I read this at my grandpa's funeral on 11/19/2008.
None of this seems real quite yet. Part of me wonders if it ever will. Another part of me wonders… if this never seems real, how will there ever again be such a thing as "reality"?
Guy Heintzelman was my grandpa. But that was just a biological technicality. There isn't a moment of my life that I can recall when he wasn't an integral piece of who I am. Be it picking me up from school, weekend trips to the flea market, chewing me out when it needed to be done, showing up at every single little league and high school baseball game. My grandpa didn't care much about biology because he definitely played the role of "dad" throughout my childhood. He was there in ways that my father wasn't. It was a perfect fit. He was the father I never had… and I was able to be the son that he never had. I am as grateful as one could be that I was able to express this to him long before his passing.
It's a good thing he taught me how to be a man. He definitely was someone who practiced what he preached – even if people didn't agree with it all the time. He was a man of strength, dignity, and respect. He was a man's man. And somehow… within all that, he was also able to be the most loving and caring man that many people here have ever known. I can only hope that I end up being half the man that my grandpa was.
This past Friday evening, I needed to draw on everything I ever learned from him. Without that which he instilled in me, I'd have never been able to accept this unreal reality. It was about 5:00, and I knelt beside his bed holding his hand. It was just us. I have no doubt over whether he heard me or not, because I'm certain that he heard exactly what he needed to. I told him that he took great care of us. I told him that we'd be alright. I told him that he didn't need to fight anymore and it was okay for him to let go. His breathing slowed a great deal soon after that… and it wasn't much longer until I heard the last two beats of my grandpa's heart.
I've never really lost someone close to me. I was 7 when my grandma died, and I don't remember much of that. So this is, without a doubt, the most devastating time of my life. The sadness comes from knowing that there will be no new memories, no new laughs, no new stories. Oh the stories. My grandpa was made of stories – the stories that you couldn't fabricate if you tried. And as we continue on, creating more life experiences, the sadness comes from knowing that he will not be part of the new stories.
Everyone here will feel a void unique to the relationship they had with my grandpa. It is easy to try ignoring that void by reliving past memories. I won't be one to ignore that void. The extent of this void is equal to the extent of how special he was. I will embrace that void. Within the emptiness is an echo of love. To ignore the void would be to ignore that echo.
That echo will only get louder and louder within my heart because "grandpa" is just word. Guy Heintzelman was my father.