Okay, he’s not technically my grandpa. He’s my husband’s grandpa. But since the day I met him fourteen years ago, he took me in as his own, and I loved him like a good granddaughter would.
So last week, when Jesus called Elmer home, I joined my husband’s family—my family—in the kind of grief and goodbyes that a beloved patriarch deserves.
But it wasn’t all sadness.
We celebrated, too.
Because Elmer lived a full life—an abundant life. Not by making and spending loads of money, traveling the world, or catching more walleyes than anybody else on Lake Winnebago (although that part might be true). Elmer lived well because he loved well.
And love matters most.
“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another,” (John 13:34–35).
How do you measure a life well lived? By loving a wife for 60 years and teaching five daughters how to fish. By rowing a teenage grandson to the middle of the lake and lecturing him to say no to drugs. By parking a lawn chair at hundreds of high school and college baseball games no matter the weather or the score. By sitting in a duck blind at sunrise, still building memories with the grandson who’s now raising two little girls of his own—the ones who beg to bike to Great-Grandpa’s house with a fresh plate of cookies because they know he likes sweets and he’s sweet on them, too.
We all loved Elmer. But the best part? He loved us back. He loved us first. He knew what it meant to hold a family together, and he taught us by example to do the same.
When the funeral service ended, I stood shoulder to shoulder with my sisters-in-law, watching eight strong grandsons dressed in dark suits usher their grandfather’s casket out of the church. And it occurred to me. This family is one man’s legacy. Now we get the privilege of seeing it through until that great someday when we, too, reach heaven.
And when we get there, I’ll bet we’ll see a fishing boat. Grandpa Elmer will smile and hand us a rod, and we’ll wonder what all the fuss was about down here on Earth.
If you love one another. Maybe it really is just that simple.
Happy fishing, Grandpa. May the waves be smooth and comforting, and may every worm snag a big one.
* Photo by the lovely and talented Carol Grandlienard.