Leaving A Legacy

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It’s about to get pretty personal up in here. FYI.

Last weekend we took a last-minute trip up to Oregon to see Chris’s grandpa, Tom. On Wednesday we got the news that he was diagnosed with aggressive pancreatic cancer that’s already spread to the liver. It’s not looking very good. Chris and I looked at each other and both felt that if we were going to see him any time in the near future, we would have to leave the next day. So we made our preparations and packed up the car.

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The travel was grueling - Felix and Penelope were sick (vomit and diarrhea) on the car ride up which made the 14 hour trek last over 18 hours. Longest. Day. Ever. I was so glad that Chris was right along side me to help with clean up and keep it all in perspective.

But boy, did it sure pay off. We were able to see Chris’s grandparents, and they got to meet Felix for the first time. I think the best moment was when Felix and Gramps fell fast asleep on adjacent recliners. Felix was so sweet with Gramps, giving him some really great hugs and lots of knucks (bones).

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What struck me the most about this trip was how delicate life is. It’s crucial to focus on loved ones and building them a legacy. You never know when someone will be called away from this life.

Just days before Grandpa Tom was in the hospital with his diagnosis, he whipped up two side table lamps (above). From scratch. While we were visiting we wandered through his workout room, drafting room and workshop to see so much evidence of hard work and creativity.

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It was inspiring to see all of the things that he’s made, some new and some old, and look at all of the details. He’s made everything from side tables and lamps to bikes (15 bike frames from scratch!), golf clubs and buildings (he’s an architect).

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Being in their home made me think of how I want to decorate my own home. I’m having a really hard time nailing down a style that’s my own (that Chris can call his own, too). I want to put things in my home that are beautiful, meaningful and/or useful. Of course it doesn’t need to be perfect, my home will never be close to perfect; but it’s given me new perspective on the artwork and objects I put on display.

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It’s also made me think about my DIYing. I’ve pulled back on home decor DIYing lately (Chris and I used to DIY home projects all the time), and I think I know why. If I can’t do it right, I don’t want to do it at all. Laziness doesn’t need to be in my DIYing vocabulary (even though it often times is).

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Look at that side table and lamp. There’s nothing lazy about the construction of either of those, and those are the kinds of pieces that are meaningful, beautiful and useful.

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They also decorated their home with unexpected pieces with a story or great history. The above is a light fixture from the old SF bay bridge. They flipped it upside down and mounted it to the ceiling. It’s a huge piece in the room, too. It’s simply stunning.

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Original artwork was all through the house. And in a wide range of styles. This was my favorite of all of the pieces. I love this style from the late ’70s – dark, slightly impressionistic with the most delicious color combinations and brush strokes.

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I also noticed a lot of tapestries on the walls in varying styles and colors. Color schemes are really great, but I love all color and the variety it brings. I really should branch out of my crutch colors more often.

• • • 

This visit was so important for us to take, and we will never regret those grueling hours on the road with screaming and sick kids. It reminds me of when I was able to say good bye to my grandma several years ago.

Back when I was in college and without a car, a friend asked me to drive with him to a wedding up in Salt Lake (40 miles away). He gave me keys to his car while we were downtown and I decided I needed to go shopping with the time I was going to kill. Then my mind turned to my grandparents who were just blocks away. Surely I could visit and go shopping, but which to do first? I decided to call them and see what their plans were and go from there.

My grandma picked up the phone, which was a huge surprise. Because of her Alzheimer’s and Dementia, she left that up to grandpa. Not knowing who I was, she politely said that I could come and visit and I hung up the phone. I got the distinct feeling this would be the last time I would see them together, but I brushed off the feeling thinking that I was going crazy.

We had a great visit, grandpa snapped a picture of grandma and me and I said goodbye. Grandma gave me a hug and said, “I love you.” It felt like she was saying it to me and not a girl she didn’t remember. It was a special moment. I went home and three days later she passed away. Upon hearing the news I took so much comfort in the visit I was able to have.

And I’m so grateful that we could take the time to visit Chris’s grandparents. I don’t think we’ll be able to see Grandpa Tom again in this life. It was a really hard goodbye for all of us, especially Chris who looks up to him in many ways.

