Friday, May 17, 2013

Strength and Spirit

My cousin posted a picture this morning that hit me in the gut. The picture was of a framed newspaper article that hangs on his home office wall -- and the subject of the article is our grandfather.

I think my grandfather was in his 40s when he was in that plane crash. I think my math is correct, there -- but I'm sure my family members will correct me quickly if it's not. He was a brilliant business man, who built his construction business up from nothing when he got out of the army. He had 7 children with my grandmother. And when he was in that plane crash, not only did he break his back, but he lost his business to a scheming partner and had to start all over again.

But from his wheelchair, he did start that business all over again, and he did build it back up to the level of success he had enjoyed prior to the accident. The newspaper article talks about how "his back may have been broken, but his spirit was not."

Sounds pretty amazing, right?

But here's the truth.

The truth was that he was a brilliant businessman -- but he was harsh and cold with his family. My grandmother raised all 7 children very much on her own, and then also took care of an 8th human being when my grandfather became paraplegic. My grandfather's spirit may not have been broken, but it wasn't a kind spirit. My memories of him include being at my grandparents' house in San Jose when I was little, and crying because I had skinned my knee, and my grandfather bellowing with that terrifyingly deep voice from across the house, "Shut that kid up!" And my poor mother rushing to my aid, trying to comfort me while simultaneously trying to calm my crying so her father wouldn't get any more upset.

The newspaper article made him out to be this ray of hope -- this man who should have died, rising from the ashes of his plane crash.

I remember it very differently. Hope isn't a word I'd choose to describe him. Stubborn strength and endurance, sure.

And it got me thinking about my own situation. The tragedy I endured last year, and how it could have killed me. I could have just stayed in bed and died after that. But I rose from the ashes. I rise a little more every day.

And I don't think I got that strength from my grandfather.

I got that strength from my parents.

From my mother, a sensitive soul who had to learn how to put on spiritual armor to survive in her childhood home. From my father, who lost his mother to cancer when he was in his early twenties, then lost his only sibling, and finally lost his father who was the last family my dad had.

They both lost a grandchild last year -- but they stayed strong and kind for me. They gave me shoulders to cry on, they made funeral arrangements on our behalf, and they made sure I always knew I wasn't alone in anything I was going through.

They might not ever get that newspaper article. But I don't need one to remind me how strong they are. Their spirits are etched into my heart.

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