My Grandfather's Soul left his body three weeks ago. I am both blessed and stricken to say that he was the only family member I have known personally to pass from this world. He was a wonderful Grandfather to me, an amazing Father to my mother, a truly Great-Grandfather to my son, and a devoted husband to my Grandmother. When we went to the funeral home to say our goodbyes to the vessel that carried his soul for 78 years, and my son wanted to see his body, he thought it was like our snake shedding his skin. He was very clear throughout those few days to remind us that it was not "Pop" we were burying or looking in at -- it was "Pop's body." I feel I have much more to learn from my son than he has to learn from me. But still my family standing there must all in our own way release the attachments we have to the flesh we have known as a man and the strings that tie us to our bodies and thus to his. So, I watched my mom crying at the loss of her father, the man who held her as a child, who offered my father her hand, who held her children and her grandchildren as well. I watched my Grandmother, Nanny, his wife of 56 years, his greatest love, committing herself to the last sight of the body of the man she loved. Still in his pocket was the first love note she wrote him, that he carried all those years. I felt the tears of my wife, of my sister, of my entire family, and I sincerely wondered if things would be okay. I started to pray, as I stood by the hearse, waiting to receive my Grandfather's body. I looked out on the land around me and saw the way everything continued to move. It all appeared clear.
I prayed for some kind of sign, I figured the birds would give me a sign that Pop was okay and that my family would be okay. Then at some point I realized I was praying for the wrong thing. It is unnecessary to pray for signs, we are continually given signs (you are reading one right now), what seemed more worthy was to pray for the ability, the bravery, and the sight to witness the signs that I was offered. So I let go, I had Faith, I didn't need a sign, I felt my Soul and I felt my Heart. I felt my Grandfather there within my Heart, he loved me so much he will always be there.
His funeral was beautiful and challenging, it was amazing to stand with my family but also so difficult to see them grieve. My Uncle shared beautiful words and feelings about his best friend and father, I felt sincerely how much my Grandfather cared for us, his Family.
Then, as we left the funeral, my cousin tapped me on the shoulder and said "David look…" pointing up. Right over our heads was a Juvenile Red-Tail Hawk in the middle of his molt (this is the most challenging time in their life when they must devote massive amounts of energy to growing new feathers, a period of growth and renewal, a period of rebirth). The hawk followed us, and as me and 7 of my cousins put his body back into the hearse to take it on its final trip to the cemetery, it circled perfectly above us. It stayed in sight circling higher and higher until we left to go to the cemetery. Sight, and a man humbled and undeserving of such a gift, yet granted, not for me but for my Grandfather. The Perfect Gift.
We are given Life and we are given Death, this is what we agree to when we become human. We are also given Hearts, Hearts that flow with the Blood of the Divine, Blood that is Eternal. I feel the Divinity that is within my Heart and I feel it within all my Brother's and Sister's Hearts, my Grandfather resides in that place. If you would like to find him, just ask for John or Jack Hayden, he will answer to either, and he will tell you some great stories, and I guarantee he will make you laugh.
The marks I make on paper and skin may seem important to you, but they are nothing compared to the marks we make on our fellow beings' Hearts. My Grandfather did not make art, but he made a beautiful family, and without that I could not make the art I do, so please look beyond my hands when you look at my work, they are moved by so much Greater than I.
I gave this piece to a man who 2 month ago flew my Grandfather (a man he never met) on his private jet from Louisville, KY to Atlanta, GA so he could spend the day with his Great-Grandchildren. My Grandfather made me cry with laughter 2 times that day, it truly was a "Perfect Gift," a gift from God that came through a man who in that moment was an Angel.
"Every generous act of giving, with every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change." James 1:17