My grandmother’s lesson to us was to love.
I studied Ancient Greek in college and I once asked Nana if she had a favorite Bible verse
that she wanted me to translate.
The verse she gave me was John 13.34,
where Christ says that God’s new commandment is that we should love one another.
This was Nana’s creed. To love.
To give love.
Papa’s lesson to us was kind of a corollary to this.
He taught us how to behave and what to do when someone gives you their love.
When someone loves you, you accept that love and you keep it and you nurture it.
You protect it.
You tend to it as you would a plant.
You control its surroundings to create the conditions it needs to
survive and flourish.
I think that it isn’t so difficult to give love to people. It does take courage, and compassion, and sensitivity. But it comes naturally to us.
It’s what we’re supposed to do as human beings.
Now, tending to a love, that takes work.
That is a job for strong people.
People who are generous and kind and charitable with themselves.
The summer after Nana passed away, I stayed with Papa for a week or two, just he and I. It was a difficult time for him.
He was afraid and uncertain about how his life was going to be after losing his partner and companion.
He told me something that he said that his father had told to him once; he said that no one makes it in this world alone. You need help from other people.
In the past six years, there have been a lot of people who very graciously made themselves present in Papa’s life
and who made him feel included and cared for,
but he was still alone.
And yet, for those six years he endured it.
He was strong enough to get by on his own, even at an advanced age, but he never would have chose that kind of life for himself.
That inner strength that would have fortified him for the most adverse circumstances, throughout his life, he gave that away to other people.
Papa made a career of public service. He was a champion of the common good,
an impulse that likely came from the fact that he was an oldest sibling.
I would hear him talk occasionally about what it meant
for one to be his brother’s keeper.
That was an ethic by which Papa lived.
As a husband, father, and grandfather, he arranged everything the best he could for us
to make that sure we would be happy.
If he was ever stern or controlling, it was because he had to be
to influence the people around him to be decent and to love one another.
If he was ever distant or at times seemed remote,
it was because he knew there was something inside of him,
parts of who he was,
that needed to be banished
so that they could not jeopardize the love that everyone had for him.
Of the few men in my life whom I have known well, Jack Burton was the most gracious,
the most generous.
He was the strongest.
I love him
And I will miss him so much.