Happy Friday everyone and Happy Easter weekend, this post is one that I have been putting off for weeks now; not because it wasn’t important, quite the opposite actually, because it is so important that I get the words right. I have been writing it over and over and over and over again in my mind for weeks and to be totally honest I am still a little nervous as I type this. I am dedicating this week to my Grandpa, Alfred Heitzman, who passed away February 22, 2015. This man meant a great deal to a lot of people and I certainly don’t want to let any one of them or him down by not expressing myself in the best possible way. The only way I know how to honour him honestly is to turn off my mind and just let my heart speak the words it needs to. So please bare with me as I gather my courage and open my heart.
One of the single most things I remember about my Grandpa is his laugh. He had the kind of laugh that would make other people laugh just because of it. He told dirty jokes and had a wicked sense of humour.The “Heitzman” laugh is something that was passed down to my Dad as well: a throaty, full-hearted laugh that makes me smile now as I think about it.
Growing up, I didn’t feel like I had the closest relationship with my Grandpa that maybe I would have liked to. He loved to talk about rugby, LOVED to talk about rugby and cricket and most of the time when we talked, I felt like I couldn’t relate to the things he loved to talk about. In the past few weeks, many stories and memories of him have been shared by other members of my family, extended family and family friends which in hearing them I’ve come to realize that maybe after all I was more like my Grandpa than I ever thought. He loved to sing, loved music and loved to make people laugh. Though I don’t sing outside the walls of my house, well outside my car or my house, I love to sing; I love music more than anything, almost as much as I love to make people laugh. These ‘love-of’s’ are things we shared.
On the day we buried my Grandpa, my Dad read a passage from the bible and also made a speech about what his Dad meant to him. The one thing he said that touched me more than anything was when he called my Grandpa his hero. I never realized that my Dad saw him that way, but I can understand why. My Grandpa served in World War II in the Allied Forces, Special Forces Division. He was sixteen. He was there in this unimaginable situation, part of the ‘first boots on the ground’ battalions, still a child. At sixteen I was worried about whether my parents would let me borrow their car and if I’d be home from school in time to watch the latest Backstreet Boys video on MuchMusic. I couldn’t even imagine being on the front lines of a war. Yet he was there and somehow he survived several wounds including being shot in the leg. In fact, he was shot during battle, sent back to the base to recover and when he did, he was sent back out to war. The strength and courage it must have taken to go back after having a close call already is admirable to say the least.
I am not sure if it was despite the tough times or because of them that made him who he was. Above all else, he loved life and fought for it. Several times over the past few years, our family received a call from the care home where he was living saying that we’d better come soon to say our goodbyes because it didn’t look good. Every time we’d go, visit and think this was it but time again he would surprise us and keep on going. Even in his final weeks when we were told this would be the end for him, he surpassed all estimations and fought for nineteen more days before he passed away. He wasn’t going to give up easily. He didn’t give up easily.
Strength. Courage. Humour. These are character traits I hope are instilled inside me. Though I know I have barely scratched the surface of his 90 year lifespan in this post this week, I just want to say thank you Grandpa for fighting for a better future for your children, your grandchildren, your great-grandchildren. That is not something I take lightly; I know many people made the ultimate sacrifice to fight evil. Now that you are reunited with Grandma and your family once again, I’m sure wherever you are now the room echos with laughter, maybe yours loudest of all.
Rest in peace, love and laughter.