I lost my Grandpa John last week and have been engulfed in navigating life with a grieving family and funeral arrangements. My family allowed me to write and present his eulogy during the funeral service we held for him in his hometown. I am grateful for the bond and love I shared with my grandpa and I would like to share his eulogy with you today.
Sharing a eulogy for my Grandpa John is an honor. At the same time, it’s extremely difficult. How, after all, do I justly pay tribute to such an incredible man…especially as seen through the eyes of a doting, first grandchild? When I close my eyes I can see his proud, slightly blushing face accompanied by that uneasy look of “hurry up, Chelse!” because he would be so uncomfortable that I was dedicating such a speech to him. He most appreciated simplicity and he was innately humble.
I’ll start by letting you know that my grandpa passed away exactly as he had wished: peacefully and quickly in my mom’s home. He left no goodbyes unsaid and was blessed to have his daughters and some of his grandchildren at his side. Needless to say, he was surrounded by loving family, even though he was sure that his final moments on earth would end in being shot by a jealous husband!
My grandpa knew no strangers and within minutes of meeting him people had captured “the essence of John.” He was loving, warm, funny and faithful. He gave the biggest, strongest hugs imaginable and his giant hands and strong arms made any recipient feel small and safe. He meant those hugs, too…every single one of them was filled with good intention and love. Already, at the very top of my “miss list” is my grandpa’s bear hugs.
Grandpa John came from extremely humble beginnings and he loyally carried boyhood lessons with him. He’d eat any food put in front of him. He never let a single bite go to waste and if you left anything on your plate…well, he’d eat that, too! I’m amazed to this very day how he kept his strong, fit stature! He would regularly reminisce about the days when he lived “as poor as a church mouse” and he continued his “waste not want not” existence until the day he died. He would often say, “charge it to the dust and let the rain settle it” which meant do not expect to be paid for this…a concept he lived by as he would give you the shirt off his back, if you needed it, and he’d never expect anything in return. He believed that people are inherently good and did his best to exemplify it. Because he was born on the ranch with no record keeping, he picked his own birthday and willingly accepted any circumstance he was given without complaint or resentment.
I regularly teach a generational issues class and the story of my grandparent’s faith filled marriage is one I share. I know of no stronger marriage, blind love, or relationship led by God. After 14 years, they have been reunited and I smile at the thought of laying their earthly remains to rest together.
My grandpa is one of the hardest working men I’ve ever known of, often holding down multiple jobs to provide for his family so my grandma Lucille could be home to raise their five children. If you know Joey, Johnny, Julie, Jeanne, or Jana you already know why my grandpa was so proud of his family. They reflect the values he so tirelessly drove to instill. He traveled in an Airstream from near and far to be with and see his children and grandchildren. He was spiritually connected to Alaska and we have a picture of him in California wearing his cowboy boots with his swimming trunks. In the end, though, he always returned to his home.
If you spent anytime around my grandpa during your youth you were certainly referred to as a little whippersnapper on more than one occasion and you were often called Oscar John Peter Mouse whether he could remember your name…or not. Speaking of remembering names, my grandpa wasn’t always appreciative of “strange names.” My husband’s name was often mispronounced and if we corrected grandpa, his name turned to “George.” George was recently lured into a buying and selling deal with grandpa where he purchased a table saw from him for $1. I know many of you have given a dollar for trucks, tools, guns or other important items in a famous Grandpa John Dollar Deal.
It’s also fun to reflect on Grandpa John’s humor. He would go into jewelry shops and tell the workers that he would buy their most expensive ring if they had it in his size. A frenzy of worker bees would then swarm the jewelry cases and bring precious pieces forward. One at a time they’d try to fit his ring finger and eventually someone would realize that there was nothing in the store to slide past his second knuckle. His deep belly laugh would follow and he’d thank them for their time. This wasn’t his only repeat trick, either, and I encourage you to share your favorite jokes or lines in the comments.
Grandpa’s favorite joker was his best friend, Felix. I remember going mushroom hunting with these two as a little girl. One time, they started singing loudly together and pretending like they were going to drive us over a cliff. Another time they had my brother and cousins convinced that everyone was going to starve because grandma forgot to pack us lunch. Most recently, they hung a stuffed bear in some shrubbery and after an afternoon of fun, enjoyed the last laugh as local law enforcement maced it! All joking aside, the rest of us would be lucky to have a friendship like that of grandpa’s and Fee Fee’s. I’m confident that in my lifetime I’ll never be able to say that I saved my best friend’s life; that we moved an entire home across town together on a trailer truck; or that we drove our lawn mowers to one another’s house each morning. These two men share an uncommon and sacred bond that has literally lasted a lifetime and is nothing short of awe-inspiring and beautiful.
Grandpa John loved a good story, no matter how many times it had been told, and I can still hear his deep belly laugh! I would often chuckle at things that weren’t even funny just because he’d laugh so hard…and I know many of you have shared in that same experience. When he met Rhonda during a Price is Right trip, he would giggle as he told the story of meeting his new, special lady friend. His contagious energy left the listener no choice but to travel back to those giddy teen years of finding someone special and laughing through remembered butterflies.
Another of my grandpa’s favorite sayings was, “when Saint Peter calls you forth, you don’t come fifth.” Isn’t that the truth? Grandpa John has been called home and so I have this left to say:
I’ll see you in the fall, if I see you at all and if the bed breaks down I’ll see you in the spring. Well, grandpa, thankfully we did get to see you this fall and I don’t believe you’ll ever need a bed, again. Even though many more seasons will come and go before we are together once more, we’ll not forget you. Please, dance with grandma for us, share a few jokes with my dad, hug your own parents, reminisce with your siblings, swap stories with your in-laws, and watch over us. You’ll most certainly be missed as each day passes and your tremendous bear hugs will survive in your memory.
As you navigate the rest of your journey, please be sure to pass along the essence of John…with each big hug you give. If you share an embrace and squeeze with all of your might, it will be like getting that one last bear hug from my Grandpa John.