Will "the Mighty" Strohl

Goodbye, Grandpa

If you follow my blog (which it seems that a few people do), you would have undoubtedly noticed that I haven’t been blogging recently.  Unfortunately, this is due to a family emergency that occurred in my family. 

A few weeks ago, very late on a Thursday evening (really Friday morning), I received a phone call from my cousin.  He told me that our Grandfather was very ill, and was not expected to make it through the weekend.  Despite being 2,400 miles apart, I was really close to my Grandfather.  Kim and I immediately began to try to plan to fly out to California the next day.  We stayed up until 3 AM, trying to figure out what to do.

salas_family_1950s The fact that my Grandfather was so ill means so much to my family, as he is the eldest of us all.  My family was brought to California from the island of Guam, following World War II.  He is the oldest living member of the original family that was brought to the US from the island.  He was the patriarch of our family, the guide.  The picture is of my Great Grandparents, and their children, in their Southern California home (1950’s era).

The next day came very quickly, since I didn’t sleep too much.  I decided to work from home, since we might be leaving at some point during the day.  We were still looking for possible flight, hotel, and car accommodations.  We were trying in every way to bring the kids with us, since the family on the west coast hasn’t met them.  I tried as much as I could to concentrate on work, but it was difficult.  Eventually, at about 8 PM on that Friday, we settled on leaving the kids with the family here, and fly out for a week.  The thought process was that Grandpa would pass during the weekend, and then I would be there for his funeral.

My Grandfather had cancer for a few years now.  He was not given a very long timeline, but he fought the disease with great effort.  He was literally on his last leg, due to an aneurism about 6 months before being diagnosed with cancer.  Due to the illness, he was currently not eating very much and as a result had very little energy.  He would sleep most of the day, and all of the night.  His mobility was now limited to what he could do from his wheel chair.

My Grandfather and I, only a week before he passed I am told that when he heard I was on my way, he waited on his front porch much of the day for me.  A few of my aunts and uncles were already there, and they were preparing dinner when I arrived.  The family would sit on the porch outside to eat their meals because it was cooler outside.  That night, my Grandfather sat with us while we ate, for the first time in a while.  I was very happy to hear that I was a part of him wanting to be less withdrawn from the socializing.  Though, he fell asleep a lot during our meal.

Kim and I stayed at my Grandfather’s house for the first couple of days that we were there, helping to take care of him.  It was very scary for me, as that’s when the reality and gravity of the situation really sunk in.

Despite the reason for all of us being there, we had a great time together as a family.  My family deals with everything through humor, and boy was there a lot of humor going around.

During the next week, my Grandfather had a couple really good days, where he insisted on going out to breakfast.  It was inspiring to say the least. Unfortunately, I paid for the first breakfast.  Continuing to be the gracious host, he was really disappointed at first, and it made me feel pretty bad.  Later, I was told though that he was happy that I was able to pay for everyone. 

Then the fateful Thursday arrived when the hospice doctor finally came, and gave us her assessment of my Grandfather’s condition.  He was given 48 hours to live.  My flight was leaving early the next morning, so Kim and I made arrangements to stay another week.  I am forever going to be grateful for that decision, for many reasons, not the least of being that I was the last person that my Grandfather asked for.  I held his hand as he passed.  The entire time was very stressful, but I was happy that he finally let go, to not suffer the illness any longer.

The following week was a blur, as we were making arrangements for my Grandfather’s funeral.  Family flew and drove in from across the country.  I met several family members that I have never met before.  We celebrated my Grandfathers life as he would have wanted us to.  He was a man who want to have a good time, and spent his good times making sure that everyone else had just as much fun as he did.  That’s what we did for each other.

Frank C. Salas, Sr., Exalted Ruler of the Elks in El Cajon, CA My family chose me to do the eulogy for the funeral, as well as one of the pallbearers.  I did the best I could, and the family seemed pleased at what I said.  Following the funeral, we toasted my Grandfather, drank his favorite drink, and hung out at his favorite place.  He was a Prior Exalted Ruler (PER) at the El Cajon Elks Club (he is the short dark guy in the center of the picture).  That is one of his favorite, and more cherished accomplishments.  The club was just like family to him.

I cannot reflect on my Grandfather, his life, and his passing without realizing something that I spoke about in the eulogy.  Despite how some people felt, his number one priority was family.  He instilled and reinforced a sense of family into all of us that I have found unmatched in most other families that I have spent time with.  Unfortunately, over time we had kept our family values, but grew apart as one by one, family members moved away from El Cajon to places like Connecticut, Arizona, Texas, Florida, New Jersey, and more.  But in his passing, we were all brought back together again as a family.  Our family strength was re-energized, and renewed our inner-sense of what our family really means to one another.  And the torch of keeping our family together has been passed on to my generation. 

So, what’s the first step in keeping the family connected in this new, technology-driven world?  A family website, of course!  I still have to get a logo worked up, but http://salasfamily.us has been born.  I think Grandpa would be proud.

The Salas Family toasting our Family Leader, Frank Salas

Good bye, Grandpa.  I love you, and we will all miss you forever.

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