In life we rarely cross paths with truly great men but when we do, it is important to realize their greatness as one never knows how long they will be a part of our lives. I know that he would tell me that he was here for long enough to do what he needed to do…but I wish I could have just one more road trip in the Camper Truck, or one more game of Hand and Foot (even though I hate the game).
I was fortunate enough to know my hero for all 41 years of my life, he was my Grandfather. Papa Bill was the first of 3 people two share his name with a son and a grandson sharing the name William Jerome Cassel. His greatness and giving smoothed out the rough edges of many years of hard living.
When we came to see him a few months ago, I posed a question that actually has had me thinking a lot lately. I asked Papa Bill if there was ANYTHING he had not done that he wanted to do. If there was, I would move heaven and earth to figure out a way to make it happen for him…but I was surprised at his answer:
“I have done everything I have wanted to do. I just want to feel better, being sick sucks”.
I wonder if and when I will be able to say the same thing? I am not one for Bucket Lists but for goals…there are many things that I need to take care of and I will take a page from Papa Bill’s Handbook and get things done.
As the Cancer spread, I would get reports that he was not himself and the time was coming soon. My own family was sure if you would make it to your 61st Wedding Anniversary…you did Papa…you were a tough SOB that is for sure! Never quit, never give up and never back down from a challenge. You did it all your way, with your head held high and just the right mix of pride and composure.
Father of 9, Grandfather of 20 and Great Grandfather to 17+ this man was not only from a generation that was hard working, but giving. There was never a moment that he would not deny any one of us what we needed…this is important because Wants are different than Needs.
I am so proud to be part of this family and while we may be spread from Coast to Coast of this great country…that never stopped you from jumping in your car/van/truck and coming for a visit. Your “vacations” were varied and plentiful and I was lucky enough to share in some of them as a kid because not only were you my Grandpa…you were my God Father and source of much inspiration and direction.
There are things about you that I will never forget…the Death Stare that you had when we had done something that you did not approve of (that would also go along with the Grip of Despair if were not behaving in Church and silly enough to sit beside you). Always with Grandma at your side, as the measure of sugar to your spice…the two of you will always an inspiration that Love and Dedication can make it through almost anything and build a life of happiness and joy.
You were not just a family man and a hard worker though…you had a heart and a creative spirit that knew no bounds. Whether it was knitting toques, mittens, socks and “booties” to go up to the Arctic or building your Beer Can Airplanes…your days were always filled with sharing your gift with others and that is something that I will take with me forever…as it is not just what you do for yourself…it is what you do for others that creates a Man.
At the end…I will always remember how happy you were to see my little girl and how you pulled her close even though you barely had the strength to speak, it is a memory I know that she will take with her always.
I have had to say goodbye too many things in my life so far but nothing is as hard as saying goodbye to you. Here is to you and your next journey…I will make sure to bring a deck of cards for you.