Willie Jennings Young, my grandfather, mentor and friend, died on September 9th, 2013 at the age of 88 surrounded by his family. He had been sick for quite a while and over the last few weeks deteriorated rapidly. He was laid to rest on the 13th.
My grandfather was a great Wimpian philosopher. For those unfamiliar with the duel meaning of the acronym it refers in part to the character of Wimpy from Popeye but stands for Worry Is Mostly Pointless, It Availeth Nothing (WIMPIAN). My grandfather lived by this thought, that worry was a pointless act that only served to make you ill and distract you from fixing the problem at hand. His lessons were told through these clever, endearing and breathtakingly vivid stories from his life and the lives of those he knew. So many centered on his childhood on a farm during the Great Depression and most began:
“We lived in about as close to a Utopian society as you could imagine. We didn’t want for anything because we had everything we needed. We were poor but we never knew we were poor because we had each other.” He would continue whatever story, usually about his childhood adventures with his “Little big brother” JB, as he sat in the warmth of his living room picking his guitar. The moral was always there, whether you saw it immediately or not, and no story was ever told without a meaning.
His guitar is in a case now, has been for over a month. Never again will I hear him strum the chords to Wildwood Flower or Red River Valley as he tries to guide me down the path of righteousness with a tale of his own adventures and tribulations. I’ll never again see that twinkle in his eyes as he looks at my grandmother, hear the laughter and joy in his voice when his grandchildren and great grandson come to visit. Never again will he put his arm around my shoulder when I feel as if my world is collapsing around me and say “Danny boy” and reassure me that I can make it.
This is a part of growing up and growing older; the human experience at its core. Yet, as sad as I am to know this man I have loved and admired for 28 years is gone, I can’t bring myself to worry. He taught me better. I know this pain is a temporary condition. It will lessen in time and I will find the joy of life in the beauty of creation and in the light of my son and my family. I have stories to tell and adventures to have and a life to live. Worry is mostly pointless, as a great man once told me, and I intend to do as little worrying as possible. I was taught better.