that she was ready to go as soon as I needed. I made arrangements with my employer and got ready to say a final goodbye to my grandpa.

He had lived a long life filled with love. Six children, 19 grandchildren, and, it seemed, another great-grandchild almost every year. He had owned and worked on a sawmill in the winter, and farmed in the summer. He had hunted, and trapped, and fished. He was connected to the land in ways I could never fully comprehend but I was thankful knowing that a good man like this could exist. The example he provided to all of us gave us something to aspire to. If now was his time, I was just grateful for every single second that our family had with him.

As my wife drove us home to say that final goodbye, I wrote this song. When we arrived at the hospital he was there, surrounded by the people who love him. I knew I didn’t have it in me to sing, but I read what I had written like a poem; an ode to a man who was as tough as an oak tree and yet as tender as a crocus blossom.

He made it through that night. And the next. And the next and somehow, he recovered and today, we are celebrating both father’s day, and his 98th birthday. Instead of looking down and remembering who he was, we continue to look up and thank God for everything he continues to be.

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