This piece is written for the Memorial Service for my
Grandfather on December 4th, 2010
It will be read by the Pastor Doug.
Today we are celebrating Howard’s life, and in doing so we tend to focus on the many things he as DONE. We look at all the many hats he wore, the projects he took on, the sacrifices he made, the honors he won, and the accomplishments of these many long years of service to God and country.
What I want to focus on right now, however, is the man. I want to share with you who exactly Howard WAS as a person. Because, yes, he has done many wonderful things, held many wonderful positions, but when you get right down to it, a man can do a great many things, and still by all-important purposes, miss the point for which God called him into life.
But Howard did not miss the point. Very early on he grabbed hold of life with both hands, even though he was dealt a hard beginning, and lived each day to the fullest. He made each day count, and he did so with an amazing courage and dignity that commanded both respect and acknowledgement. When Howard walked into a room, people took notice. His presence preceded him.
Howard was my grandfather. As I grew up I watched him. I saw how he walked and how he talked. I saw the grace with which he lived and the grace he gave to those around him. He was not one to talk to a person of authority with one mouth and to the housekeeper and man from the center with another. He had grace for everyone. He loved freely and completely. He had a heart for those who needed a hand up in life. He never thought he’d done enough, not as long as someone was still in need.
He put that kind of heart into everything he did. I remember standing in my father’s church as a girl of 8, tears streaming down my face as I stood beside my grandfather, and for the first time really FELT the words of the song Amazing Grace. His voice rang out over the entire small congregation, almost as a solo. It was a deep and booming voice lit with conviction. When Howard sang, he sang with his heart, not his just his voice. It came from deep within. I‘ve never heard the song Amazing Grace without hearing his voice booming in my heart as it did the day he taught my heart to sing for the first time.
Howard may have wore many hats in his past, but his biggest joy these last few years has been playing the role of Great Papa. He treasured each child as if there were none more sweet or smart or more beautiful than the child in front of him. Watching him crawl on the floor on all 4’s, shocking us all in doing so, chasing my 2 year old daughter across the room with a grin and taunt of “I’m gonna get you!” says it best. He didn’t care what he SHOULD do, he cared what he WANTED to do with those kids. He played, laughed, bragged on, and showed off these kids to anyone who would listen. And recently his greatest joy was in seeing his newest great grandbaby just a week before he passed away. That baby was his name’s sake and the joy that beamed on his face was far brighter than the sun. He nearly glowed.
I smile as I write this today because I have two pictures in my head I want to leave you with. They are pictures of the man, not the roles. The first one is of the massive grin he always wore spread across his face. He would put a hand up and wave when I would come in the front door and sport a firm “Hello!” The hand that was raised to say hello always had a Diet Pepsi firmly in its grasp. In fact that hand of his virtually never was empty of a can. I used to tease him that he had a can-shaped hand. There is a picture I love of him taken on his 60th anniversary. We had a cake for them and it was a decorated Pepsi cake. I made him a diabetic cake to match it and added a Coke topper to it. He is frowning in the picture and holding out a diet Pepsi to the camera. It was a joke because I married a Coke man into a Pepsi family. We loved to tease him, but he could have been a Pepsi spokes person. I had a Pepsi the other day and as I popped the top, I silently lifted my can and toasted him. Cheers Grandpa!
The second picture is of the man who shocked the tech world when he walked in to the store and wanted an iPhone. They assumed his son was the one buying, not him. He owned every single new Mac toy he could get his hands on. He loved technology. He didn’t care what normal 80 some-year-olds do, he wanted to stay up with the times. He and grandma each had their own desktop computer, a laptop so new it was micro thin, an iPad, iPhone, and most recently an apple TV. He read 6 or 7 newspapers a day online. If his Internet was down, the earth was about to stop rotating. I think he almost felt claustrophobic if he couldn’t reach out and touch the world. He was amazing and sharp.
Howard was a successful man. What will live on in my heart, the hearts of his family, and all those who knew him, however, is not all the many things he did, but instead who he was. He was a man with integrity and grace.
I have no doubt that he has heard from God himself, “Well done, my good and faithful servant,” and that it was not because of the many works of his hands. No, it will be because of the way he walked out his life, truly acting as the hands and feet of Jesus to so many, with eyes of love, hands of hope, and a heart open and full of love.
That is his lasting legacy, one of love and grace.
Love you Papa. May you greatly enjoy your Heavenly treasures!