Friday, June 1, 2012


Death seems to be a prominent feature in this year, and I am not liking it at all.  Mere months ago my childhood best friend lost her mother and weeks later her father.  Their passing as a hit to me, not only because of the pivotal role they played in my childhood, but because they weren't that old.  I never felt like I 'grew-up' yet here I am, looking mortality in it's face.  I don't think that death is malevolent, but a necessity, for without death we can't have life.  This book really changed how I look at death. Yes, it's fiction and fantasy but it is also a powerful examination of the inevitable.

Anyone that follows me on facebook saw that my grandfather passed away yesterday.  I didn't know him well but I would like to share what I did know. It is going to be rough, and spotty and not necessarily completely accurate. It's from my memory, without calling family to back up the facts.

See, I didn't know him well. It's hard to mourn someone you barely knew, but it still hurts.  Leonard Stamper, otherwise known as Pete, was from Tuscaloosa, Alabama.  His mother's name was Lee Ilya and she was a 6 foot tall red head.  I'm giving her name for my first daughter, because from the time I heard it, I knew I loved that name. My grandfather and grandmother divorced when my mother was young. Their relationship was tumultuous and certainly not monogamous, as my mother discovered in her 40's that she was named after a woman he met in a bar. My family likes to keep it classy.

My mom remembers sitting on his shoulders as a little girl, but I didn't meet him in person until I was in college. In high school I got mail from him. I guess my mom talked to him about my liking to collect quarters, and one of his hobbies was collecting coins.  I received a box in the mail, and it had some proof sets of the quarters that had been minted that year.  These coins are the only gift I ever received from him, and I thank him for fostering a love of coin collecting in me.  My collection is tiny, mostly still the things that he sent me, and I value it highly.

I met him over a summer vacation from college. My brother came upstairs and woke me up saying something about a strange man yelling at the door. My parents weren't home at the time and I was confused as to a. why there was some strange man at the door and b. why the hell my brother wouldn't take care of it. I managed to pull myself out of bed and head downstairs to figure out what the hell was going on.  He had a red truck, and drove straight up from TX to Ohio to bring my mom a box of pictures. Family history. My mom loves to study history and geneology and it's fitting that he gave them to her.  In my sleep fogged brain, I couldn't figure out what he was yelling. was probably his damn accent, but he was yelling "auuuuuuuuuuud?! Auuuuuuuuuuuuud?!" one of the only people allowed to call my mom that, and not get kicked.

My grandfather was a Southern man through and through.  He was so Southern, it oozed out of him.  His accent was so thick you could cut it with a knife, and talking to him on the phone was almost impossible.  Talking to him was like talking to a southern stereotype, and I had a damn hard time not laughing at him. Oh, who am I joking, I totally did.
 One thing I hated about my grandfather, was his racism.  I deplore racism, and perhaps one of the reasons that my mother was so vehement about teaching us about the evils of racism was because of her father. He was a Korean War POW, and perhaps that experience had some part in his racism, but I really think it was just growing up in the segregated South and being too stubborn to care or change.  When we were looking through the pictures that he brought us, he said something and used the n-word. I had literally never heard someone drop a racial slur like that, and without thinking about it, blurted out something along the lines of "we don't use that language in this house, and if you want to you can leave!" I took him (and myself) by surprise and he apologized and said, "that was just what we called people back then" and he knew it wasn't right.  You would think that my parents would be angry that I spoke to an elder like that, but my mom still tells this story. I think she was glowing with the pride that I stood up for something that she impressed so strongly into us.

The next time I saw him was my cousin's wedding. I don't think it was the same summer, but it very well may have been. I remember asking if he'd seen my grandmother, and he commented that he hadn't seen her in (trying to do math in my head....) 40? years. I was walking next to him, and pointed her out to him. He grunted in approval and commented that "she held up pretty well over the years." Is that a Southern compliment?

