It’s hard to break a six month writing silence. So many stories unfold in a half a year. There really isn’t anything else I can write of before acknowledging a monumental loss in our life. I’ve written before about our beloved Grandpa. We’ve been crazy blessed to spend most Sunday afternoons with him for the past couple years. It has meant driving two cars to church weekly, so half our family could go sit with him at the lunch table in his memory care facility. Our time couldn’t possibly have been spent in any better way. One Sunday in September we went to see him and then by the following Saturday he was gone. Deleting the recurring calendar event that said “Sunday lunch with Gpa” was harder than I could put to words. When you love big, it means feeling the “bigness” of loss as well.
Here are the words I shared at his memorial in October back east in Virginia. I flew with our oldest five children to be a part of honoring him in this way. There is nothing more fitting I could write today than to share those words here….
Good morning friends, I happen to be the eldest of the 9 grandchildren but just because I’ve been blessed under our grandpa’s love and leadership longer than my cousins and sisters doesn’t make me any more qualified to share today. We all have our own list of memories tucked in our hearts. The list of contributions of every sort our grandfather made in his lifetime would be impossible for any of us here today to sum up. And as with most of life, it’s the intangible things that can’t be touched or measured that mattered more than any other.
It was his “whatey” that he brought with him when he flew to Seattle or visited grandkids in Virginia. I don’t even know how it started but as little girls as soon as we saw his face, we said “Gpa!” and he said “whatey!”. We came to expect the “whatey” and we would ask him to make sure and bring it when he came. The whatey always came with a smile and that’s what made it so grand.
It was their heart to share what they deemed “one of the most stunning places in the world” coupled with their radical generosity that took our whole extended Larson family to New Zealand 14 years ago this Christmas. They had seen nearly the whole world over and told us we all had to experience together the beauty and breadth of a place they had so enjoyed. If there’s anything more wonderful than being overcome by an incredible land, it’s sharing that wonder with the ones you love most. It was the trip of a lifetime for all of us.
It was also his faithful presence, despite having to travel cross country to see any of us in the Sween family at least – he was always there, cheering us on at every big life moment, celebrating graduations and weddings and eventually the births of some 14 great-grandchildren. He and Grandma were intentionally invested in the lives of their family in a way that communicated our value in their eyes and we were all better for it.
It was an unwavering commitment to building family relationships despite distance that brought us all together time and time again from Fort Casey, Washington to Estes Park, Colorado to the Outer Banks, North Carolina and many others in between. This left us feeling connected and like we belonged to something special, even if we lived cross country from our cousins.
It was the fervor and passion and deepest pride he had when he talked about politics and education and great leaders and history and America. He told stories of growing up in the Great Depression and having a tumbleweed for a Christmas tree with a stern face and I knew he still remembered just how unbearable some of those days had been.
It was the constant encouragement that he offered to me every single time he saw me and my six children the past decade or so. He was one of my greatest cheerleaders. These last three years with him living nearby for the first time in my life, my children and I had the privilege of Sunday lunches. After sharing our grandfather with Right to Work, with presidents and Senators, with our nation really, it was this last season of his that will always be of greatest treasure to me. He faithfully, dare I say relentlessly, spurned me onward in the daily, sometimes quite monotonous work of educating our children at home, cultivating character and of serving those around us in ways we were able. His consistent mantra to me as we parted every week was, “You keep up the good work”. It was fitting to me that the night before he passed away when I went to say goodbye for the evening, he managed to say quietly “You do good work”.
It was Grandpa’s steady, rooted faith in Jesus that was perhaps his greatest contribution to the Larson clan and to an immeasurable many who don’t share our family name. His extreme generosity to people and to organizations who were committed to furthering the message of Christ and his Gospel in the world has undoubtedly had impact in ways we will never grasp or fully know on this side of heaven.
There really isn’t a role in the world quite like a grandparent. And an adult who fills that unique role with excellence is one in a million in the eyes of their grandchild. Grandpa was indeed, one in a million and the void he leaves is certainly an impossible one to fill.