(I wrote this statement on November 22nd, the day after my grandpa passed away. It's written as if I were giving a eulogy to an audience of loved ones, but I actually wrote it just for myself, to help myself begin processing the loss. After being affirmed by the handful of people with whom I shared this statement privately, I'm using my 31st birthday today as an occasion to share my sentiments about Grandpa publicly.)
Sunday, December 3, 2023
Roger Conwell, Jr. was known by many affectionate names. Uncle Sonny, Daddy, Pops, Grandpops, Roger C. To me, at first he was Granddaddy, but for most of my life I ended up calling him Grandpa. And I knew Grandpa much the same way you all did. He was brilliant. He was hard-working. He was loving. He was generous. He was stubborn. He was sarcastic. He was quick-witted. He was kind. He was a believer and an educator. He valued family. He had a grateful heart.
And he valued his independence. I know how hard it was for him to gradually lose that in the years following his stroke, and in those years I became more acquainted with Grandpa's fears. He was afraid of wasting away. He was afraid of being a burden and having people get tired of him. He was afraid of losing himself, of losing his mind. He was afraid of not being able to do anything. He was afraid of not being here anymore, and missing out on things that were important.
But as many of you know, "Perfect love casts out all fear." That's 1 John 4:18. And I remain so moved by the love I saw extended toward him and toward us, his children and grandchildren, at the hospital on Tuesday, November 21st. I'm thankful that so many family and loved ones got the chance to come see him and say goodbye. I'm thankful that he was surrounded by love, and that so many of you were a part of that. I'm thankful that Grandpa was not alone in the end. I hope that he knows he wasn't alone.
There's a movie called The Farewell, where a family learns that their elderly matriarch has terminal cancer, and instead of telling her about her diagnosis, they decide to focus on helping her enjoy the time she has left. And when asked why, one of her sons explains, "It's our duty to carry this emotional burden for her." While sitting in that hospital room, as uncomfortable and heartbreaking as it was to see Grandpa in the state he was in, that idea gave me solace. Because it's our responsibility to carry him through his departure. It's our responsibility to be witnesses to his transition, witnesses to everything he was and everything he did in life. That's our role right now. And thankfully, because of all the lives Grandpa touched, none of us have to do that alone.
For now, I will simply say the prayer that I quietly pray to myself whenever I hear about someone passing away. "Dear Lord, please welcome your beautiful creature back into your loving arms. Please comfort and cover all who mourn today." It just so happens that today, we are the ones who mourn.
Thanks for everything, Grandpa. We love you. See you later.
I'm 31 today. (Let's not dwell on it, gonna have bingsu for "breakfast" and go see Beyoncé, whatever.) Who I really want to talk about today is my grandpa, Roger Conwell, Jr. Grandpa became an ancestor at the age of 86 on Tuesday, November 21st (two days before Thanksgiving). We laid him to rest on Tuesday the 28th. I am not well.
But I want to thank all of the loved ones in/from Louisville, Henderson, Indianapolis, and elsewhere who showed up (in person or in spirit) for my family during that impossible week. I never once felt alone or unsupported. My Uncle Rod wrote a wonderful obituary for Grandpa, my cousin Reilly spoke representing Alpha Phi Alpha, my preacher cousin Jaqua spoke on behalf of the family as a whole, and I wrote my own statement for myself that y'all can read here if you'd like.
Please share your love and your presence with everyone you need to share them with. Today. You think you'll have more time or more chances... until you simply don't.