Lauren and Mikaela--identical twins living on opposite coasts--blog about the story of life and their adventures in faith.

12.20.2011

Grandpa Grass

A favorite pastime of Grandpa Grass and mine was to peruse his many photo albums. Early on, he would hold the book robustly, lingering on each picture and soliloquizing about every detail in each picture. I would look at the sepia photograph of a handsome, vibrant young man in uniform with his beautiful young bride, and then I would look at the elderly man next to me—the very same man. Unless he was in bed, he was always impeccably dressed with manners to match: careful introductions, walking me to the door, and wanting to provide snacks or drinks. I could look at that picture of his younger self, attending university in Germany and forced to fight for the Nazis, and I recognized him in this ninety year-old man before me—still debonair and gentlemanly with clear blue eyes.

What an incredible man he was. I marvelled at the stories he would tell me—born in Argentina to German parents, moved to the United States in his childhood where he excelled musically and even got a chance to sing with the Metropolitan Opera when they traveled to Detroit. Even as a soldier, caught on the wrong side of the battle, he managed to make the best out of a terrible situation, marrying a girl he had first met in the US, and surviving the war with a wound to his leg that would plague him for the rest of his life. Eventually, he made it back to the US with his family, where he worked and raised his three children. In his retirement years, he and Grandma Grass travelled to an astounding number of places.

He began to curtail the stories to accompany the photos, however. The first time he told me of his mother, ironing in South America with an oil-powered iron (only to have it explode and burn her badly) it was a long, dramatic tale. But the second and third times it was reprised, the story was abridged. This year, at 91, he was in constant pain. He would look at Lauren and me with weariness in his crystal blue eyes and say, “Never, never get this old.”

He could still remember his German, Spanish, and English, and he always amended Lauren and my pronunciations of the great German composers when we played something for him. Eventually, the hands that held the photo albums grew weaker, so that I now turned the pages while he remembered the stories about his two sisters, gone before him, his wife gone to heaven in June, and countless other friends and relatives.

Through the pain, there was also delight and joy with him. He was always a gallant host when I came to visit, and I remember one time where he insisted on painstakingly setting the table, layering a napkin, then a bowl, then a Ferrero Rocher candy, with a fork and a goblet of juice next to it. Once, as he was sick and nauseated, a nurse tried to give him some water. “Do you have anything stronger?” He asked, and I thought I could still see the capricious twinkle in his eye through the sickness.

Mikaela and Grandpa Grass


 But this week, his body surrendered to the wear and tear of 91 ½ years. And as Lauren and I visited him on Saturday for what we knew would be the final time, I had to turn away for a moment to compose myself from the shock of seeing him so deteriorated. With tears streaming down my face, I knelt down and looked one last time into his beautiful, lucent eyes. He couldn’t say anything, but neither could I, so we were a pair, just looking at each other and saying good-bye. Finally, I managed to thank him for all the times of music and games and pictures. I couldn’t thank him for his love, for his time, and for being Grandpa, but he knew. And after awhile, I gave him a kiss, squeezed his hand, and said good-bye—for now. On Sunday afternoon, he slipped away to Jesus. I am elated for him, and so selfishly heartbroken for myself.

On the night of his death, as I read the next chapters in my quiet time, God providentially ordained that I should read Isaiah 25 and find these words of promise:

     "He will swallow up death forever,
      And the Lord GOD will wipe away tears from all faces;
      The rebuke of His people
      He will take away from all the earth;
      For the LORD has spoken.
       And it will be said in that day:
      'Behold, this is our God;
      We have waited for Him, and He will save us.
      This is the LORD;
      We have waited for Him;
      We will be glad and rejoice in His salvation.'"
~ Isaiah 25:8-9

Grandpa Grass taught me many important lessons—about history, culture, and music, but also about raising a family, loving God, and aging. And though we were not related by blood—though I did not know him as long or as intimately as his family, yet I am so grateful that he was the great-grandfather I never had. I am so blessed to have known him and I yearn for the day when we will reunite for eternity.

8 comments:

  1. Praying for comfort for you! I feel for you and know how hard it is to lose someone you love. He sounds like a very special person.

    May our God of all peace and comfort be your grace and strength.

    He is faithful.

    -Savannah

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  2. Thank you so much Savannah! Your words are like a sweet balm of encouragement.

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  3. What a joy it is to know that he is in heaven and that you will see him again. I wish i had that knowledge about my Grandma.
    He is faithful. All the time.

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  4. Kaytra, truer words were never spoken! And it certainly is an indescribable joy to me that he is in heaven right now.

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  5. Grandpa Grass sounds like an amazing man! Thank you for sharing this.

    Merry Christmas to you and Lauren. Your blog never fails to lift spirits and point us all to our Lord and Savior.

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  6. He was indeed an amazing man.

    I am so grateful for your words of encouragement (now and throughout the past year). And while I know that we do not unfailingly achieve our objective, it truly is Lauren and my hearts' desire to point to Christ Jesus.

    I wish you and your family a Merry Christmas as well!

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  7. Mikaela, what a beautiful post and tribute to Grandpa Grass. I was so glad I was able to see him once last time, a few days before I left in the summer. I will certainly miss him, but can only imagine how ecstatic he must be to be with his Savior and reunited with Grandma. : )

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  8. Although it was a sad occasion, I am certainly glad you were able to see him too! Six months later, he has joined his beautiful bride and precious Savior...

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