The image in my head is sepia-toned, muted colors in low lamplight. I’m maybe 5 years old, lying on the floor while my grandfather sits beside me, in my parents’ bedroom because of the out-of-town guests. His voice is low, strong, voluminous like an organ in church, claret. He sings an old spiritual almost as slow as I can stand it – carrying me softly towards sleep. He doesn’t describe the song or its meaning, doesn’t stop to ask me what I think or how I feel, doesn’t belabor his obvious love of singing – creating music with nothing less than his own voice. I feel safe, cared for, a part of a shared tradition. Back in West Virginia, I know he sings with choirs at church, at work, has done so for years, but right now my grandfather is singing for me.
Lawrence G. Hess would have turned 93 this past weekend. He would have had some short, sly, witty thing to say about it, too, had he been able to see the day. He was a good man, a kind father, a loyal employee, a brilliant chemical engineer, a devoted Catholic, an adventurous spirit, and a passionate fan of Notre Dame.
Happy Birthday, Grandad. We miss you. We hold you in our hearts.