My Gramps passed away 4 years ago and a few days after his memorial service, I wrote this about him. I want to share with the world the wonderful person he was.
I could say “Rest in peace, Gramps” — but I know he’s not resting. He’s riding his horse and herding cattle like he did in the good old days.
I hope that each of my readers has had someone who, like Gramps, went to great lengths to show them how special they are. That is the thing I treasure about him and it’s what I hope I am to other people.
So Long, Gramps
Come with me to a time and place where things are simpler. Where you take life as it comes and you love the people in front of you, even if they’re kinda weird. Come with me to a place where you know no one will text anybody about who they saw you with and where it’s quite unlikely gossip about you will appear on Facebook.
Ok, so the only reason texting isn’t an issue is simply because there’s no cell phone service in this magical land. And 80% of the population is over 80 and don’t even own computers, not to mention that if they do own one, they don’t do much more than play solitaire and do jigsaws.
I’ve always loved this place. It’s quiet. Peaceful. You can walk everywhere in town in 10 minutes or less — and a woman can walk alone after dark and everyone knows she’s going to get where she is heading without fear of attack. I know this from personal experience. I have been known to walk from church after the candlelight service on Christmas Eve singing carols at the top of my lungs the whole way and no one ever said or did anything more than say “Merry Christmas!”
Welcome to the itty-bitty town of Pollock South Dakota.
I’d like you to meet my Gramps. He’s a quiet man. Doesn’t say much, but what he says matters. When I was little, his greeting went like this:
Gramps: how ya doing?
Gramps: whatcha good for?
It was our thing. I think that’s the only thing I really remember him saying to me, aside from “pass the radishes.”
Gramps was a farmer. He had a piece of land in south central North Dakota that he loved. He was a farmer to the end — even after moving to the nursing home, he’d tell my many boy-cousins and my uncle (and even my mom!) to check on the tractor battery and whatnot. (When his meds made him confused, he told Grandma to get the cows out of the barley before they bloat!! Grandma said they never had barley, and hadn’t had cows in 25 years!!)
But the most amazing part about Gramps was that he was a servant. He did three church-building mission projects in his retirement. He was the oldest guy on the crew — and he was shingling a roof at the age of 74. Honestly, how many guys would work hard for 40+ years at farming/ranching and then sign up to build churches in retirement? But not only that, when he returned home after a summer of building a church, he would spend his winter mornings visiting shut-ins in the community. He’d play cards with them so their primary care-givers could get out of the house for a bit. One thing I know to be true: no one could accuse Gramps of being self-centered. He treasured people and let them know he cared. Even when he entered the nursing home, he asked every visitor to sign his guestbook — even the other residents that wandered in by accident — and he took the time to visit with each one of them.
In a lot of ways, Gramps is my hero. He risked everything for people he cared about. He even risked relationships with the most special people in his life in order to try to make things better for someone else. The someone else was me. And I am so humbled….
One thing about Gramps and the community of Pollock is that community is important. Grandma told me that for many years, she and Gramps and a few other couples would get together and play cards and celebrate life together. Oh, if the real world could be so…. Normal! In that community, no one would even whisper of what might be going on if two people hung around each other, provided that they had a good reputation to begin with.
Back to Gramps…. Last Sunday, my family told me he probably wouldn’t live. He’d developed pneumonia and congestive heart failure. I went to church that morning and the first passage the pastor talked about was 2 Timothy 4:7-8, which (paraphrased) says “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I gave kept the faith. Now is stored up for me a crown of righteousness which the Lord, the righteous judge will award me on that day.”
That was Gramps’ verse. And when he went to Jesus on Tuesday, September 21, I believe that he was welcomed to the Ranch of Righteousness — where the crowns look a lot like cowboy hats and where he saddled up to herd the cattle on a thousand hills.
I sang a song at the prayer service that talks about heaven being a place where blue is the bluest blue you’ve ever seen and roses smell redder than any other rose. How can we mourn our loss when their gain is so great? Of course, we are sad and we miss him. But if we could just see that place, we couldn’t cry for him!
So long, Gramps! I could see you smiling as I sang and I knew you were so proud. I love you so much and I’ll see you again one of these days.
~your most favoritest oldest granddaughter