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    1. Elizabeth says:

      Thank you for sharing this with us. My grandfather was a fascinating man with immense spirit and creativity – the man describe here and the experiences you detail hit very close to my heart. My family is lucky to have a few of the things he made. These are real treasures for us.

      I wanted to say that though the corporeal is of course not our center of focus in these times, to have, to see, to study the objects from the hands of those we loved is a wonderful comfort and sometimes a sweet mystery.

    2. Lisa says:

      Reading the story of your own grandparents reminded me of my own similar story. My grandpa suffered from alzheimer’s for 10 years or so and with 50+ grandchildren, didn’t remember any of us at the end. Yet, the last time I visited him he looked right at me with clear eyes, held my hand, and said “It’s so nice to see you again.” I think that he really did see me on that day, and knew who I was for the first time in a long while, and it’s one of my fondest memories of him.

      You are a beautiful writer, Melissa, and this post brought tears to my eyes. Thinking of all of you as you go through this difficult time.

    3. Heidi says:

      Wow. Life can be so hard sometimes. That last part about your grandma brought tears to my eyes-how it was just meant to be that you visited her that day.

      So sorry that you had such a yucky car trip but I’m glad you were able to see Chris’s grandparents.

    4. Fozzy says:

      okay, totally in tears now. thanks for the beautiful entry. and the inspiration. so much love.

    5. Miranda says:

      What a sweet post. I’m in tears, too. His house is beautiful, but nothing could be more special than the time spent there with such a wonderful family. I’ll pray for comfort for your family in this tender time:)

    6. Faith says:

      It must be such an honor having such an incredible man for a grandfather. Thank you for sharing the touching story regarding your grandmother; the tender mercies of the Lord often leave me in awe.

    7. Kristin says:

      I know exactly what yo mean. My great uncle (my mom’s father figure) passed away theday before I ended up in the hospital with an emergency induction. It was so hard knowing that he passed with out meeting my kids and that I wouldn’t be at the funeral. Im so glad you guys were able to endure and make the effort to see him! So important for our kids to know the importance of families.

    8. kristin says:

      What an inspiring space and a great talent Chris’ grandpa has. But I’m so sorry about the cancer. Eff cancer, especially pancreatic. So scary how little warning that one gives you. I’m glad you both (and the kids) got to spend even that small amount of time with him. Take care and hugs.

    9. Sounds like you are led by the angels, a lot! Good for you, Melissa!

    10. Marissa says:

      Getting the chance to say goodbye properly is such a gift, even when faced with a situation such as this. Thank you for sharing, Melissa. I need all the reminders about the preciousness of life and those we love.

    11. phil says:

      love , emotion , sensibility … beautiful melissa

    12. Thank you for sharing what a truly beautiful story.

    13. ira lee says:

      thank you for sharing this! the stories, the pictures, showing us their home- i loved it all. and you are right, life is very delicate!

    14. Erica says:

      Thanks for sharing this, it’s so beautiful. Saying goodbye to the people we love is so hard, but having the chance to see them before they pass is such a comforting experience. It can be so sad and difficult at the time, but the knowledge that you were able to say goodbye and tell them you love them makes the memory sweet. We went through this with my partner’s grandmother just a few months ago. Sending warm thoughts your way. :)

    15. Kristie says:

      My family got the chance to say goodbye to my grandma, who had pancreatic cancer. But we didn’t get a chance to say goodbye to my brother, he was hit by a car and killed instantly. Hardest thing ever, not being able to say goodbye. It makes closure a little bit more difficult.
      The thing I have learned since my brother died is that you never miss a chance to spend time with family. No matter where, when, and how far it is always worth making that memory. Because memories are what you have when you don’t have the person with you.

    16. Lindsay says:

      My grandpa passed away unexpectedly of a heart attack four years ago, and I had actually spoken to him on the phone just days before he died. He was very reserved and didn’t talk much to anyone, so I feel so grateful that I have that memory of him. Glad you were able to be with yours, too!

    17. Alex says:

      This post brought a tear to my eye. Grandparents are so special and need to be treasured while they are still with us. I no longer have any of my grandparents but I treasure the memories. What an amazing legacy Tom leaves.

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