When you put down the good things you ought to have done, and leave out the bad ones you did do well, that’s Memoirs.
I remember the night my grandfather died.
I lay asleep in bed, dreaming dreams not yet spoken of.
Thoughts as innocent and warm as the gentle breeze
That swept through my open window.
I remember a soft tapping at my bedroom door.
As the door opened, flooding my room
With the soft ethereal light from the hallway
I heard my mother’s soft voice whisper
“Erik, your grandfather just passed away.”
As I lay with moonlight cascading through my window
Why hadn’t I been there?
I suddenly remembered my promise
To play him a song on my guitar.
Every time he saw me he would ask me to sing.
I can still hear myself saying
“Next time I am here, I will play my guitar.
Next time, I will sing you a song.
I never did.
I thought of this man that I knew so little about.
He came from the Soviet Union without anything
Except his cherished family.
He was a hard worker, a fighter
A survivor of wars.
He overcame imprisonment in Siberia
Genocide in Armenia and persecution wherever he went.
He was a revolutionary from another generation.
I remember the sadness in his eyes.
Pain was his constant companion.
I remembered how he would eagerly wait by the front door
When my family was coming to visit.
When he would lean forward to kiss me on the cheek
His faced seemed so rough compared to mine.
Yet even though his body had become weak in old age
His eyes still emanated the strength of his youth.
“I have survived, I have overcome!”
I remembered the stories my dad told me as a child.
How my grandfather fled from country to country.
How he was thrown in prison because of his faith in God.
And how his only dream was to find freedom in America.
Although he did find that freedom
He also found more hardship.
Yet in the midst of struggles
My grandfather was rarely alone.
He saved lives and helped feed many hungry immigrants.
He was never at a loss for friends.
He was considered by many to be a guardian angel.
My grandfather understood the meaning of life.
He knew what mattered most of all.
He gave his life as a living sacrifice to God
His family, his friends, and his new country.
He refused to give up.
Standing firm against adversity, he was a pillar of hope.
In the face of trials and pain, he never backed down.
He fought to protect his family.
He fought to protect me.
When he died I suffered a heavy loss
But out of that loss grew an admiration
And a love that I had never appreciated before.
As I stood at his funeral
Watching the single white rose I had placed on his casket
I began to understand who and what I was called to be.
I am a living reminder of my grandfather’s legacy.
I am his words, I am his breath.
His story of personal sacrifice and faith will live on
Through me and through my children.
It is etched on our hearts and it shall not be forgotten.
And I wept.
Looking back on my life, there are a handful of decisions I have made that I would happily reverse if I could. Thankfully, most of my errors in judgment have all been positive learning experiences that have taught me profound spiritual lessons. Yet there is one decision I once made that, if given the choice, I would take back in an instant and that has to do with the night my grandfather passed away.
I was never particularly close with any of my grandparents. My mom’s father passed away before I was born and her mother passed away when I was only a toddler. I did have a relationship with my dad’s parents but it was an awkward one because they weren’t your typical grandparents.
I have this one memory, as a little boy, when my grandmother took me Christmas shopping at the mall. My heart’s desire was a new G.I. Joe tank that had recently hit the toy store shelves. When I showed it to her in the shop window and asked her to buy it for me, I was stunned at how angry she got and her refusal to purchase the toy. In the mind of a seven-year-old, I remember being aware at the time that all my friend’s grandparents seemed to buy them anything they requested; after all, wasn’t that what grandparents were supposed to do? It wasn’t until I later grew up that I realized there was nothing whimsical about “toy” tanks to my grandparents. In their lifetime, they had witnessed real tanks obliterating people, utterly destroying property, raining down ruin and destruction. It was a point of reference that, as a child, I neither understood nor appreciated. In other words, I didn’t relate to my grandparents, so I wasn’t as close to them growing up as I wish I could have been.
My grandmother passed away first, not long after I graduated from high school. Ironically, my family had visited them for dinner the night she died and she had specifically asked for me. I was spending the night at a friend’s house when I got the call. I remember realizing for the first time that life truly is short and our time with loved ones is not guaranteed. I decided to spend more time with my grandfather since he was the only grandparent I had left. Of course, as a selfish teenager, I did the exact opposite and hardly saw my grandfather over the next few months.
