Well, I can tell you what one man did. He lived a rich, full life. He built a large family; a family who has always enjoyed being together; he built traditions through family and work; he built a family business that grew and prospered for many years; he built a legacy through giving to a local school and church and to a large university and many other causes.
This man was my husband's grandfather; Lawrence August Berend; LA to those who knew him. And he died yesterday at the age of 99 years old; just 7 months shy of 100.
I don't profess to have known Grandpa as well as many of his large family did, but I knew him for 19 years, and I liked him.
He worked hard, alongside his brother, for a good many years to build their family business; a business that supported their offspring and grandchildren. He and Grandma raised 6 kids in a 3 bedroom house; the same 3 bedroom house that he and Grandma still lived in. Grandpa stayed active every day of his life, even in retirement; swimming, dancing, playing dominoes, socializing with his friends and family and attending mass. Grandpa was well-known and well respected and well liked. What more can you ask for?
On Thursday, Grandpa left his home and walked out to his car to go play dominoes with friends. When he didn't arrive, the friends called one of Grandpa's sons. Grandpa was found out by his garage.
While his quick wit and humor will be missed, I can tell you this, when Grandpa arrived at those pearly gates, he had a sly, slightly irritated grin on his face and I'll bet you his first words to St. Peter were as follows: "It's about time....I've been waiting a while, you know?" Because one thing a Berend is not is patient! And for a while Grandpa had wondered why he was still on this earth. Why had so many of his friends and family passed on years before and he continued on year after year in good health.
Well, we can't know the answer to that, but Grandpa would have liked the way he went; quick and to the point, without any fuss; the Berend way.
So, if you knew you had 99 years, what would you fill them with? Work, travel, reflection, family, friends? Would you squander a year or two just because you knew you could spare a few? Would you take more risks? Or would you take fewer risks? Would you take better care of yourself so your 99 years would be good, healthy years? Would you change some things or nothing at all?
For some 99 years isn't enough time to do all we've set out to do and for others, 99 years is far too many to fill.
I think Grandpa did it right. He danced and played and told stories and sweated and stood strong and worked hard and sacrificed and presided over many marriages and baptisms and first communions and family reunions and wasn't intimidated and told it how he saw it. He was as tough and hard and as soft and giving as old leather boots.
If in the end you have no regrets or unfulfilled dreams and you know where you stand and who you are, I'd say that's a life well lived. Here's to Grandpa Berend and here's to life, perhaps 99 or more years of life... Over and out...