Vol 9, Num 20 :: 2010.11.05 — 2010.11.18
I use to think about dying a lot when I was little. My quest for the answer to life after death began around eleven or twelve when my grandpa, my dad’s dad, died of cancer. I didn’t have one of those “you’re the best popo” kind of relationships with him, and neither did my dad. It was at the end of my grandfather’s life that his kin stepped back into the scene to comfort him in his last year. For all of my life, and a few decades of my dad’s life Grandpa Kachel was invisible. So when he died, the empty space he failed to fill in my life began haunting me.
The legacy my grandpa left behind was twofold, a medal and an unspoken question that consumed my early thinking: where do you go when you die, and why? He was the first man I knew who crossed this threshold into the next, which made me desire to ask his ghost what it took to get to Heaven. At that time, death was not part of my thinking and before his short entrance into my life it never crossed my mind that I had a grandpa, so the two became one.
The only information I have about him in life is that he fought in World War II. I don’t know where he fought or how long he was over there, wherever “over there” was, but I do know he received a Purple Heart. I once held it in my hands, marveling at the deep purple surrounding George Washington’s head. Chills came over me as I realized that he was a proud warrior who was wounded for his country. And yet he would also leave behind the legacy of a cold, distant, masculine figure as the start to my family.
We inherit a lot from our fathers. My dad and I both received Scott as our middle names, linking us symbolically to this mortal man. It has become a brand on my life, this perspective that I can’t seem to shake no matter how hard I try. I once read that Scott means “wanderer” and how fitting as that is what the three of us are — the lone warrior, the truck driver and now the writer, within a family that has always chosen distance rather than togetherness.
At end of my childhood, I found my answer to the question that began with my grandpa’s death, and although it may not have been his answer, Christ tied it all together for me. They say you gain a spiritual family when you become a Christian, which may be true, but blood is always thicker than water. So I am left to wonder as I wander: will my legacy be an end to this lonely cycle? Will the contents of my life be laid down to express to all my children and all those who come after, “It is finished, no more bloodshed, no more hate, no more hopelessness, it is finished?”