As I was cleaning out some old documents for my move (I get married in 19 days!), I stumbled across a copy of the eulogy I wrote for my grandpas funeral in 2008. This month marks the five year anniversary of his death. It is difficult to believe he has been gone that long.
Some of my family members have asked me for a copy of this document in the past. I am mainly posting this online now so they have it as a source to go back to, or if they wish to save it as their own document.
And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God.4 He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”
5 And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” – Revelation 21:3-5
For those of you who don’t know me, my name is Ben and I am one of many grand-kids sitting in this room today. My grandfather was such a great man, that I don’t know if anything I can say will put his memory to justice, but I will try. I know exactly what Grandpa would be saying right now if he was here. “What the heck are you doing up there on that podium? I don’t deserve all this!” The fact of that matter is that no one I’ve ever met in my life deserves remembrance more.
Grandpa was a simple man. He wasn’t worried about economics, and he didn’t sweat politics. In fact, eating potato salad that was made by anyone other than my Aunt Trudi was more of a crisis to him than ANYTHING else that could be going on. He would, of course, eat all of it – but he would let you know how he felt about it with each passing bite. He was only worried about the finer things in life we all take for granted – quality time spent with friends and family and the love we share with one another. I remember all of my phone conversations with him going about the same – first I found out what the weather pattern in South Dakota has been like, and then heard about how great Uncle Troy was doing on his current job. I don’t know if anything made him more proud.
I’ve been doing a lot of thinking lately about what it means to leave behind a legacy. As I said before, Grandpa was a very simply man. He did not have many possessions, and he did not have a lot of wealth. But one thing I think we often forget is that wealth is not measured by the money in our pockets, but rather by the love we have in our hearts. By this standard of measure, I think Grandpa was the richest man in the world.
One of my favorite memories with Grandpa is our many strolls through town. With his one arm out the window and a grin on his face, we would make our way to the Dairy Queen to get a Blizzard. I’m sure as many of my family members can attest to, Grandpa had a massive sweet tooth. My favorite quote from his has always been “There’s always room for ice cream, because it fills in the cracks!” I couldn’t count how many times I heard that one.
He may have been simple, but he sure did know how to make a statement when he needed to. I remember once when I was young and were at a Denny’s down in Kansas. Grandpa ordered a tall glass of milk and the waitress thought it would be a good idea to bring it to him before his meal came – that was a mistake. “Why would you bring this out before the meal? Now it’s going to get warm.” If I remember correctly, I think we left the restaurant because of that incident. He was a man very set in his ways.
Where any other man would’ve been annoyed by the actions of his grand-kids, our grandfather couldn’t help but smile. I know I speak for all of the grand-kids when I say one of our fondest memories as kids involved one recliner, a few rolls of masking tape, and one loving Grandpa. Sometimes up to a dozen of us would race into the living room, steal his infamous crossword puzzles out of his hands, and then we would climb up on his lap and waste rolls of masking tape, binding him down to whatever we could find while Grandma just stood there laughing. Of course afterwards, all dozen of us would spend the rest of the evening passed out on his lap – somehow we all fit.
We all have our own great memories of Grandpa. For some of us, it may be the few times we spent in Grandpa’s bus as we eagerly awaited lighting off fireworks on the fourth of July. For my cousin Josh, he loves his countless memories shooting rifles out in the country with Grandpa, who bought him his first two rifles at a very young age. Grandpa loved nothing more than taking those rifles out and firing hundreds of shells at nothing but empty cans, especially with his grandchildren.
And then of course there is my little cousin Sierra, who in the last 10 years has created enough memories with Grandpa to last a life time. If there were ever two people who were truly attached at the hip, it was those two. Sierra, you should know that Grandpa was very, very proud of you and the countless memories you have of him are something that no one can ever take away.
For me, today is not a day of mourning. Today is a celebration of the life of a great man. If he were here right now, he would not want a frown on any of our faces. When I think of him smiling, or his belly rolling with laughter because I just sneezed Diet Pepsi all over his new pickup truck, I know I can’t help but smile. And that is what he would want from all of us today.
As I was saying, I’ve been thinking a lot about what it means to have a legacy. At first glance, would would say the countless buildings, homes and renovations he has done throughout the year would be Grandpa’s legacy. But I think it is much more than that. I think it is also the countless peoples lives he has touched while doing all of these projects. I think it is the unending, selfless love that he has shown for his friends and family through the years. I think it is the five wonderful children he has raised, often sacrificing his own well being for the benefit of his family. So maybe we can learn a lesson from Papa and his ice cream, because just like we can always make more room for a frozen treat, we can always make more room for more love in our hearts.