Whether you THINK you CAN or you CAN’T, either way you are RIGHT!!!
My brother was the one that first brought my attention to this quote. I use it here because it completely describes my grandfather’s approach to life.
My dear grandpa, Isaac (Ike) Doerksen, finally found a place of peace a few days ago after 103 years of life on this earth. I don’t believe that there was any part of his life in which he did NOT believe that if he decided to do something, then he would. The last week of his life was not easy. As his ability to eat, drink water, and even get up slipped away, my family and I watched this man who had been such a strong figure in our lives slowly decline. As his physical being lost it’s strength and became a weak shell of what it used to be, I watched in what was nothing less than total amazement as the strength of mind, soul and spirit emanating from him literally infused the entire room. He didn’t once complain. When I told him I loved him, he used what he had left to tell me he loved me too. He often reached for the loving hand of whoever was sitting with him and gave a healthy squeeze. He displayed such grace right to the end. And as he did his entire life, he didn’t give up easily. He simply lived true perseverance as he always had.
During one afternoon as I sat with my dad and my grandpa, my dad shared with me some details of my grandpa’s life that I had not been aware of. He came into the world at 13 pounds!!! He was once sick for an entire year, yet pulled through like the trooper that he always was. At a very young age, he lived through things that I will never experience in my life. One of the stories that he used to tell me that most sticks in my mind is his account of his family living days at a time without food. When they finally did get some bread he could barely finish a whole piece, as his stomach was accustomed to not eating. What I didn’t know, and my dad filled me in on, was that his family had to hide in the basement for days given the severity the political situation in Russia, where, as Germans, they resided. My dad also shared with me that the bread they ate was a result of my grandpa’s father agreeing to help mill the grain that another man had brought so that they could all eat. This was a huge and dangerous risk they took – but they had no choice but to take it.
When he was barely a teen, his family escaped and made the long journey to Canada. I can’t even fathom what that would be like. With a whole slew of barriers in front of him including only a few years of education (meaning about a grade three level), language limitations, and a complete lack of resources, he found a way. He always found a way to do what he needed to do, to make it. He was without support at a much younger age than I was. And I really, truly cannot even imagine what the conditions of his situation had really been like. He did whatever work he could find. He saved up and enrolled in a certification program to become a barber. When he ran out of money, he still persevered. He wanted his own shop. In an extremely saturated market he found a way. He built a thriving business. He found decided to do it, and he did.
This little summary is just a piece of all of the things that he persevered through.
Every memory of my grandfather is filled with thoughts positivity, patience and presence. I don’t have a single memory of my grandfather ever saying an unpleasant word or exuding an ounce of negativity. He used to sing to me:
‘you are my sunshine, my only sunshine, you make me happy when skies are grey, you’ll never know dear how much I love you, oh please don’t take my sunshine away’.
Ike chose sunshine over grey in everything he said and everything he did. He just said things that made you feel like it would all work out, that you could do it, and that there was a way. He simply infused the air with a feeling of positivity and happiness. He decided to do things, to live life, to be!!!
To quote my favourite band,
‘all we need is a little patience’.
I don’t think I have ever known a more patient person than my grandfather. He knew how to step back, reflect, and take time to do it right. He always made me feel like we had all the time in the world!!! What a gift he gave me to feel that way. What a gift he had to be able to make people feel that way.
Presence. Presence is something that many of us dream of being able to feel. Recently in my life, I have had the amazing opportunity to really learn how to be more present, more often. I realize now how presence was a way of life for my grandfather. Whenever I was with him, I felt like he was completely there. Completely with me, completely in the moment. The last afternoon I spent alone with my grandfather, we talked, he held my hand, he told me he loved me, and he thanked me for being there. We listened to music, I sung to him, and I read to him. I absolutely relished the opportunity to be completely there for him. To give him the gift of presence that he gave to me so many times in my life.
The day that my grandpa found peace, my husband, James, and I ventured out for a long walk. We were somewhere with good weather, and by the ocean. We had walked almost 10 km when we found a peaceful place for lunch. We walked almost another 10 km before finding a place for happy hour. We could have taken a car at that point to get back to where we were staying. But James said to me, it’s only about another 7 km. I thought about this. My grandpa used to walk and walk and walk. He would walk through Nose Hill park in our home town of Calgary for hours. So why shouldn’t we walk another 7 km, I thought to myself. So off we went. We were tired, but we declared ‘for Ike!’, and pressed on.