My Grandpa V, at 91 years old, passed away a little after 8:00 last night. He was a wonderful inspiration for B and me as to how to live a life following God’s plan, raising a family, what hard work really looks like, and loving your family unconditionally. We are fortunate to live only a few miles from Grandpa and Grandma’s house and have especially loved being able to stop by if we were close.
He worked hard all his life, even after retirement, which was way back in 1986. In fact, I was born the night of his retirement party. After leaving paid work, he volunteered for disaster relief organizations for about 15 years, going to help rebuild homes after floods, hurricanes, and tornados. He also spent time volunteering his constructions skills with local groups that help the elderly or indigent fix their homes. He retired from volunteer work only 5 years ago at the age of 86!
He had been in hospice for a little over a week, which was a surprising blessing for the family. It seemed like it was a signal to spend as much time with him as possible because the end was drawing close. Someone was with him and Grandma 24 hours a day for the last week. Much of the time, he was asleep and generally unaware of what was going on; however, moments of lucidity popped up several times a day. One of his best days was last Wednesday. My mom was spending the day with him and texted me shortly after lunch to tell me he was awake and asked to see Ben. Of course we jumped in the car as quickly as possible!
Grandpa was feeling good enough to be in a chair instead of bed and even had his glasses on. He was still very lethargic and mostly out of it but two things really stick in my mind as being special that afternoon. My mom was holding Ben at the foot of the chair and said, “Dad, look who came to see you!” He looked right at my little Benny and smiled and clearly replied, “Ben.” Until that moment, he hadn’t responded to any questions or said anything that actually made sense but he still recognized his great grandbaby and smiled. The second moment was when I was holding Ben near Grandpa’s side. Ben was bouncing up and down and kicking his feet. I was holding Grandpa’s hand and maneuvered his tired hand overtop of Ben’s wiggly foot. I told him that he felt Ben’s little foot kicking around and his response was, “Oh, yes.” Just thinking back on that afternoon makes me a little teary and a whole lot happy. We are so thankful we got to spend that time with him.
In the early 90s, Grandpa and Grandma wrote a book for the family that tells the story of each side of the family’s history as far back as they knew, their childhoods, how they met, and recounted numerous stories of the years they were raising my dad and uncles. I grabbed a few excerpts from that book that stood out to me as indicative of the attitude that Grandpa had toward life.
These are the opening lines of the book, setting the tone for the following 100+ pages:
“This is a story about two ordinary people. Their names will never be entered in any “Hall of Fame,” and to paraphrase Abraham Lincoln, the world will soon forget what they did here once they’re gone.
Both of them believe, however, that one place where their names are entered is in God’s Book of Life. That belief has given meaning and purpose to their lives. It has been, and is, their comfort and joy in all of the experiences that the years have brought them.”
About how my grandparents met 65 or so years ago…
“That was the beginning. Thus the Lord used and impulsive decision made one night in a small Pella, Iowa café, an invitation to my uncle’s house, a casual Sunday afternoon stroll, a drop in visit, and some helpful cousins to bring me to the person who has been such an integral part of my life through the years. What a blessing this has been! I cannot imagine life without her.”
“We were married August 5, 1949. It was beginning of what may be the best marriage ever. It resulted in the best of sons, the finest of daughters-in-law, and the most marvelous grandchildren on earth. Other couples would likely challenge us on these claims, so on with the story.”
Written as a reflection on the year my oldest uncle got a summer job and didn’t vacation with the rest of the family…
“Even our Sunday afternoons at the beach would not be the same. Part-time jobs at carwash create an interference. Perhaps a ‘word of wisdom’ could be said to our readers here in light of the previous paragraphs. Cherish the precious years while children are young and the family does things together. Make the most of them because they will pass sooner than you think at the time.”
All of his 3 sons, 3 daughters-in-law, 12 grandchildren, 4 grandchildren-in-law, 5 great grandchildren, and his wife are going to miss him terribly but are thrilled he isn’t in pain or struggling with how little he could do anymore. Someone has to be building those mansions in Glory and I’d put money on it being Grandpa V!