The call came on Tuesday. My mother's voice, usually bubbling forth a cheery "hello", sounded hollow as she delivered the news that my grandfather had passed away. Since that time, my emotions have been on a twisting and hilly course similar to Cedar Point's Corkscrew roller coaster. The assurance that he was no longer suffering would be, in another moment, overwhelmed by deep sadness that one I loved so much was gone forever. I'm now back in Ohio...for the funeral, for the comfort of the family, to be with my grandma...to somehow bid him farewell.
Gramps was a huge part of my life, always. He was always there, always strong, always quietly present. When my father walked out, my grandparents stepped in. We saw them weekly, sometimes more often. Together they made sure we knew we were loved, that we still had a strong family bond, that we were not really abandoned. How do I say goodbye to one so important, one so gentle, one so intensely and deeply caring?
He was always a strong man, both mentally as well as physically, strangely belying his slight stature and small build, as he topped out at about 125 at his heaviest. Yet he could do back-breaking work and endured many physical and emotional hardships as a child. Called the runt, he took the blame - and the beatings - for all the wrongs of his brothers and the whims of his father. And yet he took his father in and provided a home and hospitality and care for him when he became infirm.
My grandpa could fix anything, from a broken lamp to a skinned knee. When he purchased a small one-level home and needed more room as his family grew, he dug a basement below it and added a floor above it. He made us skateboards and mended fences and painted our house and helped others with their lawn-work. My grandpa could do anything!
Gramps was always a quiet, soft-spoken man with a heart as deep as the ocean. Anyone in need was cared for, along with my grandma's help. Together, throughout their 65 years of marriage, they helped the underdogs and the underpriviledged and the under-loved.
Though his name was Herman, he had many nicknames and monikers: Gramps, Stubborn Dutchman, Cracker. But the one that was most enduring - and which never failed to elicit his infamous grin - was Old Fart. He graciously accepted this name on his 80th birthday, and it labeled him since. He enjoyed that we enjoyed it; he liked having the inside joke with us, right up to his most recent 96th birthday.
The word that comes to mind as I think of him is "simple". He was a simple man with a simple faith. He had that child-like faith that Jesus asks us to have, and he lived it out daily in his actions as he loved his family, and saw - then met - the needs of others. I believe that when he entered heaven, the Lord ran to greet him and say, "Welcome Herman. You have been a good and faithful servant. You have served faithfully and joyfully and patiently. Enter in the joy of your Lord."
Gramps was a simple and humble and wonderful man who simply served God and loved his family intensely. And in the end, no greater thing can be said about a man's life than that.
Copyright 2005 Valerie Schneider