It was good to see you and your family Sunday. I’m so glad you could all come for Silas’ baptism. It was a wonderful, joyous day. And yet the tears that sprang to my eyes when the water was being poured over Silas’ small head were tears of sorrow. We stood there — you, Rose, me, all the rest. But where was Michael?
Michael would have so loved to have been there. He would have talked about it, written about it, recorded a podcast about it. He would have been beaming. He’d have sung the hymns especially loudly, his eyes turned upward as they did when he sang. We would have been proud of Silas together.
Michael’s missing out on a lot of things lately, isn’t he? The evening Silas was born tears stung my eyes then, too, as Ryan carried our brand, new grandson into the hospital nursery. It was such a moment of joy mingled with pain. When Noel told her dad she was pregnant the first time, he was days away from death. I ached as I watched him clap his hands for the grandchild he knew he would never see. “I wish you could be here,” I said. He answered with confidence, “Oh, I’ll be right there.” I suppose I had hoped that when Silas was born I might feel Michael’s presence in some way, if just for a fleeting moment. But I was only aware of his glaring absence as you and Rose put your arms around each other at the nursery window.
Now Silas’ crooked grins, gentle cooing and sweet snuggles are a part of my world that Michael will never know. Soon Silas will be walking and talking, a bundle of energy and life — and I will hold him up to see Grandpa Michael, a silent face behind a piece of glass on the wall. So many times I’ve wanted to say, “Charlie, it’s all up to you now. You have to be an especially good grandpa, because you’re the only grandpa Silas will have.”
So if you’re going to take Michael’s place in this grandparenting thing, what sorts of things would he be doing now? I’ve been looking through photo albums, remembering the things Michael did with Noel and Clay when they were small. He adopted the silly songs I invented for every occasion. He alone could soothe colicky Noel by getting her to sleep on his tummy. When she was older he’d set her in the middle of our bed and gently push on her chest until she tipped over, squealing with laughter.
Michael loved for us to travel as a family, whether it was a week-long vacation or a simple day trip. He planned fishing expeditions, outings to movies and baseball games, trips to museums and zoos, even Disney World. He would have loved to take Silas places, too. But now those dreams are in the misty realm of memories never made.
Does that give you some ideas of how to fill in the gap left by Michael’s death? Good. Now, forget everything I just told you, because you have to do it your way. Michael’s not here, but you are. And although Silas has the best daddy in the world, a boy can’t have too many positive male role models in his life.
The night Silas was born the nurse brought him to visit in Noel’s room for the first time. You, Rose and I sat in the side part of the room, remember? I gazed around. Mommy, Daddy, Grandma, Grandpa and Grandmere. “We are Silas’ family,” I thought. “This is what he’s got, and it will just have to do.” And somehow, in that moment, it was OK.
Michael has joined that cloud of witnesses who cheer Silas on from a distance. But you, Rose and I, we’re right here. We’ll hold Silas’ hand in the zoo, buy him an ice cream cone and wash the sticky off his little face. May he cherish us all three, but may you be especially loved. And may Michael smile as Silas runs to you, arms outstretched, crying, “Grandpa!”