Eight days ago I got the call from my mom. My 85-year-old grandpa - her Daddy - had lost his nearly 3-year battle with lung and metastatic brain cancer.
My grandfather was a generous, loving, funny, humble man. He served in WWII with the United States Army. Growing up he told his grandchildren that he was a cook, and a drill sergeant, and a sniper in the army. To this day I don't know if any or all of these are true. He WAS an amazing cook. He made liver and onions palatable. He introduced me to little silver fish called smelt and shrimp cocktail. He made the best green beens and ham hocks and red potatoes. He would also line up my brother, sister, and me and recite a military cadence that I remember to this day.
Left. Left. Left, right, left. I left my wife and my 48 kids back in the states without any hamburgers left. Left. Left, right, left.
This is a picture of my grandpa and some of his army buddies. Grandpa is the handsome young devil kneeling down on the far right.
Grandpa was a real joker. He would show up for Easter Sunday with a frown and proceed to explain to us in his saddest tone about how the easter bunny jumped out in front of his car and he couldn't avoid hitting him. He gave us the same story on Christmas Eve - claiming to have run over Santa and his reindeer on his way over to our house.
These were some of the special stories that were shared by the pastor who presided over grandpa's funeral last Saturday. We had a small gathering of close family and friends at the grave site. Simple and intimate - just the way grandpa would have wanted it. When Pastor Dan related the story about the easter bunny and Santa, heads were bobbing up and down in silent agreement all around me.
Pastor Dan said if he had to choose one word to describe my grandfather it would be love. Grandpa was definitely loved, and he knew how to love in return. Before cancer took away his stamina, he would ride his Schwinn bike around his 55-and-over trailer park, with his Scottish Terrier Duffy in a basket on the front, stopping to visit with his neighbors. Within hours of his passing, a note was posted near the mailboxes in his park and people started stopping by his house to pay their respects.
This is what Pastor Dan referred to as leaving a legacy of love. His parting words for us as the funeral came to a close were a challenge of sorts. He encouraged each of us to create our own legacy - a legacy of love.
It didn't occur to me until a few days later that I had heard a similar message the night before the funeral from the famous Motown musician, Stevie Wonder. Kirk and I had tickets to see Stevie at the Ste. Michelle Winery near our home. We bought them weeks ago. Long before we knew grandpa would be gone. At the end of the amazing 2-hour show, Stevie also chose his parting words to be about love. He is touring only 11 cities this summer - but all in honor of his mother, whom he obviously loved with every ounce of his being. He talked about her regularly throughout his show. He shared stories about his mother and how she expressed love. He shared stories about his relationship with his own children and how much he loves them. And as he prepared to leave the stage, he reminded everyone in attendance that everything is possible through love.
Today has been a long day. The first day of school for my junior high girl, my high school girl, and one of my college boys. I made sure to give each of them some of my time today. I wanted to hear all about their first-day experiences. I wanted to start building my legacy of love.
Grandpa, you may be gone but you will never be forgotten. I love you.