His voice boomed across the living room every single time I made my way down the long hallway and into his presence. “Bethany Rose! How are you?” His words were continuously filled with authenticity and genuine interest in that question. He always knew how to make the conversation 100% about me without me ever feeling selfish or that I had forgotten to turn it around to him at some point.
His summers were spent for twenty five years camping with either me or my younger siblings and cousin. He was always ready for something new. Whether it was boogie boarding in the ocean at the age of eighty or learning to ski at seventy, quite possibly beating me to the end of the mountain first.
His hands created carpenter masterpieces and he thought into the future with each piece. Even though my son is only two, there can be found in our home a cross that has the name “Jesus” engraved throughout it. This cross is a known piece of art amongst our extended family. One was made for each grandchild and then his first great-grandson. They were or are to be given on each one’s wedding day. He knew that he would not be around when my son got married and so he made his early on and gave it to us.
His love for his wife and family was paramount to most love I’ve witnessed on earth. There was gentleness and kindness. Patience and strength. A quietness that calmed the room and made people choose their words wisely. For with his age came more wisdom; wisdom that was evident of time communing with God.
He and his wife prayed as though their lives depended on it, because for them, they did. Notebooks and photos, devotionals and scripture can be found as they prayed over people’s lives. I can see the work of God in my life because of these prayers and know my life is richer for it.
His home was home to many. There was rarely a holiday that it was just our family gathering together. It was common to meet people we did not know for the first time on Thanksgiving or Christmas. His home was a haven and people recognized the solace as soon as they entered.
His music was his ministry and he played at churches across his section of Pennsylvania. He liked to pick the instruments you don’t hear much: the tuba and accordion. His musical talent has been carried down by most of us. I think in a sense he is the musical patriarch of our family.
His trains were his way of entertaining and sharing what he loved. It was tradition to head down to his “train room” after we had piled our plates high with food and come out of our food comas. We would all gather on one side of the room as he pushed buttons and turned knobs and made his train display come to life. He would show us new parts of his train village as he proudly displayed his work of art. I remember when he decided that he was too old for it though and I stood in an empty room where his trains used to run. There was an emptiness in that space where I thought something belonged.
And I suppose that’s how we feel today. We are standing in an empty space where you used to be, looking around thinking that you still belong here.
But that’s not the end of this story, is it? I always imagine you looking down on us, smiling and saying softly, “Don’t cry for me. I am where I belong. If only you could see.”
Happy Birthday, Grandpa. We love you always. “Gone but never forgotten.”