Thursday, December 30, 2010


I said goodbye to my granddad a couple weeks ago. At the time, I’m not sure he knew who I was, and I know he didn’t understand the gravity of the situation—that his granddaughter was seeing him alive for the last time. But despite his lack of understanding, he treated the situation with gentle grace, and spoke over me the blessing that he’s uttered thousands of times—over his children and grandchildren, over his own wife and the spouses of his family, over friends and even over healthcare providers: “The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face shine upon you and give you his peace.”

During the last several days I spent with Granddad, I was struck by the gentleness he showed to all those around him. When I was growing up, I remember him being a little rougher around the edges. He had tender moments when he’d take me and my brothers sledding or tell me he had me tied up in his golden thread of love that I could never escape. But the softer side was not his dominant one. Years later, in Granddad’s final weeks of life, that softer side rose to the surface, filling in cracks and covering the rough edges and sharp corners of his character.

He treated everyone with kindness, even when he didn’t necessarily know who they were or why they were there. He spoke blessings over people when they went to bed or left for the day. He bantered with the hired caretakers. He got excited when he saw my dad and realized, for the twelfth time that day, who he was. His dementia tore his short-term memory to shreds, but he even dealt with that graciously. Often he would turn to me after focusing on something or someone else for a few minutes, and would have already forgotten who I was. But every time I can remember this happening, he either greeted me with an excited “Hello!” or asked, “Who’s that beautiful young lady over there?” Even in not recognizing me, he would call me beautiful.

Granddad also spoke of Anne in the most glowing terms I’ve ever heard a man talk about his wife. After 58 years of marriage, he still called her “my bride” and loved her immensely. He would rave about what an amazing woman she is, about how well she’d taken care of him for 58 years, and about how hard he’d tried to take care of her for 58 years. Several times during my visit, he told me I was beautiful and followed it with, “But not as beautiful as my bride.” While so many marriages end in painful divorce or lapse into bland coexistence, Granddad and Anne’s long, loving, joyful marriage testifies to the blessing that a lifelong marriage is.

Early this morning, Granddad stopped breathing, after 81 years of life and 58 years of marriage; after raising a family of ten children and more grandchildren and great-grandchildren than I care to count right now; after working as a pilot and patent-holding metallurgist and building countless homes with Habitat for Humanity; after impressing his devout faith upon his children. And now the Lord’s face shines, undimmed, upon him, and he is experiencing the Lord’s peace in its purest, most untarnished form.

Playing cards on one of Granddad's last good days

The day before I told him goodbye


  1. Long before email, your Grandad would send notes or cards via snail mail that were affectionately signed, Your Ever Loving Father. I think that signature was also modified in notes to the grandchildren as Your Ever Loving Granddad. When email came along, someone gave him the handle ELF which was short for Ever Loving Father. Soon every email was just signed ELF, and his bride became ELM. I think he aspired to be known for the fruit of the Spirit which is love, joy, peace.... What you saw in those last few weeks was just a culmination of a lifelong ambition. Thanks for capturing his essence in you blog. Signed, Your ever loving uncle.

  2. Thanks, Uncle Lou, for sharing. Once when I signed one of my own emails ELGD, Granddad got really excited that he and I had the same initials.