After about the shortest bout with cancer in history My grandpa died this morning at the age of 83. As his oldest grandson I've been asked to speak at the funeral, and this is what I intend to say.
Long ago and far away, Samuel Clemens, better known as Mark Twain, was asked how he measured the worth of a man. He replied saying this, “the worth of a man is a hard thing to judge. Surely it cannot be measured in worldly possessions, for he cannot take them with him when he dies. The size of his house, and the size of his coin purse mean little when he comes face to face with the Almighty. No, I think a better way of measuring a man’s worth is this. First, wait for him to shove off. Then count how many people attend his funeral. Furthermore, if you seek to find your own worth, simply mention how much money he owed you to his widow, and she will be more than happy to set you straight with a funeral of your own.”
Eight children. Dozens of grandchildren and great grandchildren. We’ve got Eagle Scouts, college graduates, returned missionaries, a whole range of different talents and skills. We are Grandpa’s legacy and I’d say that he was very wealthy indeed. He lived a long life as patriarch of our family, and accomplished far more by being the great example that he was than millions of dollars or any amount of fame could have given us.
Rather than sum up over eight decades of his life, the things he accomplished and the history he saw unfolding before his eyes, I’d like to share with you my memories of him. These are the things that stand out most vividly in my mind when I think of him.
When we were young, Sarah and I spent the summer in Sutter Creek. I don’t remember much of that summer—as it was over twenty years ago—but I do remember the drive across Nevada in Grandpa’s little truck with no air conditioning. The windows were rolled all the way down, and country music that was old when the world was young blasted through the stereo loud enough to be heard over the wind rushing by. He told us stories from his time in the army and other times of his life to keep us entertained during the twelve hour drive. I remember his truck was so old and beat up that there was a hole in the floor that I could see the road beneath us through. He said that truck was an old friend of his, despite the fact that it literally appeared to be falling apart around us. It got us there safe and sound, regardless. I don’t remember the heat of the Nevada deserts, or how cramped that little truck must have been with the three of us piled into it. I only remember that the time spent with him, and the stories he told to us during the trip that made it stand out in my memory for more than twenty years.
Several years later he asked me if I would like to hike up Timpanogus with him one Saturday. I thought he meant to the cave, and as I had never been, I excitedly agreed. Little did I know, he was talking about a hike to the top of the mountain and back. All eighteen miles or so of it. I remember beforehand that my mom told me to walk close behind him, so that when he had his heart attack on the way up I’d be there to catch him. But he was probably in better shape than I was, and made the climb up and back down with ease. There’s a little metal building at the very top of the mountain, and we sat nearby for lunch before heading back down. As we sat he handed me an article he’d clipped out of the newspaper. It was about how college graduates typically make double the amount of money as high school graduates. He counseled me that going to college was quite possibly the best thing I could ever do to ensure a prosperous future. I still have that bit of newspaper. It’s in a box in my closet with my college degree.
I remember the pride on his face the night I got my Eagle Scout award at the extremely young age of fourteen. I will admit that the biggest factor spurring me to get it so early on was that he promised me a hundred dollars if I ever became an Eagle Scout. Oh, I had plans for that money the moment he mentioned it to me, and I set to work to get it. I don’t even remember what I spent it on. Probably something stupid, but I do remember the look on his face as he handed it to me. It was the same expression he wore the night I was set apart as a missionary, and the night I came home from my mission, even though I was home a year early due to illness.
When He discovered that I was interested in Japanese History he told me all sorts of stories about when he was stationed in Japan with the Army. One, in particular, stands out in my mind. He and a buddy saw the moat around the Imperial Palace in Tokyo one day and thought it would be a great place to go fishing. So after it got dark they climbed the wall and spent the night fishing there. This, of course, is sacred land to the Japanese and even just ten years earlier they likely would have been executed for it, but when they were found the Imperial Guards simply told them to leave. Who can say they’ve fished in the moat around the Japanese Imperial Palace? Not many people I’d bet.
You were a great example to me. You were loved and you will be greatly missed. Though I know this is not truly goodbye, but more like ‘til we meet again, it does not make it much easier. God be with you ‘til we meet again.