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|