Today my sweet, sweet grandfather, Gramps, went to heaven. Almost exactly one-and-a-half years to the day I said goodbye to Pops. The familiar pangs of loss and sadness are back like they never left. Oh, how I will miss this man.
Once again, I’m feeling so thankful for our time together in February. One that was filled with laughter, farm animals, games, stories and home. I will never forget walking into their living room that night and surprising him with my visit. He told me for days after that he thought it was a dream—that he was hallucinating when he saw me—and though it wasn’t, it was a dreamy, unforgettable time.
This is from the morning that I left and is how I’ll remember him. Sitting in his chair, in his corner, reading his notes with his “eyes” on.
My heart goes out to my entire family, who have spent the last unrelenting week+ by his side at the hospital, showering him with love and compassion and gently ushering him to his next adventure without us. I know all too well what an honor it is to do that, but also how heart wrenching it is. I’ll forever be grateful to them for being there and passing on my messages to him. His death was calm and pain-free—the most we could possibly want for this wonderful man who endured so much and deserved the very best.
There is an old, on-going joke in my family that when something’s wrong or you’re complaining of an ailment, you sarcastically thank Gramps. It was in place long before “Thanks, Obama” swept the nation. It became the answer—or the cause—of everything.
My face is oily….”thanks, Gramps”….my ears are big…”thanks, Gramps”…I was outside 5 seconds and I’m already sunburned…”thanks, Gramps.” He would interrupt our whining about anything and with a simple “thanks, Gramps”—harboring responsibility for all of our ‘misfortunes’—and everyone would laugh.
He did give us oily, sensitive skin and ears that hover on the larger side…but we are truly thankful to him for much, much more.
As I prepare for a week with family, crying and sharing stories no doubt, here is my final “thanks, Gramps.”
“Thanks, Gramps” …for being a survivor
Gramps grew up in Oklahoma during the Great Depression and the Dust Bowl. I’ll let that settle in for a moment.
He was a survivor as his family broke apart, half moving to Texas and the other half to California, Grapes-of-Wrath-style, to start a new life. I can’t imagine what this time was like.
He survived countless medical problems including cancers and infections and surgeries, always putting on a brave face and a smile. “We do what we have to do” he would say. Yes, but no one has done it as courageously as you.
“Thanks, Gramps” …for always protecting us
When summers in Joshua called our name, Gramps would be standing by the back door ready to supply our armor of sunscreen and bug spray, never forgetting the tops of our ears.
When a school bully threatened to ruin a good day, he taught Bryan how to box…just in case.
When it’s freezing out and, being from Utah, you assume it will be warmer in Texas, he makes you put on four layers of his own clothes just to make sure you’re warm. “I couldn’t tell you from Gramps,” Mimi told me. I’ll take that as the highest compliment it is.
“Thanks, Gramps” …for being the family jokester
On road trips he’d recite the pledge of allegiance at every flag spotted (every. single. one.) and was totally game when we convinced him to yell “Krista, you ‘da bomb!” at her high school graduation.
For “marrying” me and Bryan so we could feel like Mary and Joseph.
For brining binoculars into restaurants to read menus and for always sitting next to me on the couch, pulling my leg onto his lap to tap my ankle—the one I broke in 1994—and asking if it still hurt. Then he’d laugh to himself and act surprised when I said “no.”
And, of course, his impeccable rendition of Peedy the Snake.
“Thanks, Gramps” …for having patience like none other
When I was little and we were on one of our family road trips, he once sat by a hotel pool watching me swim. I’m not sure how long we were there—it felt like hours—but I somehow decided I was going to tell him everything I knew about nurse sharks…which, in reality, was nothing—but I didn’t want him to know that. I played the part of academic oceanographer, spurting off facts, figures and statistics and he just sat there eating it up like I was the smartest person he’d ever met. Just being around him made you a better person…maybe not an expert on sharks…but a better person. Having him believe in you made you feel invincible.
“Thanks, Gramps” …for fixing everything
From leaking sinks to squeaky doors, he were always there, tools in hand. But in life he taught us that there was nothing that hard work, faith or love—or a combination of all three—couldn’t fix. He was right, but it’s going to take something fierce to fix the multitude of broken hearts he leaves behind.
“Thanks, Gramps” …for loving the Lord
He was the most Godly man I’ve ever known, and wanted nothing more than to sing about Jesus and share his unwavering faith. When Pops died, Gramps wrote me the sweetest letter comforting my grief with his and Mimi’s favorite scriptures (Deut. 29:29). I pulled that letter out today and read his words and forgot that he’d included sheet music to one of his favorite songs, “What a Day That Will Be.”
There is coming a day when no heart-aches shall come.
No more clouds in the sky, no more tears to dim the eye
All is peace forever more on that happy golden shore.
What a glorious day that will be.
There’ll be no sorrow there, no more burdens to bear.
No more sickness, no pain, no more parting over there.
And forever I will be with the One who died for me.
What a glorious day that will be.
What a day that will be when my Jesus I shall see;
When I look upon His face;
The One who save me by His grace!
When He takes me by the hand
And leads me through the promised land,
What a glorious day that will be.
“Thanks, Gramps” …for filling our home with music
Music has always been at the core of our family time. When I was little he’d spend all Saturday watching Gaither Sing-a-Longs, eventually forming his own church sing-a-longs in the late 1990s. Hymns, Christmas carols, folk songs. Guitars, banjos, pianos, harmonicas, horns, and trombones made from PVC pipes. We were always together making music.
I bet right now he’s up there separating the tenors from the basses and cueing up for the best, never-ending sing-a-long of his dreams.
Some of you might remember these videos from his hospital stay last year.
“Thanks, Gramps” …for putting family first
An incredible husband for 66 years, a wonderful dad for 63 years, a devoted grandfather for 40 years, and a smitten great-grandfather for 16 years. He has always been about family and we all knew he’d do anything for us. Anything.
I will always appreciate how much he loved Joe—the family’s only “Yankee.” Gramps never let him forget it, but he loved Joe anyway.
“Thanks, Gramps” …for setting the bar
From his marriage and his faith, to his kindness and sensitivity, Gramps set the bar for life very high. He was a wonderful role model to emulate and always was the best of examples in any situation. His shoes are impossible to fill, not to mention his britches, but we try.
“Thanks, Gramps” …for the tremendous memories
The last night I was there in February, Gramps and I stayed up for hours looking at old photos and telling stories. We were lost in past times, specifically his childhood and what he remembered most. Before we called it a night, he told me about his Aunt Arley, who married his uncle.
I believe Gramps is the baby in his grandmother’s lap and Arley is the woman sitting to the right. (Did I get that right?)
Arley lived to be over 100 and he said every time he’d visit her, when they’d leave, she would throw her arms up in the air. Not waving, but reaching. She said it was her way of saying “I’ll see you in heaven if I don’t see you again.”
The next morning, we said our goodbyes and I knew there was a good chance this might be the last time I saw him.
We climbed into our respective cars, each of us going a different way on their big, circular drive. When their car pulled parallel to mine, I rolled down the window, leaned out, and stuck out my arms, reaching toward heaven.
He called me a few days later and asked if I did that for Arley. I said “No, Gramps. I did it for you.”
“Thanks, Gramps”…for everything.