Craig Elbe
5 min readDec 14, 2020

After enough life lived, one may ponder their biggest successes, failures, and regrets. Of all my regrets, the one I place above all others was out of my control.

My Grandpa and I loved watching Michael Jordan play, and appreciated his abilities on the court from very different perspectives. Now, the number Jordan famously wore represents the number of years my Grandpa passed away.

I was in eight grade and knew this day was coming. His health was rapidly declining due to the cancer he had since the summer before, combined with the effects of chemotherapy and radiation. When our like-another-mother neighbor told my sister and me of Grandpa’s passing that Thursday morning, we were given the option to stay home or go to school.

Our parents were with our Grandma and Aunts and Uncle, consoling each other and grieving loss the one of, if not the, most important man in their lives. I remember it being a Thursday because Thursdays were Art Class and I got to see my crush, my Art teacher. The timing was fortuitous with my needed distraction already in play. I chose to attend a full day of classes.

I was a little numb, trying to be strong. However, a few days later at his wake, I cried harder and more than any other wake, before or since. The sadness that surrounded my family and me was compounded by the sheer number of people that came to pay their last respects to this great man. My Grandpa touched so many lives in his 68 years that the funeral home had to open all the other rooms to accommodate the large crowd. Thankfully, his was the only wake that day.

My mom worked at the school we went to, so the faculty that was like another family came by to offer their sympathies to everyone. Despite my bashful demeanor at that time in my life, I wasn’t afraid to shed as many tears as I needed to regardless of who was in front of me. I felt so much love from everyone that came by. Many of them took turns holding me each time I broke down.

My small pond of tears were hard for me to explain at the time. I just let them flow without question. As I’ve aged over time, I’ve realized it was partly from all of us losing him, but also me losing him when I was only 13 years old.

Since then, I’ve heard tons of stories of him and how wonderful he was, especially from the love of his life, our Grandma. It wasn’t until years later through those stories that I realized the full scope of who he was and what he stood for. His sense of humor and work ethic…