It’s been a difficult day.
Earlier this afternoon, my grandfather passed away. If you are on my mother’s LiveJournal friends list, you probably know something of him. Henry Somers was, quite simply, a lovely man. He was gentlemanly and soft-spoken and one of the most compassionate people I’ve had the pleasure of knowing in my lifetime. Originally from New England, he met my grandmother at Antioch College, which in those days was referred to mainly as “that communist college down in Ohio”. They went on to live in New Jersey (where my mother and her twin brother were born), Michigan, and back again in Ohio. He’d been a chemist in his younger years, though when I was growing up, he had moved on to his second career as a librarian. He was a warm grandfather, a tireless letter-writer, a wonderful storyteller, and an avid reader with special interests in theology and Lewis Carroll. He loved P.G. Wodehouse and P.D.Q. Bach. He loved gardening and carpentry. When I was little, I believed wholeheartedly that there was nothing my grandfather could not fix. When I was fourteen, visiting my grandparents in the beautiful old home they had renovated themselves in Marietta, Ohio, he braved my teenage obsession and took me to see “The Outsiders” at a theater in nearby Parkersburg, West Virginia, and even pretended to enjoy it. I have a lot of particular images of my grandfather, mostly in that house. There he told us bedtime stories, taught us to walk on stilts, played board games with us, taught me to use his mimeograph machine to make copies of the drawings I was ceaselessly creating in those days. He helped me make a wooden case for my recorder, which I still have. He was always ready with a joke or pun, told in his joyful, quiet manner.
As I’m sitting here with a glass of wine in his honor, I find these thoughts are just pouring in… so many memories of the wonderful man he was. He helped us out financially so many times when we really needed it, and never with any accompanying guilt. He was truly one of the best human beings I’ve ever known. I’ve often thought that he was my personal idea of what a saint should be.
I know I should be feeling happier right now. He was not enjoying his life very much before he died, and I believe he wished for the end often. Still, I can’t help the tears which keep reappearing this evening.
I don’t know what I think about the possibility of an afterlife, or what happens to us when we die. I find myself now hoping very much that there is something after this life, so that my grandfather might now have the answers to it all. It’s a strange thing to be thinking about, maybe, but it is something I’d really want for him.
Sometime in the next few weeks, we’ll be attending a memorial service for him at the Quaker meeting house in Manasquan, NJ, where he spent most of the years after my grandmother’s death, before moving with my parents to the Philadelphia area. It will be nice to be with family and friends who loved him, and truthfully I’m really looking forward to it. Tonight, however, I can’t quite shake the sadness. Not for him, of course, for this is what he wanted, but for me.