As read at the Celebration of Life Memorial Service, February 21, 2016. In loving memory of my Grandpa, Charlie May, September 18, 1923-January 27, 2016

When my siblings, cousins and I were small, my grandparents lived in what is affectionately called by the family “the house on Cedar.” I remember only a few small things about this house. It smelled like pipe smoke, a theme for the first 10 years of my life until my Grandpa gave up the habit that had made everything around him smell like a rich wood mixed with something sweet. The floorplan of the house included the ultimate of fun for young kids—a cluster of rooms that made up a circle. We would run and run laps around this natural circuit, part of which took us through the living room where my grandpa had his chair. He sat right by a side table with a drawer—he would slide the drawer out as each of us passed, reach in, and offer us an M&M from the bowl he kept there just for that purpose. He sometimes couldn’t resist grabbing our arms, giving a tight, loving squeeze, and to the girls, saying, “Hey, beautiful!” We loved visiting that house on Cedar.

Throughout my life, my Grandpa had a way of offering you things. He’d hold up a cantaloupe or a watermelon he had picked out at the store and say, “Do you want some?” He’d proudly present it as if he had grown it himself from a seed (rather than just sniffed it out in the fruit aisle). He’d handle it with love, and he’d hand it over with love, and I’m not sure what it was—whether he really was great at picking out fruit or the way he looked at you as you ate it—the fruit was incredible every time. And he wasn’t stingy with his Garden of Eden caliber fruit, either. I remember an offer of watermelon that I couldn’t refuse, although we had just had a very filling lunch. He offered, I accepted, and suddenly I was sitting before a quarter of a giant watermelon and being handed a fork. Once it was given to you, there was no turning back. His eyes locked on, and his whole face smiled, and he sat in anticipation of your enjoyable bite. So you tucked in to that quarter of a watermelon so he could enjoy your eating of it, too.


He gave us so much that was pulsing with his love of sharing joy—orange floats, fully charged golf carts for wild summer games of cops and robbers, a huge Wisconsin home with enough room for us all to crash for epic days-long celebrations of holidays, a pond stocked with fish and toys for the summer and cleared of snow for ice skating in the winter, a made-to-order breakfast in the mornings when we visited, cherry tomatoes from his garden (that he actually did grow), his incredible and welcoming whole-face smile, his well-known stumbled through toast at family meals, as good as he was—and always just a sense that he was so happy to offer us these things, so happy to help us savor the joy of life.

You might remember him as part of the sweetest couple ever to walk the halls of Greenfields or Clare Oaks, in his Lazy boy chair at Sun City watching his sports and doing his puzzles, as a hard-working and adventurous father, as a strapping young Navy boy, or running around the streets of Morley with his pack of May boys, but I will remember him in my favorite role, the one I’m sure he was best at—as my Grandpa, who loved joy, and who gave joy its true power by giving it away.

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