We all have known people who have left deep imprints in our lives. For me it was my Grandpa - Leons Kalnins, born back in 1911.
As a little girl I used to cling to him as a burdock and follow him wherever he went. But what I enjoyed the most were our conversations. After work we both lay down to watch the sky and count the stars. Grandpa used to share the adventures of his life – how he – a 15-year old lad had served as a cabin-boy on a sail-ship, how during the war he had travelled on foot all the way from Vecpiebalga to Riga to bring a goat to feed his family.
Grandpa’s vocabulary was full of words like "humility" and "meekness". I wondered about these words and labeled them as "ancient" because I had never heard them at the Soviet school. But what was most significant – Grandpa did what he said. Out of his mouth came only kind words; I had never heard him raise his voice. Grandpa always carried with him a paper bag full of colored candies. He put it in the inside pocket of his coat and pulled out when he wanted to offer them, for example, to a shop assistant at the local bakery or a ticket seller at the Mangali train station. Overtaken by his kindness and sincerity, even these otherwise surly and blunt ladies, melted. Grandpa never retreated from his "ancient" value system even during the Soviet times. He kept it also in the independent Latvia. The contents of the candy bag changed, but Grandpa’s kindness and sincerity remained unchanged.
But he had kept the greatest surprise until the day of his demise. In his room we found a large bag of postcards addressed to many people. He had written them as the last greeting to those he loved. The cards were meant not just for the closest ones. It seemed that he had not forgotten anyone, and to each one he had dedicated some thoughtful words, full of encouragement.
For many years, we lived together in the same house, until one day Grandpa moved out. Once he had been attacked by an angry neighbor, because he had kindly asked her to turn down the noise in the evening. She had scratched Grandpa’s face. Perhaps this incident was the last drop in the cup of his endurance. Perhaps it was hard for him to stay in the house where he had spent so many years with his wife, my Grandma, who had died recently. I do not know what transpired in Grandpa’s heart, but he just disappeared from our lives. We regularly got nice postcards, which he often supplemented with dried flowers. They were both beautiful and sweet, and very personal. Grandpa did not share his address, and we had to accept his choice. But God had a different plan.
My church had sent me to serve in a nursing home - to visit church members living there. This ministry continued for about ten years. When an elderly lady passed away, I continued to pay visits to her roommate. One lady even lived up to be a hundred years old! One day, walking along the corridors of the Gailezers' nursing home, I bumped into my Grandpa! I could not believe my eyes! He was very happy to see me and said that he lived there because he wanted to be on his own. Since he was also a cashier, he had been given a separate room. Grandpa called the nursing home a hallway to paradise.
His room, which could be labeled as very modest, was located in the hospital section of the nursing home and the corridor smelled of urine. But after closing the door of his room Grandpa left it all behind and entered the life he had chosen for himself. He was thrilled about his three meals a day, about the beautiful scenery and life on the whole. No grumbling, just joy and gratitude. Grandpa had not changed.
Thanks to us bumping into each other Grandpa renewed his relationship with his children and ceased to hide. Well, now I enjoyed my trips to the nursing home even more, because I could see Grandpa too. I introduced him to the nice, then almost 100 year old lady, and they both were very pleased to meet each other. I remember the day when I gave them a ride to Saulkrasti. What an adventure after the tedious routine of the nursing home, full of people with faces traced by anger and bitterness! My Grandpa’s and his new friend’s faces always shone with love and sincerity.
As I was expecting my first child, I had to spend a couple of weeks at Gailezers Hospital. Despite his more than eighty years, Grandpa visited me every day. He was able to relieve my anxiety, and I enjoyed his love and the opportunity to meet him more often. When, after two weeks, I was signed out of the hospital, Grandpa came to see me at home. It was his first visit - a beautiful and sunny late summer day, and we sat in the garden and talked. As I saw him off, he turned back, smiled at me and winked. I watched him walk down the street and disappear from my sight.
The next day I received a call from the nursing home. They had found Grandpa in his room, on his knees at the side of his bed. He had left this world. I was so grateful for the opportunity to spend more time together just before Grandpa’s death. It was a precious gift from God!
Though more than twenty years have passed since Grandpa went to be with Jesus, I have kept the postcards he wrote. One with an attached dried flower is especially dear to me. It was written to me and my spouse shortly after our wedding in 1991:
"Please forgive me that the whole month of January I have been ‘in a relationship’ with Miss Influenza, so I am writing to you with great delay. Please, allow me to install a "stone" in the foundations of your successful married life. Let us open the most ancient, and wise book – the Bible - and see what it says. My Dearest! I wish from the depths of my heart that you would both stick to these Christian teachings, so that you would be united by the great, faithful, devout friendship, to which you both said yes at the altar. Please, do not sacrifice your health and the lightness of your hearts to material wealth! Please, always find time for spiritual endeavors as well, because our life is just a one-time event, and each day is unique, so it needs to be filled with the beautiful and the good. I wish that you would have the wisdom to let go of your great ME and move over to the sweet and friendly - US! Please, forgive me for these words, they are meant for your benefit and are based upon eighty years of experience. Love and best wishes to both of you, Yours Grandpa."
On another postcard he wrote: "Sincere thanks for the postcard from the distant Norway and for your kindness, not forgetting me, an old man. What you have written proves that your life is full of joy, even happiness, and such days and moments are like golden pearls in the life of every human being, which remain with us even when they have passed. "
What he wrote has become true - memories of him and our moments together remain with me as beautiful golden pearls. I can touch them again and again, and they do not lose their brilliance!