Sunday, January 9, 2011


Every year, my kids and I sit around the Hanukkah candles on the eighth night and watch the candles on four menorahs burn down. At first the room is glowing from the light of 36 candles. Before too long, one by one the candles flicker and go out, leaving a plume of smoke that rises in to the air. There is always one candle that just seems to hang on though, even after all the wax is gone and the wick is nothing but ash. The faint glow of the blue flame hangs on for sometimes five or ten minutes. Inevitably though, the holiday ends with one last plume of smoke rising in to the air.

Last October, I flew down to Florida to visit my Grandfather and Grandmother. I knew it was possibly the last time I would see him since his 98 year old body was showing the signs of it's age. At 2:05 this morning, my Grandfather's faint glow went out sending his soul up to heaven. His life was very much like that last candle. Living to 98 years old, he has seen all of his friends flicker and go out, leaving him as the lone candle. But this story has a different ending, for what looked like a lone candle was actually two intertwined, the other being my Grandmother. Together, they had the strength to burn longer and brighter. They would have celebrated their 75th wedding anniversary this year.

At 95 years old, my Grandmother will be on her own for the first time in her life. She is very strong though and has the love and support of literally dozens of family members. There are no regrets. My Grandfather left this world with the tank empty and the tires smoking. He lived life completely.

My Grandfather was a tinkerer. He loved to take things apart. He made a career of it with his own vacuum repair shop. I remember when I was nine or ten years old, I was riding as a passenger on a banana seat bicycle. It's usually a scenario to end up on America's Funniest Home Videos. I ended up somehow with my ankle wedged between the frame of the bike and the kick stand. Within minutes, my Grandfather was on the scene with a tool box dismantling the bike to set me free. I almost imagine the story with him wearing a cape to come to my rescue. Staying true to form during his last few days in the hospital, he had the nurses in a fit when he dismantled his heart monitor. I guess he literally wanted to see what made it tick.

Ellen and I will fly down to Florida tomorrow. Bringing family together is what he liked to do best and even in death he is still doing it. I'm sure he is looking down from heaven and smiling at the legacy he left behind.

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