I remember the day my aunt called my mom to tell her that something was wrong with my grandfather. He had lost partial control over half his body, a sure sign of a stroke. I was doing college homework in my room when my mom came to ask me if I would go with her to see what was wrong. I dutifully told her that I had to finish my work for class the next day. So she went without me. It’s with bitter irony that I don’t even remember the name of the class I chose over my grandfather.
When she finally got home later that day, she told me that she had to carry him to the car to get him to the hospital, but that he was all right at the moment. I remember sadly thinking that if I had gone with her, I could have been the one to carry him to the car. When we all went to bed that night, I had already made the decision that I would go visit him in the hospital on my way to class first thing the next morning.
We were all asleep when the phone rang and we got that dreaded call to come down to the hospital quickly because he wasn’t going to last much longer. My mom knocked on my bedroom door and asked me to come with the family. In a semi-conscious state, I told her that I needed my rest and that I would visit him early in the morning. So they left without me.
I don’t remember the details of my peaceful dreaming, only that the next thing I knew my mom was again knocking at my door, telling me that they had just returned from the hospital and that my grandfather had passed away.
I looked over at my alarm clock and realized that it was less than an hour before I would’ve woken up to get ready to go see him on my way to school. And that’s when it hit me. I had been given two separate opportunities that day to be with my grandfather in his final hours. When he was too weak to walk, I could have carried him. When he was dying in bed, I could have said goodbye. Instead, I had squandered both opportunities for reasons that were insignificant and shallow. That is why I wept.
My grandfather died six months to the exact day that my grandmother passed away. My father told me that after she was gone, my grandfather would just sit on a little plastic lawn chair in the living room and watch the cars drive by through the window. He probably passed away from loneliness just as much as the stroke. I wouldn’t have known though because I utterly failed to see him during those months after her funeral.
The day my grandfather was buried I went to the mortuary hours earlier than anyone else, before the casket was closed and transported to his burial site. I brought my guitar with me and a poem that I had written. In the cold silence of the viewing room, I sang him the song I had always promised him I would play. I then placed my guitar pick and the poem in the casket with him. I imagined that my grandfather was in heaven, listening to me finally singing him that song. At least I had kept my promise, albeit much too late.
The tragedy is that I didn’t learn the lesson not to take life for granted until he passed away. I had been given an opportunity to make up for the time I lost with my grandmother, but instead of seizing it, I squandered it. Sadly, there are some decisions in life that we just can’t take back.
Life always moves on, with or without us, and so my life has also moved on from my grandfather’s death. Yet in the cycle of life we know that, despite death, new life comes and with it, new opportunities and second chances. I learned my lesson the hard way when I lost my grandfather and I refuse to make the same mistake again. Life is precious and it is short. Life is a gift from God. Each day is a new opportunity to express to those we cherish that we love them. Each day is a new opportunity to live the life that God called and created us to live, all for His glory. Let’s not squander these beautiful opportunities.
I don’t regret the lesson I learned; in fact, I cherish it. Some people go their entire lives and never realize the truth until it is too late. I just regret that I didn’t learn it sooner and under different circumstances.
It’s funny, all my childhood I thought there was nothing I could relate to my grandparents about; yet, in their death they both taught me one of the greatest lessons of all.I don’t regret the lesson I learned; in fact, I cherish it. Some people go their entire lives and never realize the truth until it is too late. I just regret that I didn’t learn it sooner and under different circumstances. Click To Tweet
Erik V. Sahakian
Erik V. Sahakian is an Administrative Pastor at Wildwood Calvary Chapel in Yucaipa, CA where he regularly teaches, counsels, and writes. Erik has a passion to see people develop a profound love for the Bible, an abiding relationship with Jesus Christ, and to walk in victory through the power of the Holy Spirit.
Erik is an avid reader and writer, which has led to authoring and co-authoring numerous books, including the 90-day devotional, Check Yourself Before You Wreck Yourself, and his personal collection of poems, Shadowlands to the Songs of Seraphim, both available on Amazon.
You can also check out Erik’s weekly blog and audio teachings at www.eriksahakian.com along with other free resources.
He earned his undergraduate degree from Cal State Fullerton in Political Science and has a Masters in Business Administration from the University of Redlands.
Erik also loves to travel, which has led him to 24 states and 10 countries where he’s had the opportunity to speak about God’s Word and to share His love with others.
The best part though is sharing life and ministry with his lovely wife, Juanita, and their two children: Skylar and Maksim.
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