One last letter

*Note: this is a letter I wrote to my granddad who died recently. It’s maybe the most personal post to date, and I wasn’t sure whether to share it or not. 

I’ve always written when I am sad as I find it easier to find the right words to express myself. I’ve written a few personal letters, to myself, my husband and a few friends. Usually it’s very deep and emotional, as is this one, and therefore kept private. But somehow I felt like sharing this one, so people can get a glimpse of how amazing he was.

Dear Opaatje,

I’m sorry I have waited such a long time to write to you again. It’s now been three months and nine days since you left us.

Death is a weird thing: I know that we are all mortal and we all have to go some day. And I am not religious so I don’t think you are a star shining somewhere or hanging around in heaven with other dead people (but if you are hope you manage to catch up with Fernando Pessoa). I understand and accept the concept of death in its pure sense, but somehow it’s difficult for me to understand and accept that you won’t be here anymore. Ever. And at the same time I see you everywhere, read you, and hear you, being it a book or something interesting I’m reading and I’d like to share with you, a funny joke that I know you’d never get or all the new things in the world that I know you were eager to keep up with.

And despite not believing in eternity in the religious sense, I believe you’ll stay with us forever – through your stories, your unconditional love for us, your grandchildren, and all the things you taught us. Not things like tying shoe laces or riding a bike. You taught us beyond that. You taught us to be curious and compassionate, to never cease to dream and always try to understand others, and never jump to conclusions.

It’s hard for me to tell my friends who never got the chance to meet you what an amazing human being you were, how you were no ordinary man. I have never in my life met someone so passionate about the world we live in. With an endless curiosity and eagerness to learn more and understand more. I’ll never forget how at 83 you stayed up till 1 am (or later) to discuss and learn about the stock market and investments with my boyfriend, and how Oma had to come get you, like a young boy who is being grounded, for staying up too late.

It’s incredible how many ongoing projects you had at 85. We got back home and saw you had three different folders on your office floor of ‘new projects to start’. A few books that you had started reading. The bicycle bags were out because, you know, ‘the weather is starting to look good again’. You were reading my dad’s thesis in Portuguese, and had so many notes with questions to ask. And although it’s hard for us, this was the best way for you. You were passionate for life and would not want to linger in death. You are a true inspiration. I can only hope to be as passionate, to live my life as fully and to die still full of projects and dreams. Because in dreams we can live forever.

I love learning about all the people you helped throughout the years, the people who’s life’s you’ve impacted in such a positive way. I’ve just been to Ostend to visit Oma and she showed me all the nice letters people are writing to you; they say how you made them think, or how you helped them see things a different way, or how exciting it was to talk with you…

For me, one of the things I most admired, was your willingness to always try to understand our reasons – you never judged or ever made us feel like you were disappointed at any of us. You always asked questions, looked beyond, tried to understand. And most importantly you made us think. Yes. Maybe that’s one of the most important lessons, you taught us to think.

I miss you, more than ever before. I miss your emails, your voice, your smell, your laugh. I miss you at breakfast. I can always hear you come through the door saying you bought us ‘paozinhos de leite’. I miss making fun of you and laughing together. I miss your stories, your endless curiosity and your passion for life.

I find myself envying those who got to spend more time with you then I did, after all, the distance was always there, but that never made me love you any less, I promise. And I’ve grown used to missing you and Oma (my Auntie and the boys) all the time. Nothing like this though. I guess saudade really is the ‘love that remains’, because my heart is full of it.

When I was reading the letters and texts from other people I saw some of them say how shocked they were with the news as ‘just the other day you were having conversations about education, politics’… and again I envy them because I can’t recall our last conversation. I have our last email, of course, where you promise to “inform our minister of summertime to make it sunny days” for our upcoming trip. But I can’t recall our last words exchange. And for a while it really upset me. Until I realized, I have 29 years and 3 months of memories with you. And I’ll always cherish that week we were all together last November. More than cherish, I have it locked in my heart and won’t ever let it go.

While others may recall you more for the philosophical and political conversations, I recall you for all the stories you told us and all the moments we shared together as a family. I loved your childhood stories and the way you told it. I could really see that little boy in your eyes again, having to return those chocolates. I loved our moments together around the table, and how you always made us laugh (not necessarily because you wanted to). I’ll always remember how the whole family screamed and ducked down as you smashed your lobster. How you stayed up late facing the domino pieces trying to ‘make sense out of it’ while Sara, Oma and I laughed. How you always played board games and cards with us, even though you couldn’t really understand the game and often lost.

Maybe for others it’s your ideals, your intelligent way of seeing things, your love for books and for the arts, your views on education and politics that will linger on.
For me it’s you, my eternally curious, understanding, compassionate, playful, full of life and loving Opa. I will forever carry you in my heart.

Oh, I almost forgot! The days were sunny so we have to thank you, your request to the minister of summertime worked.

Love you always

Without curiosity there is no more life.” – Robert Paulus, 2nd December 2013

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