Relationships

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.

Positive Post-it

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What if you were given a fresh, new pad of Post-it notes that came with a requirement?

Let’s pretend I just gave you a pad and the requirement is that you could only use the notes to pass out encouragement to others, whenever and wherever you can.

  1. How would you use them? Sign them or make them anonymous?
  2. Where would you use them? Leave them in the open or hide them to be found as a surprise another day?
  3. Who would you leave notes for? Obviously you have friends and family that could use some encouragement, but have you ever considered leaving encouragement for strangers – maybe on the bus, at the restaurant, while you are shopping, or at work? Why?? Well, maybe the stranger did or said something that you noticed and deserves a compliment. There could be any number of reasons, but the cool thing is you get to decide.

With all the negativity floating around in the world these days, it would be nice to spread some love and encourage people instead of tearing them down. What do you think?

Are you up to the challenge?

**NOTE** Comment what you would do, or who you would encourage in the comments below. OR, if you want, I would really like if you could take a photo of your notes and post them in the comments. Let’s build a “blog post of positive!”

“Can you please call the police”

I think we are far enough removed from this event that I can finally write about it. Probably. I mean, it was a bit traumatic at the moment but everything ended fine.

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The screen shot above is an email from my wife. It was sent to me while I was at work, coming from her while she was at work. I froze and my heart stopped…

Was she serious? I wasn’t sure. It had come in 10 minutes prior to me seeing it in my inbox. Was it too late? I needed answers, but I was frozen and I’m not sure my heart was beating…

I grabbed my phone. Texted her:

“Are you serious? Or are you joking?”

“Not joking,” or “serious,” was the quick, short response that flashed onto my screen. To be honest, I am not sure I remember what her response was. All I know is that it confirmed my fears.

At the time I received the email, I was in my classroom teaching history to juniors, or seniors, but that doesn’t really matter. What mattered was my wife was in trouble and I was at least an hour away, I had a room full of students, and I couldn’t panic in front of them or really even alarm them. So, I stepped out of the room with my phone and called the police.

The 911 operator answered and I explained what what going on. That my wife and the other woman in her office were in a situation they didn’t know how to get out of and they weren’t sure how the man would react if he was provoked. The operator asked for an address and said the officers were on their way.

One problem, among many, is that mental illness isn’t dealt with. Often it is ignored, especially in the homeless society that lives right under our noses most days. Is there a better way to help those who need it? Are we wasting money on social services that aren’t needed instead of spending it on social services that are? If someone has a mental illness and they are homeless, are we doing them injustice by allowing them to fend for themselves instead of institutionalizing them and getting them help? Hard questions.

As it turns out, but the time the police got to my wife’s office the man had already stepped outside and was standing out front of the building. When the police arrived, they talked to him out front and they talked with my wife and the other woman in the office. They knew him. They had dealt with him previously, and according to them he was harmless. They talked to him some more and then he walked away towards the bus stop near the office building. The police left.

That was it. It was over. Nothing happened.

Needless to say, the women in the office were a little shaken but they continued to work. They have seen many homeless people wander through the parking lot of that office building. They continue to do their job.

That moment in my classroom, looking at an email from my wife who was in trouble, has stuck with me. Talk about a helpless feeling. Talk about thoughts of the worst going through your head. Panic.

I can’t help but wonder, are there other stories out there like mine, like my wife’s? Tell them to me in the comments. What would you do if you received a message like the one I got?

I Kissed a Girl, and I Liked It!

Yep, I kissed a girl and I liked it. For those of you that know me, this likely comes as no surprise. Sorry Katy Perry, I am going to borrow the title of your hit song. I hope you don’t mind.

That being said, I feel the urge to tell you about it. You see, that kiss changed me. It changed me physically, emotionally, mentally, spiritually, and probably some other “-ly” words too. That kiss led to some other stuff, mostly a relationship with the woman  who belonged to the lips. From there she eventually became my wife. Again, for those of you that know me, this stuff also doesn’t come as a surprise.

The reason, or urge, I want to talk about that kiss today is because it has been six years since that kiss. I certainly didn’t know when I kissed her in the car in the parking lot of the community college that it would lead to this. It did and it has. Now, we have been together, through thick and thin (and we have seen the extreme of both) over those last six years. We have been married for 3 1/2 of them. I can’t imagine having anyone else by my side. She is my partner, confidant, best friend, strength, refuge, my…well, you get the point. She is a lot of things to me.

When it came time for the bridal shower I was asked to write “25 Reasons Why I Love Jenn.” The 25 reasons were going to be shared with her at the shower as a surprise. I thought it was a good idea so I complied. The thing is, it was pretty easy to come up with the following 27 reasons (OK, I didn’t comply completely. I am difficult, what can I say?):

I love…

  1. …the way your face lights up when you see me.
  2. …the way you are quick to offer help or say, “I can do that.”
  3. …that you are caring to a fault at times.
  4. …every time you kiss me it still feels like the first time.
  5. …that you are frugal most of the time.
  6. …that you think I am “funny” and laugh at me.
  7. …that I can feel your love and don’t just hear or see it.
  8. …the fact that you are looking forward to making my lunch for school. 
  9. …your hand on my back.
  10. …holding your hand in the car.
  11. …that you try to make do.
  12. …that you are happy with simple things.
  13. …that you tell me “I love you” often.
  14. …the little notes that you leave in places for me to find later.
  15. …that you put up with my sounds.
  16. …the cute little way you bite your lip when you are thinking about something.
  17. …that you see me as I am and not the way I see me.
  18. …your willingness to get dirty and to work hard.
  19. …your encouragement in all that I do.
  20. …that you endure the cold and rain to watch me play softball.
  21. …the way you speak your mind.
  22. …that you love my daughter as though she were your own.
  23. …your desire to be a Godly woman and continue to pursue Him.
  24. …that I feel “safe” with you and don’t have to be something or someone I am not.
  25. …that you love me.
  1. …that we can go to church and worship together.
  2. …that you understand teaching is more to me than just going to work and I have more “kids” than my daughter.

I love that first kiss. Obviously, since I am crowing about it even to this day. I kiss that girl every day, multiple times if I can manage it. AND, I still like it! I cherish the list above because of the little things that I saw even then that I knew I loved about her. And now, six years later, on the anniversary of that first kiss, I could probably name a whole bunch of other reasons I love her. Things that I have discovered as time has progressed and I have gotten to know her better. But, I am gonna save those for another day, another anniversary. The point today is this:

I kissed a girl, she became my wife, AND I LIKE IT!