I know that I already wrote a post about my grandfather, but I wanted to share the eulogy that I was honored to give at his funeral this year. Almost every single happy childhood memory I have revolves around my grandfather, as he was my favorite playmate as a little girl.
Yesterday, I wrote about mental fitness and strength, and I would have never been able to deliver this eulogy without that mental stamina. I am so happy that I was able carry on his legacy and memory through these words:
On behalf of my family, I would like to thank each and every one of you for being here today to celebrate the life of my grandfather, Ken Clark. I know that he would be humbled to see so many of his friends and family here today. Whether you knew him as a father, a grandfather, a co-worker, or “Uncle George,” you certainly had the same appreciation and respect for him that I will always have in my heart for him.
As a teacher, every year I do a unit on heroism, and part of the lesson involves me asking my students to write an essay about their own, personal hero. After my students hand in their essays, I am left to grade paper after paper about the heroic feats of Lebron James, Taylor Swift, and various rap stars. Undoubtedly, my students always ask me who my hero is, and every year my answer is the same: my grandfather.
Yes, my grandfather was a part of the greatest generation, fighting to preserve our country’s freedoms in both World War II and the Korean War, but that is not why he is my hero. My grandfather is and always will be my hero because he was the living embodiment of the aphorism “actions speak louder than words.”
For those of you who knew him well, pop was a man of few words; “I love you” was not something that I ever recall him saying, but he never needed to. I know that my grandfather loved me unconditionally through his undying loyalty and devotion to me. As a child, he never said no to playing catch with me or sitting with me as we played countless hours of checkers on the living room floor of my parents’ house. This was his quiet way of saying, “I love you.” As a teenager, he was at every single one of my basketball games, silently cheering me on just with his presence, again, showing me that he loved me.
As an adult, he evolved into my confidant, my knight in shining armor, who was always there to guide me in the right direction. He never judged me or chastised me if I made the wrong decision, again, showing me that he loved me.
What I admire most about my grandfather was that he was a self-made, self-taught man who would sit and talk with me on our six hour car rides back and forth to Colgate University about his travels with the Navy, current events, books that I was studying in my American Literature class, and of course sports. These conversations are forever embedded in my memories, and I thank him for all of the wisdom and knowledge that he imparted on me.
On the night that my grandfather took his last breaths, I didn’t get a chance to tell him I loved him and that devastated me, but now I realize that just like I knew my grandfather loved me without him ever saying it, my pop-pop, my hero, knew I loved him more than anything because I spent 34 years showing him.
Rest in peace, pop, and thank you for being the true definition of a patriarch and hero. Without your consistent presence in my life, I would not even be able to understand the meaning of happiness.