Saying Goodbye to Grandpa
May was not the month I was expecting. We entered the month with crazy end of the semester life while Hans, Caleb, and I experienced bouts of the flu. Then it got a little crazier…
Hans left for his first week of Chapter Focus Week on May 2, the same morning the boys and I left for Minnesota to spend most of the week with my parents. While we were there my grandpa went to the hospital when his defibrillator zapped him 30 times or so in a few hours. He was life-flighted to Duluth (at 10pm) and I woke up the next morning to find out that my parents were both in Duluth (and had been all night). Two days later my grandpa went home from the hospital, to die.
It was a good week, but a hard week. The boys and I extended our stay and spent the next days with the whole family crammed into the two small rooms in my grandparents’ assisted living apartment. I left Minnesota to come home on Monday, May 11th, knowing I would never see my grandpa alive on earth again, and the next morning he passed away.
I am so thankful that we were there before my grandpa went to the hospital. We had two wonderful visits with my grandparents before Grandpa got sick, and lots of good time with the whole family after that.
We travelled back to Minnesota the following week for the funeral, and I gave the eulogy. I thought I would post it here, in memory of my grandpa.
Looking around, I know that many of you knew Gene as a friend. A few called him Dad… and some of us knew him as Grandpa. I want to share with you what Grandpa meant to us – sharing some of my memories of him and some memories that I have received from my cousins.
It is hard to decide exactly what Grandpa meant to me, because he was always there.
One thing that will always remind me of Grandpa is cribbage. He taught me to count by “15” and we spent countless Sundays playing cribbage after church. I had better luck than Mitch, who remembers never being able to beat Grandpa. He would play with anyone who would join him – Jessica played online cribbage with him even though she was thousands of miles away.
Grandpa also modelled patience to us. He would walk up to his bird feeder and coax the birds onto his finger. One summer (when I was tall enough to just reach the bottom rung on the feeder), I tried and tried to get one on my finger, too. I can’t remember if I ever succeeded, but I do remember Grandpa standing there next to me.
Grandpa loved being active outside and shared that with us. Mike recalled a moose hunting trip with Grandpa in the pouring rain. He (and the other guys in the family) also spent a lot of time deer hunting and fishing with Grandpa. And he lived in the ice house in the winter and took us all out at different times.
Jessica shared that some of her fondest memories of Grandpa revolve around agate hunting. He introduced her to them when she was young and passed his love for the hobby onto her. Because of Grandpa, she now owns a rock tumbler and always has her eyes to the ground scanning for agates wherever she walks.
There were other things about Grandpa that I never fully understood. We were always excited to see him carrying the American flag in parades, but his quiet pride of being an American and a veteran escaped me as a child. All I knew was the faithful service he showed in the color guard – one that was difficult for Grandpa to give up in later years.
I also never fully understood Grandpa’s faith, but every Sunday, my mom, Mitch, and I joined Grandpa and Grandma in that back pew to worship God together. I can’t remember Grandpa talking much about his faith with me, but I saw him serve in the church and care for others. And as far as I know, he was the long-time head usher, helping welcome others in to worship.
What will we miss most about Grandpa? There are many things: the grin he always gave for photos. The love and commitment he had for Grandma and for our family. The joy he received from watching the deer outside his window. “Helping” him work on the daily Jumble and crossword puzzles. Hearing him win yet another radio contest and sometimes helping him – or just getting his prizes. The way he would eat Graham crackers with peanut butter, dipping them in milk. How he enjoyed working out at the recycle center. The way he always wanted to be outside – walking, gardening, or simply sitting under the tree in his yard. Cribbage. Parades. Hunting.
No, I don’t think there is any one thing we will miss most about Grandpa, because all of these things made him who he was. We will miss Grandpa.
In the book of John, chapter 14, Jesus says to his disciples, “ My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. You know the place where I am going” (John 14:2-4)
When one of the disciples says, “we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way” Jesus responds by saying, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you really know me, you will know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.” (John 14:5-7)
While God is the only one that knows our hearts, I have hope that Grandpa knew Jesus, and that he is now with him in that house. And I also have hope that, knowing Jesus, I will join him in his Father’s house and will see Grandpa again someday.