The man in the picture above is my grandpa. He was my mom’s dad. In February of 2018, I blogged about him in the following blog on his birthday:
As I was going through my Facebook memories, I realized that it was 40 years ago today that he passed away. It was the first time in my life I ever had to deal with someone close to me dying. As an 11 year old kid, this rocked my world. It was one of those days that is forever etched in my memory.
I recall the phone ringing early that morning. I remember my mom frantically running around, calling my dad at work, and waking my brother and I up. The call was from my grandmother, who had received a call that my grandfather was in Muskegon hospital and had a heart attack. There obviously were many other phone calls to others as everyone rushed to get dressed and out the door.
My brother and I were obviously NOT going to school that day. My parents dropped me off at my other grandparents house for the day. They immediately headed to my grandmother’s to pick her up. I believe my aunt and uncle met them there and they all drove to Muskegon (an approximately 3 hour drive).
Along the way, if memory serves me correctly, my dad was pulled over for speeding. Once the officer heard what was going on, they received a police escort to the hospital. By the time they arrived, however, it was too late. My grandfather had already passed away.
From the time we were dropped off at my grandparents, my grandma tried to keep us occupied. While much of that time is a blur, I remember when the phone rang and my grandma answered the phone. I remember seeing her get visibly shaken and asked many questions. I recall being anxious to find out what was going on. That is when my grandma slowly got up from the table, hung the phone back up on the wall and sat down next to us on the couch.
“I’m sorry, boys. Grandpa died at the hospital.” I remember crying and not even knowing why I was crying! None of it made any sense to me. I asked when he was coming home and was told that he wasn’t. I remember hoping that it was all a dream or just some false information. I just couldn’t comprehend it all.
I had never been to a funeral in my life. I had never seen anyone in a casket. I remember the days prior to the funeral and a lot of people in and out of my grandma’s house. I recall standing out in the driveway in between cars questioning God as to why this was happening. I just didn’t understand it.
I saw how upset my grandma, my mom, and my aunts were. I saw how it affected my dad and his parents. My cousins were still really too young to grasp any of what was going on. I am not sure my brother really did either. While watching all of them, and seeing how they were feeling, I still couldn’t figure out what I was feeling either!
As with most funerals, there is a time for just family to come in. I recall my mom, my aunts, and my grandma crying. I was scared to go up to the casket. I remember my dad asking me if I was ok and if I wanted to go up there. He knew I was scared and told me it was ok. I remember it being very weird. There was my grandpa, who was always so full of life and laughing, just laying there. I touched his hand and remember being freaked out at how cold he was. My dad did the best he could to explain things to me. I just didn’t get it. Perhaps, I didn’t want to get it. I think deep down, I didn’t want any of it to be real!
One thing that really stands out in my memory about that day was the amount of people who paid their respects to him. There were SO many people there. Family, friends, sales associates, and more. I met many people that he knew while at the funeral home. My grandma, or my mom, or my dad would introduce me to someone and they all had nice things to say about him. “You’re grandpa was a great friend,” “You’re grandpa loved you,” “You’re grandpa was very special to me,” and on and on. I knew how much he meant to me, but to see all the people that knew him, loved him, and respected him … I had a whole new view of him. His life crossed paths with many people and he made an impression. He was loved by more people than I realized.
I remember going to church with him as a kid. I often sat next to him and would draw pictures in the church bulletin. I would draw pictures of Jonah and the whale, Jesus coming out of the tomb, or just pictures of rainbows and such. I have long forgotten what his voice sounded like, but I remember his voice booming when he sang a hymn at church.
My grandma had an end table in their living room that had doors on it. Inside the table was a stack of coloring books and crayons. I didn’t often listen to what the adults talked about, but one conversation I over heard parts of and I vividly recall my grandpa saying to someone, “One day I’ll see my Savior face to face and that will be amazing.”
I don’t really know how I came to be the one who got this, but I know that this was something that my grandpa carried around in his wallet. It was folded in half. The cross is a bit crushed now, but I still have it:
In a way, the above poem brings comfort to me. I know that my grandpa has indeed met his Savior face to face. I also know that in the future, so will I. There will also be a wonderful reunion in the future, and I will see him again.
40 years have flown by. So many milestones and changes have occurred. Yet so many things surrounding the events of September 24, 1981 are as clear as ever in my memory. As I stated in my previous blog:
The first real life lesson was learned by me that September. If there is someone special in your life who means something to you – tell them! If you love someone – tell them! Never pass up the opportunity to hug or kiss someone! You may never get the chance to do it again.
I was truly lucky to have had 11 wonderful years with him in my life.