My grandfather wasn’t someone that I knew as a child; he was someone that I knew as a man, and because of that, my relationship with him was entirely different from what someone would expect a grandfather / grandchild relationship to be. I never had the fortune to know my real grandfathers. Part of me thinks that they would have, in some ways, been just like Abuelo Israel. I do know that I was incredibly fortunate to know him, in the ways in which I knew him, and so he became *my* grandfather.
I knew him to be a proud man; an intensely competitive man, who bred those qualities into my father, and who in turn, bred them into me. One doesn’t come by those qualities by leading a life of leisure & ease. One comes by those virtues in the hard way. My grandfather lived his life the hard way — nothing came to him, but in the hard way, and it was in such a way that we were molded.
That sounds discouraging, but it isn’t. The name “Israel” means “God perserveres, contends” — and he did. In persevering, he touched the ground. At every juncture, when faced with hardship, he touched the ground, drew strength and purpose from that ground from where we all rise, and moved forward, eyes fixed, full and bright with hope. Even though he couldn’t see, that is how I imagine him to be, in the fullness of his strength.
This morning, we lay him to rest in that same ground. We do so with heavy hearts, but confident in the knowledge that he is at peace. We send him to his rest because, after a long life spent striving to make ours better than his, the good Lord has called him. The Lord has called him and said, “Israel, it’s time to rest. It’s time, my son, to come home.”
We lay him to rest, so that he can come home, and so that we, in turn, can touch the ground he has consecrated with his life and labor, and draw strength in turn, moving forward, eyes fixed, full and bright with hope, even as our hearts lie heavy with grief.