Goodbye, Gramps

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I knew it was coming, but that doesn’t necessarily make it any easier. It was just a matter of time, but it’s a time you never want to arrive.

He turned 91 just this past September. He’d had several episodes of going in and out of the hospital, but he always came back out – sometimes not quite the same as he went in.

I have been extremely blessed with something I know a lot of my friends and acquaintances haven’t had – until last week, all four of my grandparents were still living. It is something really special for someone to know their grandparent(s) into adulthood. Many people only have vague memories of their grandparents while they were children, or visited so infrequently they never really got to know them. Often, the memories aren’t really memories so much as they are memories given/created by others via conversations and stories, pictures, or maybe a video. So, I am keenly aware of how lucky I have been.

I am struggling with what to write as memories come rushing back to flood my mind, and my eyes, with happiness and joy.

I guess I don’t really need to say much about those.

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I told him to smile for a selfie…this is what I got!

I just need a place to express remembrance and appreciation for a man who loved his wife (their 69th wedding anniversary was the day before his passing) and his children. For raising my dad in a loving home. For raising his family in a home of Christian faith and passing that legacy on to the rest of his family. For working hard, at two jobs (a fruit orchard and a factory) and teaching his family the value of hard work. For having a wry sense of humor and a mischievous smile. For all the time spent camping, and fishing, and playing cards, and laughing. For all the stories of life on the farm. For going back to the family farm in South Dakota and telling us about his younger life in a sod house on the prairie. For the story of outrunning and catching a jack rabbit in the orchard. For the times of sharing meals. For the quiet times sitting on the patio, sharing conversation, a sunset, a cool breeze, and sometimes even a beer. For the garden goodies he grew every year. For his mealtime prayer that never changed and I will forever hear in my head, “God is great and God is good and we thank Him for this food.”

Now, he is home in Heaven with his Savior. He is in His presence, praising the One who gave him life. He is whole again.

I am sure he is now fishing, gardening and farming, playing cards, talking with his parents and the son he lost to cancer while a toddler. He is hanging out and laughing with the siblings that have gone on before him. He is, no doubt, preparing a place for those who will come after him as well – because that is the type of person he was.

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Tools of my grandfather – bench vise and a pole saw he used on the farm.

Saying goodbye to Gramps is, after all, not really a goodbye. It’s just a “see you later.” Cliche, I know, but I believe it really is the truth. I know that one day we will sit together again and do the things we enjoyed here on Earth, because we have been given and accepted a promise.

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A few quiet moments with Gramps, hours before he joined his Heavenly Father.

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. – John 3:16

I hope you have that knowledge too. The knowledge and assurance that death is not the end for a loved one, or for yourself. That one day you will be reunited, because it sure takes the sting out of death.

Am I still sad? Yes, of course. Not because I have no hope, but because of the missed opportunities I could have had with him or the opportunities my own kids will miss too. But, with the sadness comes rejoicing as well. How can I not be happy for him as he continues to live, living in triumph over death? There is still a funeral and memorial to come, but for now this will do. Goodbye is so hard to say, and yet…

“Welcome to Heaven, Harold! You are going to be missed down there because you were really loved. But don’t you worry, your family knows where you are and they are celebrating too. We have lots of time and I’ll show you around in a bit. But first, how about I show you a thing or two at canasta…”

Goodbye, Gramps.

10 comments

  1. This brought tears to my eyes. I am deeply sorry for your loss. This moments terrify me. There are nights when I cry for no reason out of fear that all of this will end some day. I am having a hard time accepting death. Maybe one day I will defeat this fear. I wish you strenght!

    1. Thank you for your comment and your condolences. I really appreciate that. Also, I am sorry you have anxiety about death, but it is a natural human thing to do and you are not alone. There is hope though! If you would like to talk more about it, I would be happy to correspond with you.

  2. It’s such a blessing that you and your daughter got to spend such quality time getting to know him. How beautiful that you got to hear stories firsthand of his childhood and experiences. I’m sorry for your loss. Thanks for sharing the life of a loyal, hard-working, loving human being.

    1. Thank you so much for the sentiments! It was a true blessing and he will certainly be missed. What it has done is given me more resolve to spend time with the three grandparents who are still living as time with them is growing short too.

  3. I can’t even finish reading this…my heart has burst and my eyes can’t see…yes you are extremely blessed to have such a man in your life let alone have both sets of grandparents in your life…I’m sorry for your loss.
    Grace be with you

    1. Oh my goodness! Thank you so much. I hope you can finish it at some point. 😉 I have been blessed and realize how lucky I am. All of my grandparents have been very special people in my life, in my family’s life. Grandparents are a treasure and I wish more people had the chance to get to know them on a deeper level than just as children. Anyway, thank you for taking the time to read my tribute.

  4. This is very touching. Really sorry for your loss. But you are luckier than some of us. Not only coz you have so many good memories but also because you know the value of those memories and you cherish them.

    1. Thank you so much for the kind words. Memories of cherished moments are something no one can take away, so they are important to keep in lots of different ways – photos of them, writing about them, videos (if possible). All of that just to cultivate joy in the heart and mind, which brings a smile to the face later.

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