October 10, 2005

Lessons from a Decent Man

Lessons From a Decent Man via the Anchoress who calls it, The best piece I've read in weeks and weeks. She's absolutely right.

Whenever someone from our community passed away, my grandfather would call me. I would pick him up in my old beat up car (he would always tell me I drove like the best chauffeur in all the land) and we would head to the house of the bereaved. He would pay his respects for a few moments and then, open a closet door and pick out the nicest looking shoes. He would repeat that for everyone who lived in the house and on more than one occasion, was looked at as if he were 'daft' as he used to say. I would be waiting for him, on the back stairs, with a large well worn, brown grocery bag. Inside, was his shoe shining kit.

We would polish the shoes of the bereaved, taking as long as we needed to, because, as he said, 'They never remember to polish their shoes. The family needs to look 'proper.' He would tell me to take care to polish the children's shoes especially well- though children, they were equal in their loss. He would remind me that some might look at the children with a critical eye- he wanted to make sure the parents would be looked at in the best possible light.

I wanted to write this to remind people that in the end, in the very end, it is only decency that counts.

At my grandfather's funeral, many- many- people came up to my father and handed him envelopes- payments on loans my grandfather had made, without telling anyone. Many of those payments were enclosed in brown manila coin envelopes, handed respectfully to my father. They stayed for the whole service and then followed along to the cemetery, for the interment. They were among the last to leave. They wanted my father to know they would keep making their payments. My father was stunned.

The night before the funeral, about half a dozen people showed up at my home, to shine my shoes. I knew my grandfather was a decent man. It was on that evening, before the funeral, I understood that he was a great man. As I watched a few men polish my shoes, I saw dignity.

A man who felt for the grieving, saw what was needed, and just did it. A great man indeed.

Posted by Jill Fallon at October 10, 2005 6:09 PM | Permalink