Friday, August 8, 2014

Great Grandpa Jim

On Wednesday, Aug. 6, I got a call that my grandpa Jim had passed away during the night. He was 93, almost 94, and had been in the nursing home for the past few years. It was hard to see his recent decline but we are grateful for his ability to keep his wits, his humor, and his gentle spirit to the end. He touched countless lives and was remembered by many for his kindness to others, his giving nature, and his servant heart.

One thing I want to remember is that after I got the call, Ryan came and gave me a hug and I had to tell him what was going on. I told him that Great-Grandpa went to heaven during the night. Ryan immediately understood and said, "You mean, he died?" We talked a little bit about what that meant and Ryan said, "Why are you sad? Grandpa has a new body now and I bet he can even play baseball and football now!" His innocent and yet insightful views about how much happier and better Grandpa must be now gave me a lot of strength to get through the next few days.

The visitation was on Thursday and we appreciated all those who came to say a kind word or story about Grandpa. There were several special things displayed to help us remember the long life Grandpa lived.
Air medal from WWII

Grandpa's war story
Hull HS basketball team 1936. Grandpa is second from the left in the back row. He was 16.
Grandpa and Grandma's graduating class of Hull High School, 1938. There is 1 surviving member and she came to the visitation.

Beautiful flowers and truck from Vander Kooi freight.
Wearing VFW cap, standing in front of a picture of a B-24 bomber, Grandpa's plane. 
Air Force medals from WWII.

Telegrams from when he went MIA.

Saluting a hero

Good-bye, Great Grandpa
On Friday, we had a prayer service at the funeral home. This was the hardest time for me, saying good-bye. As we sat in the chairs, listening to Pastor Steve, Ryan put his arm around me, then started rubbing my back. He kept asking if i was okay. While we waited in the van for Adam and the other pall bearers to take the casket out, Ryan said, "Mommy, remember that God is always with us. And he is with Great-Grandpa too."  I will never forget that.

I will probably also never forget that about 20 minutes later, he was whispering questions gravesite about all sorts of things, including whether he could go chase the ground squirrel he saw nearby. :)  He collected a few shotgun shells from the salute and keeps them by his bed by the picture of Grandpa's 1948 baseball team.

The funeral was held that night and I was surprised that I could squeak a few words out to remember my grandpa during the service. Maybe I will post a summary of what I said. I plan to do a post soon of some stories Grandpa and Grandma told about their childhood from conversations we had when Grandma was in the nursing home.

In some has gone on quickly for us. I was plunged right back into normal life on Saturday and haven't had much time to slow down since then. I have so many fond memories of my childhood with grandpa, but he hasn't been a part of my daily/weekly life in the last few years, not like he has for my mom and sister. So, things feel much the same. I am sad that my boys will not be able to remember the lively, funny, active man I knew. Ryan doesn't remember him before the nursing home and Cohen, whose middle name is James, will have to rely on stories as he grows up.  But, I also have taken great comfort in the fact that he is completely healed, healthy, and strong now and with my grandma and with so many friends who went before him. He's also with his Savior, Jesus, and there's no better place. So, I try to be happy for him and know that one day we will meet again!

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