He died of lung cancer. Smoking cigarettes for half a century (plus) can and will kill you.  He battled this disease for most of the last decade, and it finally took him. I truly believe that he came to see us years ago because he thought it was going to die then, and he needed to make peace before he left this world.  In the last decade, he managed to make peace with his daughters and foster some sort of relationship with all of them.  He finished what he set out to do, and it was okay for him to go.  He had a DNR. He wanted his passing to be just that, not a tug to stay on this plane of existence, but an acceptance that death will take us all.  

In a weird twist of fate, my wonderful friend's father passed away yesterday and we had a long discussion last night and I was mourning his passing only to wake up this morning and find out that my grandfather had passed away.  It has been a strange, and a bit surreal of an experience.

Today my 5 year college reunion starts, followed by Slumber Parties training, work, a party and finally my trip to Oregon.  Hopefully I can write more there, but until then I bid you adieu and leave you with this prayer:

Omy God!  O Thou forgiver of sins, bestower of gifts, dispeller of afflictions! 
Verily, I beseech thee to forgive the sins of such as have abandoned the physical garment and have ascended to the spiritual world. 
O my Lord!  Purify them from trespasses, dispel their sorrows, and change their darkness into light.  Cause them to enter the garden of happiness, cleanse them with the most pure water, and grant them to behold Thy splendors on the loftiest mount.



  1. I'm sorry for your loss.
    Your description and stories about him were nice to read (even though I never met the man, of course). But anyway, I just wanted to let you know that I read this, and that you have my condolences.
    Have a good weekend and safe travels!

    Oh, and yes. That was a southern compliment, lol. Many people in the South do NOT "hold up well" over the years, lol.

  2. There are a few things maybe you didn't know about your Grandfather. He wasn't really a racist. He loved all of God's people. He was raised in a different time than us and used different words to describe them. Yes he used the "N" word but if you go to Texas or anywhere down south you'll find a lot of whites use that word and so do the African Americans. Down there they conciser themselves Black not African American. They say the difference is the amount of money you have. If you don't have any your black, if you do your African American. Semantics. He loved everyone and he loved life. It was a by-product of the Chemo he was receiving for the cancer that actually killed him. He ended up with congested heart failure because of the type of Chemo he was receiving. He was told that it might happen. Your Aunt Kim had been there the week before for a cousin's graduation from high school and ended up putting him in the hospital for 5 days where he left AMA. I'm not trying to be a bitch but there are facts about your grandfather that your mom doesn't like so she doesn't tell anyone. He had the most wonderful sense of humor but some people didn't get it. Your mom is one of them. I did and loved him completely for it. We got each other and we talked just about every week. He loved all of his children and grand children and tried to do the best at showing it. I think he just didn't know how to get past our "Yankee" beginnings. He was also a very compassionate man. I know if you knew him the way I knew him you would see things different. I hope that this gives you another side of your Grandfather.

  3. Oh, you're telling me that death is a big one this year. We've had more than normal amounts of people dying at the nursing home this year and it's only JUNE! EEP!
    I'm so sorry for your loss. Ricki was telling us stories about him when she was here the past weekend. Sounds like an interesting person. BTW, smoking doesn't always kill you. I've known a couple people who've smoked all their lives and are just fine. Or, they haven't smoked at all in their lives and have lung cancer. Luck of the draw, there. :)

  4. Well done Eileen. He told me the story about you putting him in his place about the N word and told it with pride! I discovered that he LOVED people to stand up to him and whenever he saw them he had this big smile on his face. I got to talk to him about you and Shawn and he had that special smile the whole time.
    Don't feel that you have to express anything other then what you know and experienced about him. Just to add a little family history - He also received 2 Purple Hearts within the space of 3 weeks while in Korea. And for the record I am a Yankee and my sisters are d..m Yankee's. The difference? I was conceived in Alabama.
    Sounds like you have a busy couple of weeks so take care of yourself.
    Aunty Kim


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