Written and beautifully delivered by his father, Chris Granju today, June 5 2010 at services for our son.
On Monday evening all of us here lost part of our lives. Henry’s mother Katie and I lost one of the three people on earth who have given our lives purpose, direction and meaning since we were barely older than Henry was when we lost him this week. Henry’s brother Elliot and sisters Jane and Charlotte, as well as the new baby sister who will soon join our family have lost their role model, guide, entertainer and dearest friend. We have all lost a grandson, a nephew, a cousin, and most of all, a friend.
Henry was born an old, wise soul to very young parents who loved him desperately from the first moment we felt him kick. The day of his birth, October 7, 1991, was one of those perfectly crisp East Tennessee fall days where the sun shines brighter and the blue sky seems endless. It was a day celebrated with much excitement by a huge and loving circle of family and friends who went on to surround Henry with continuing adoration for the next 18 years.
And our boy loved his family powerfully. He lived for his younger siblings, and he always had time to play with one of his many young cousins. He leaves behind an entire younger generation of our family who will never, ever forget their handsome, charismatic, guitar playing Henry.
Henry felt terribly guilty for the pain his addiction caused to those who loved him. He knew he was loved, but he didn’t always recognize the many gifts he brought us all. Henry was a brilliant, beautiful baby and child who from the very beginning, simply felt the world more deeply than most of the rest of us. This special sensitivity was both his blessing and his curse. His inborn and intense empathy and intuition gifted him with a natural creativity that he expressed musically and in writing. However, it also caused him great suffering, a suffering that he never seemed to be able to shake completely, and which he eventually attempted to mask in ways that hurt him more than they helped him. Henry was – in so many ways – just too sensitive for the world into which he was born.
Henry taught us about love and peace. He was deeply hurt when he saw injustice in the world on any level. He was one of those guys who would speak up for the kid in the class on whom others were picking, and he was genuinely disturbed by the cruel injustices we see every day in this world. His strong natural sense of compassion – something rare and powerful – was of the type that can change the world if given the chance to blossom. But Henry left us before he ever left his own childhood behind, so he never had the opportunity to share that potential as fully as he might have.
Life with Henry was never dull. He had the debating skills of a trained lawyer and the culinary tastes of a teenage boy …with really bad taste. Henry taught us an appreciation for such culinary delights as Taquitos – fried, raman noodles with hot sauce and curry powder, sushi as comfort food, gummy and sour anything, and of course the joys of enormous quantities of ginger ale and sierra mist.
Henry was a natural history buff and an encyclopedia of knowledge from before he could read.. As a young child, he carried around a tattered Illustrated Encyclopedia of World History and asked anyone who would to read a section to him. Later, I remember one of his middle school birthday parties when his friends weren’t allowed to watch anything but PG rated movies, so he chose an unrated movie about Fidel Castro’s life as the movie for all his friends to watch. Among other surprises that night was hearing him explain to his somewhat confused guests how Fidel was a “good guy’ at the beginning of the movie, but that “now he was a bad guy.” It was priceless.
Henry could always take our minds off the troubling and mundane and take us to a place where we could see the joy and laughter that is always around us if we allow ourselves to look. He was our family’s practical joker, continually entertaining us with his sometimes outrageous but always clever wit. He especially loved to tease Jane and Elliot, and in fact, when our family was talking about what music to play during the service today, his sister Jane suggested Jack Johnson’s “Good People,” and explained to us how her brother had once convinced her the song was called “where have all the blue people gone?” and she had found herself arguing with her friends about the “blue people,” much to Henry’s amusement.
I also remember how we were all madly entertained the time he lightened up a bumper-to-bumper traffic jam on a family trip in Pigeon Forge by getting on the PA system installed in our Suburban and starting to play the role of tour guide to all the cars around us, offering ridiculous made-up-on-the-fly facts about such sights as the Smoky Mountain helicopter tour pad, and a random mini mart. He had everyone in our truck and everyone in the cars around us rolling in laughter. Even though his brother and sister were often unwitting accessories to his jokes, we all got a smile from his ceaselessly creative sense of humor, including the time he convinced his mother for several hours that he had signed her up to take in a Lithuanian foster child who would be arriving by plane that very evening.
Today, our family feels completely bereft. We are lost and confused. We have missed our Henry every moment since he left us Monday evening, and it’s impossible to imagine the lifetime ahead without him. He was the light of our lives and it’s hard to see the way forward without that light.
For me, Henry came into my life at a time when I was especially young and dumb. I feel lucky to have been able to tell Henry in his final hours that his presence in my life gave me the motivation to turn my life around so I could be there for him. Not a day has passed in the past 18 years when I haven’t been thankful for that gift.
Before he died, I believe Henry’s spirit of peace and love brought another very special gift to our family. Over the last month, as we joined one another to attend to Henry and support one another through his fight for his life, he was showing us all that we can put our differences in the past and be one big, loving blended family, as Henry always wanted. We are now forever reunited by his love in a powerful way. It was his special gift to all of us, and especially to his little brother and sisters. We treasure that gift and will never again take it for granted.
Henry, you have been my son, my friend, my teacher, my bandmate and my collaborator in the ridiculous sense of humor we shared. As I was writing this, I thought of the Crosby Stills Nash & Young song, “Teach Your Children.” Henry, you have taught me and all of us so much about life, love and what really matters. I feel sad to realize that I won’t be able to share another knowing smile with you when something comes up that I know you and I would think is funny even if no one else would get it. I feel sad that I will not be able to experience your unfaltering dedication to justice, compassion and love – even in the face of the cruelest realities that life can throw at us.
Thank you for sharing 18 years with all of us. We love you and will miss you. We will never stop telling your story, and your gifts will live on to help others.
You have left the world a better place than you found it. Thank you. We love you Henry.
Our family is starting what we hope will become a permanent, endowed fund that will provide scholarships for families who cannot afford to pay for needed drug and alcohol treatment programs for their children. We ask that you remember our boy and his struggles – as well as all of our community’s children being lost to the scourge of addiction – by considering a donation to:
The Henry Louis Granju Memorial Scholarship Fund
c/o Administrator: James Anderson
Morgan Stanley Smith Barney
2000 Meridian Blvd.
Franklin, TN 37067