An unexpected phone call came last evening. One of those phone calls you never expect, but always dread. The news that my 93 year old Grandpa had passed away. My heart hasn't stopped hurting.
Around 3:30 my Aunt had stopped by his house. She said he was out on the farm cutting down a tree by the creek. A creek he has crossed over many times, on land he has worked and taken care of most of his adult life. He knew the 90 acres like the back of his hand. He knew what grew there and what wildlife resided there. He himself had planted over 2,000 pine trees on the land. Later that evening my Aunt stopped by again to check on him and found him laying outside by the creek. He was already gone. He had cleaned up his chainsaw and put his tools back in the trailer as if his work was done.
He had the strength of most people 30 years younger than him. Right now I can't begin to formulate all of my thoughts. He was an amazing man. There are so many pictures in my mind that represent who he was in my life.
He walked me down the aisle to my husband. When I asked him if he would give me away I could hear his grin over the phone as he said, "I'll do my best." I had no doubt he would do fine and fine he did.
His hands were strong. When I held his hand I felt safe in his strong grip. They were hands that had worked hard yet they were soft and loving. He never raised them towards anyone. Rather they were used to care for others. He spent many hours at his church making noodles for fundraisers. For years he drove to pick up an elderly woman every Sunday for church. Until recently he took his great-grandchildren fishing, hunting and canoeing. He gardened and took out the scraps after every meal. (My grandmother wanted a garbage disposal, but he didn't so he agreed to take out the leftovers. :) ) He spent his life taking care of others.
He spoke seldom. When he did speak what he had to say was worth hearing. He was wise beyond my understanding. One could mistake his simple lifestyle as one that didn't care much about the outside world... On the contrary. He had lived a life long enough to see the comings and goings of many wars, governments and nations. His knowledge and passion about these things always intrigued me. I could have spent hours sitting at his feet soaking in his wisdom.
Born on the fourth of July, he was a soldier. After the bombing of Pearl Harbor he enlisted in the Army even though he was old enough not to have to. He was passionate about the freedom's of America and was willing to fight for them.
He served on the island the Enola Gay was being held. Their job was to guard it without really knowing why. Grandpa talked about watching children play on the coast of Japan through binoculars. His heart seemed to be broken for them after we dropped the bomb. He lived his entire life believing it wasn't necessary. With frustration in his voice he said, "We had Japan cut off from all imports and exports. They would have had to given up before long."
He was a devoted husband. He and my Grandmother were married for 65 years before she passed 6 years ago. His eyes still lit up when she walked into a room. She could tease him till she was blue in the face and he would just grin with a twinkle in his eye. He loved her so dearly. They have been and always will be a role model for my marriage. Even living through generations where men and women had different roles Grandpa always treated Grandma with respect. They were equals.
He was a family man. He had four beautiful children (the youngest was just about to be on the way in this picture) whom he loved and protected. He has nine grandchildren, seventeen great grandchildren and two great-great grandchildren.
He was a man who wasn't afraid of hard work. I think that is actually what kept him going all these years. His boots and gloves by the door were proof of that. On the other hand he enjoyed slowing down, spending time with his family and loved ones. His heart could even be softened towards a stray cat who my Grandmother started feeding. Before long it was coming in the house and sitting in Grandpa's chair. (No one sat in Grandpa's chair but Grandpa, not out of fear, but out of respect.) Grandma used to tease him saying "you love that cat more than me". Like always he would grin and instead of shewing the cat away he would go sit on the couch.
I am so blessed that my kids got to meet him and experience his love and compassion.
He gave the best hugs. Firm, tight and long hugs. Ones that said everything I needed to know... He loved me.
When preparing to leave Ohio after a visit one hug was never enough. Often we would hug at the side door then walk down the concrete steps holding hands only to get another hug and kiss at the car. He always said, "You take care of yourself now." As we drove away he would stand and wave until we were out of sight. Each time we left it became a little harder. Time wasn't on our side. Even though he seemed to be as strong and healthy as an ox at the age of 93 you just knew that hopeing for 10 more years was a stretch (even though I really believed he would live that long!).
I am blessed to have had him for a Grandfather. I am comforted that I know he is in heaven with Jesus, his wife and his son. He is at rest. I'd like to to say "It is well with my soul" like the old song claims. Maybe soon... but for now my soul still hurts.