In the wee hours of the morning on Friday, April 26, my incredible Grandfather was welcomed through Heaven’s gates. I imagine him standing there with a background of white as a slightly younger version of himself. His head is balding, but his hair is still tinted dark brown. His beard is bushy, and his stance dignified. His demeanor welcomes his patients from all over the world. As one of the best reproductive endocrinologists of his time, his skills and his compassion are coveted.
He stands there smiling. At me. Wanting to reassure me that, “He’s fine. He’s finally really fine.”
But, I’m not. After my recent miscarriage earlier this month, I was just regaining a small measure of emotional equilibrium. This morning my journal entry reads, “I’m ready to choose joy. Acceptance. Hope.”
Now…I’m not fine. I’m numb.
The man known as Dr. William Joseph Schindler was not just the man who helped pioneer IVF and infertility treatments, but the scientist who also assisted in NASA’s research before man stepped on the moon. He was the youngest doctor to present before the Royal Medical Society in England. He remembered when a single computer took up an entire room. “Billy” was a child of the Great Depression, who even as a wealthy doctor would clip coupons and go to great lengths to get the best deals on milk and bread. He played in National Bridge Tournaments and bet pennies in his weekly poker games. Even after retirement, his mind never rested, as he poured over works of literature and pieces of art.
I apparently inherited my love of ice cream from this man, as his freezer usually contained at least 10 cartons (all bought on sale, of course). Either a large Snickers or Hershey’s milk chocolate bar followed nearly every lunch, while cookies and ice cream accompanied dinner. His most famous meal was his bacon-wrapped pork tenderloin with mashed potatoes and apple sauce. However, he fondly recounted his smashed peanut butter sandwiches from his childhood that he would sit on during school hours before consuming.
He was one in a million. He was and will always be my grandfather.
My dreams took life in his confidence that I could hang the moon and the stars if I so desired. Even as a little girl, I quietly promised myself to follow his encouragement and pursue a career that “I loved so much that I would do it for free.” It should come as no surprise that when I decided to discard my journalism degree and pursue teaching because I felt called to its sacrifice and rewards, he cheered me on. It didn’t matter that I was immediately accepting a pay cut. It only mattered that I would be making a difference and doing something that I loved.
Years later, when I called him after a year of trying to get pregnant, he reassured me: “Don’t worry. I’ve gotten women pregnant over the phone from all around the world.” Only the granddaughter of a retired infertility specialist would take a comment like that in stride. Since then, I believe he made it his personal mission to make sure that I would hold a baby of my own. He has cried with me. He has called colleagues and friends. He has reassured me over and over again that “I would be fine.”
In March, I spent my last evening with him on this earth modeling maternity clothes. As it turns out, not clothes that I would wear long term with that pregnancy, but ones that I pray to don again in the near future. He smiled, laughed, told me how beautiful I looked.
My last memories are full of life.
Grandpa Bill loved life and loved his family. He could fake an incredible Daffy Duck impression or recite my family’s beloved Jewish blessings and prayers in his deep, beautiful voice.
I imagine him standing there, praying we won’t grieve too long. He’s not alone. His father is with him. Loved ones gone on before stand behind him. And, now, my baby. My sweet baby that he has now held and rocked before me is comforted by his belly laugh and his love of ice cream. I’m sure there are sweets in Heaven.
He’s joined the “Great Cloud of Witness” that the book of Hebrews promises surrounds us until we too reach the great finish line. His race is over. His victory assured.
And, now we carry the torch. Of greatness. Of gentleness. Of compassion. Of generosity. Of genius. Now we carry the torch.
And grieve. I love you, Grandpa.