Life lessons on patience, taking things for granted | Across the Universe | SierraSun.com

Life lessons on patience, taking things for granted | Across the Universe

Last week, I had to make a last-second, unplanned visit to my home state of Michigan to attend my grandfather’s funeral, and the events surrounding it.

It turned out to be a really great lesson in life about not only the importance of not taking things for granted, but also of that old saying: “Patience is a virtue.”

Donald K. MacMillan, 86, of Bad Axe, Mich., died at home on July 25 with much of his family by his side. I made it home two nights later, after hastily booking an overpriced flight (turns out, most airlines aren’t too budging on bereavement fares) and ransacking my schedule to best help with last week’s papers.

As I learned after last Tuesday’s rosary reading, my grandfather was a 51-year member of the Bad Axe Knights of Columbus, a pretty remarkable feat considering the tiny Michigan town’s K of C branch had only been around for 100 years.

He also served in the U.S. Army during the Korean Conflict before an eventual honorable discharge, meaning a special military burial occurred after his funeral last Wednesday.

As a pallbearer in the proceedings, I had an up-close view for this, and, while of course the circumstances were unfortunate, I found it utterly fascinating as I watched two decorated U.S. Army soldiers dressed in full military garb carry it all out.

Amid 90-degree, humidity-laced conditions, one of the men rigidly stood at attention while the other blared “Taps” from a bugle.

Afterward, the duo performed the incredibly tedious process of folding the American flag that adorned my grandfather’s coffin.

In all, it was a tremendous display both of patriotism — and of pride. Those men understood the importance of their duty that day, and not once did they falter.

During all of this, I found my mind drifting at times, focusing not just on the ceremony, but also on life and death, and the general meaning behind it all.

I suppose just about everyone thinks about “the meaning of life” from time to time, and after last week, I can surely say I still am nowhere near close to solving the riddle.

But what I do find true more than anything is that “life happens.” And therefore, so too does death. It’s a part of the process we all go through, and I was wholeheartedly reminded of that, in several positive ways, during last week’s time in Michigan.

For some, the healing process is more challenging than for others — for me, that process evolves into a coming-of-age realization that these things happen, and in the end, reconnecting with family and friends far outshadows the energy I could spend bitching about air fares and the struggle to find a good WiFi connection to do work.

In more straightforward terms, it can be easy to lose sight of life’s strengths when weakened by its so-called inconveniences.

Which brings me to my other point about patience. After flying back west Sunday, I immersed myself in the hundreds of emails in my work inbox, after largely ignoring them for a few days last week.

Not surprisingly, a handful were of an urgent nature, and some people had replied numerous times and left voicemails in hopes of a response. By Monday, I’d gotten back to everyone and apologized for and explained the delay — which everyone immediately understood.

As a newspaper person addicted to deadlines, I’ve been in the exact same boat, riding the waves of impatience — “Call me back,” “I’m in a hurry,” and “What could possibly take so long?”

Sometimes, it can take the most jarring of occurrences to remind us all that life not only can “happen,” but it can “wait,” too.

Kevin MacMillan is managing editor of the Sierra Sun and North Lake Tahoe Bonanza. His ‘Across the Universe” columns are published Tuesdays at SierraSun.com. He may be reached for comment at kmacmillan@sierrasun.com.