Today marks 15 years since my paternal grandfather, Richard Zalewski, passed away. His death was the first major death in my immediate family, so I remember taking it pretty hard even though he had been sick for awhile.
I actually remember, pretty well, the last time I saw him and talked to him. My girlfriend, at the time, and I were going to Milwaukee for some reason and we stopped by to see how he was doing. Even though the pancreatic cancer was taking its toll on him, he was cheerful and in good spirits, like I usually remembered him (unless we were misbehaving, naturally.) I’m glad that I still have that vivid memory of him 15 years later.
Another moment I vividly remember from that time was when I was attending his funeral. I was sitting in my dad’s truck waiting to follow the procession to the cemetery and one of my favorite songs came on the radio, Metallica’s “Nothing Else Matters.” The timing of the heartfelt song and what was happening around me caused me to break down into tears which, at the time, I had not done in many years. To this day, that song reminds me of my grandfather and that moment in the car and truthfully makes me feel happy.
Though, his death, and a subsequent newspaper article related to FamilySearch, sent me on a deep dive into the ocean we all know as genealogy. I have yet to come to the surface of that ocean and probably never will. Like most of us, I pan to grow gills and live in that ocean like a genealogical merman.
I know that he would be proud of the information I’ve gathered on his family tree and, unfortunately, he would’ve probably been a great help in tracking down some of the information I am still looking for. If anything, kids, this is a notice to visit your grandparents and allow them to tell you their stories. Even if you think the stories are boring and never plan to go into genealogy, it will definitely make you feel like you know them better and that will bring you comfort for many, many years.