Personal Love: We Can Always Come Back to This

It has been just over a year since Gramps made his way home. On February 17, 2016, Heaven gained an awesome man. Our family lost an incredible son, brother, husband, father, grandfather, and great-grandfather.  The community lost a true friend and servant who brought much joy & laughter wherever he went.

I remember working on gathering pictures to create memory boards for Granps’ Memorial Service.  A few tears fell as I looked through the ones Jeff & his family had chosen for the slide show. Many were from years past; some from before I was born.

When I got to the pictures of more recent years, the tears began to multiply.  These pictures, which only captured fleeting moments,  allowed me to re-live some of my most favorite memories made with Rainey & Gramps.

In the midst of going through the various albums these pictures were in, I came across this message which I had saved several years earlier…

Dear Human

What perfect timing for me to find this. I’ve read it many times over the last year while grieving, and each time the tears flow a little less.  While this has been a huge loss for our entire family, I find comfort in knowing that Gramps made his way home as completely himself…it was enough: it was plenty. That he knew he was not sent here to be perfect, but to learn and live personal love so that one day he could return to the unconditional love he came from.

As I reflect, we have learned some of the important truths in Courtney Walsh’s message above from Gramps.  He didn’t teach us about these things while we sat and visited on the couch.  Love was always a verb with him.

He showed us this through his love for his dear wife, Rainey. Second to God, He loved her more than anyone. And while Gramps never believed he would die, especially before Rainey, they lived their lives like they were dying – as if each day may be their last. Aside from them, I’ve yet to know a couple who loved each other, enjoyed each other’s company, had fun, and lived life to it’s fullest like they did. Date nights, skiing, dancing, getting together with friends, traveling with “The Coach” to Horseneck Beach and Destin Florida every year. Seems like anytime we spoke, they were headed out somewhere to do something they enjoyed…together.

He showed us this in his love for our country and his military service.

He showed us this in his love for his son, Glenn.  It didn’t matter how long or stressful his work day was, he made time to practice football and show up to every game with his movie camera in hand.

He showed us this when Jeff’s mom, Teri, was put on bed rest while pregnant with their youngest son, Joey. No one had to ask. Gramps called and said, “Im coming.”  No one dared try to stop him because this was Gramps living out his personal love.  He was also known to be a tad bit stubborn :-).  He spent a couple of months there, helping to care for the 3 older boys and things around the house
He showed us this in how he cared for his grandsons.  Jeff has shared fond memories of times he spent with Rainey and Gramps during the summers of his childhood.  Throughout adulthood and important milestones in Jeff’s career, it has been Gramps who he called first to share good news and recieve advice.

He showed us this when he volunteered as groundsman every year at Henderson Beach State Park.
He showed us this in his love for animals. He often volunteered at the animal shelter.  I will never forget all he and Rainey did to save and then take care of his beloved dog, Buddy.

He showed us this when he was so excited to meet our 3 foster girls. They were in a hard place with some difficult behaviors. Gramps and Rainey did everything to make them feel safe and comfortable. He loved walking them to the park and pushing them on the swings.

He showed us this as he shared in our pain and navigated messy parts of life and relationships with us.

He showed us this when after having multiple court dates changed, we finally had a last-minute plan for Shianne’s Adoption Day.  Gramps said, “Rainey and I WILL be there.”  A few hours later they showed up for Shianne’s Adoption.

He showed us this by using his gifts to fix and build anything and everything. Whether it was for family, friends, or strangers. As long as it helped, he was quick to jump in.

He showed us this in his perspective during the last few weeks we had with him.  After learning of his cancer, the girls wanted to visit, but he wanted to facetime instead.

I have been tuned in and loving everything about NBCs This is Us. On last week’s episode, William, the grandfather passed away. It was during a fun trip with his biological son, Randall, who he had recently connected with 36 years after dropping him off at a fire station. The two forged deep bonds during this trip, sharing eachother’s passions, bearing witness to their brokennes and messy love. Creating memories as this love was made whole. When Randal learned William wouldn’t make it home from the trip, he insisted on flying his daughters, who had absolutely fallen in love with their grandpa, so they could say their goodbyes.

William ensured his son that he had already leaned over and kissed the girls goodbye before leaving on the trip.  And then he said this….

“I want them to remember looking up at me, not down.”

Although we will never know for sure, I believe this might have been why Gramps didn’t want us to bring the girls for a visit when, as hard as it was, we knew he didn’t have much longer.

I’ll never forget the pride and joy Gramps had when facetiming with the girls.  They were excited to show him one of the gift cards Rainey & Gramps had given them for Christmas. Gramps was so fulfilled seeing those and listening to the girls talk about making purchases at McDonalds. Then the girls wanted to show him some new stuffed animals – he tuned in, asked queations, and cracked some jokes…even though he was feeling horrible and in a lot of discomfort and pain. The girls were looking up at him and it is a precious last memory.

When I finally got my turn to talk, his first words to me were, “how are you feeling ?”  I had just gotten out of the hospital myself.  This is how he loved – genuine and selfless.

The last thing Gramps and I said to each other was “I love you!”

Up until the end, Gramps lived the personal love he was sent here for.

There is no doubt that a good amount of the Phoenix love and strength that has been passed down and lives through our family of 5 is due in part to him.

We miss him dearly and this anniversary has taken us through the ebbs and flows of memories. As I Watched This is Us, I was reminded of what Gramps.would want for us. To be looking up, not down. To be doing what we love; living life to the fullest. And, to know that, “We Can Always Come Back to This.” To the place of love that Gramps and his memories have infused into our lives…some of which are captured below. And as we do, we will be looking up, not down.

Take a listen to We Can Always Come Back to This

About Kristin Phoenix

daughter turned teacher turned social worker turned wife turned foster parent turned mom When people who don’t know our family story find out that we fostered and adopted the girls, we generally get one of two reactions…”I would have never known. They look just like you!” or “Oh, how beautiful.” Both of these things are 100% true – on the surface. The picture perfect, shiny, pretty surface. But, just below the surface is a whole lot of mess and brokenness. Our girls endured things that I never even read about in my textbooks. Our family endured things that go completely against the 3 philosophies of safety, permanency, and well-being that the child welfare system is in place to protect. When we have the chance to share a little bit more, the response always goes something like “but…how?!…and why?!” I believe in dreaming big. Part of my dream is a child welfare and healthcare system that would have prevented unnecessary trauma for my girls, my family, and our community. The other part is one of redemption and recovery for everyone involved in our story – which is everyone. I now believe part of why our family endured what we did is so that people would hear our story and ask the hard questions of how and why. With sexual abuse, trauma, foster care, and adoption, we never truly know until we find ourselves in a position of not knowing. Because of the nature of our case, I often found myself in a position of not being able to really answer the hows and whys. I reached a point where staying silent was the only option. Now that our adoptions are finalized, it is time for me to break the silence. This blog is me daring to run after my dreams – even when I find myself out of breath (which is mostly every. single. day.) It is stories of how the collective we have lived up to the Phoenix name and are rising from the ashes to burn bright! I also currently write and edit for Social Justice Solutions
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4 Responses to Personal Love: We Can Always Come Back to This

  1. Lorraine Phoenix says:

    Sooo beautiful – what a tribute to Gramps -thank you, KRISTIN .❤❤❤

    Sent from my iPhone

    >

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Jessica Lund says:

    What a great tribute to Gramps. Sounds like he was one amazing man full of God’s love!

    Liked by 1 person

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