life is a fickle friend.
This semester is ending the way it started.
September 15, 2013 — Rest in Peace, Warren Stephan, businessman, candyman, singer, director, husband, father, grandfather, icon.
I have never experienced a loss so deep in my heart and soul. Losing my grandfather, the one who gave me music, theater, endless love and an amazing family. And I haven’t really found a way to cope. Every time I go home, I visit his grave - even if it’s only for a few minutes. I have yet to step in his theater. I have no idea how to deal with Christmas, where he always made an appearance as Santa for my brother and little cousins. Appropriately, the only way I have been able to express my grief is through singing and music.
December 7, 2013 — visiting Poppy at the Alzheimer’s Ward.
And just as we’re reaching the 3 month mark since his passing, and now I am watching my other grandfather, Poppy, progress through the final stages of Alzheimer’s disease… watching my father and his siblings help their father wake up, walk, eat. We went to a holiday party at his ward today - our whole family. They made a private room for us, away from the real party, with a long table and holiday treats. We sat at that table for 2 hours, and Poppy was only awake for 15 minutes of it. He barely spoke, and when he looked at each of us — I’ve never seen such empty eyes. I don’t take it personally… it’s not his fault.
You know those quotes that talk about existing versus living? Sure, they’re deep and profound. Reading those quotes might make us reflect on our own lives and might even make us think about ways to better live our lives and really truly live… for a few days.
I know we grew up in completely different times, but when I look back on my grandfathers’ lives, I’m in awe. The things they saw, the places they went, the things they accomplished — their existence overflowed with life. And I’m upset with myself that it has taken me 21 years to really learn and appreciate them as more than just Grandpa and Poppy. It isn’t until now, when I watched one progress from his deathbed to his coffin to the little box of ashes in the ground, and the other need his three children, a nurse and 30 minutes to stand up and walk to a wheelchair… it isn’t until now that I understand what remarkable humans they are. My grandfather brought life, love and theater to a once desolate downtown Meriden. Poppy started his own law firm, which my father now runs, and it will remain a legacy in of our family and in Wallingford. They loved their families fiercely and unconditionally. They were generous beyond belief, two of the most selfless people I’ve ever known. In the end, they will both live on through the legacies they created during the lives they truly lived. They have touched so many people that will never be forgotten - thus, they will never die.
I have read those quotes about living hundreds of times. I have heard countless speakers preach about truly living your life. And until now, I always thought that I was truly living. But it wasn’t until I saw them losing life that I understood how much they lived.
I am truly blessed to have had these men. They have given me a family I would never trade, and an amazing life full of opportunity - a life that I hope I can live at least half as fully as they did.
So in the end, life is a fickle friend — life is the most fickle friend. One day everything can be going right, and then in a flash it’s gone. You can be at your highest high in one moment, only to come crashing down to rock bottom. But don’t succumb to life’s game. As Sarah Kay said, “this life will hit you, hard, in the face, wait for you to get back up just so it can kick you in the stomach. But getting the wind knocked out of you is the only way to remind your lungs how much they like the taste of air.” It’s okay to come crashing down to rock bottom, but don’t forget to stand back up.
I believe in happiness, celebration of life, and better days to come, no matter how hard life hits me. Here’s to the two men who taught me from day one to the end of their days that the most important things in life are the things you love, the things that make you happy, and the things that make you feel alive. Here’s to two men who existed with so much life that they will never die. I love you Grandpa - I love you Poppy. <3