On Friday I received word that my great granddad had passed away. At the age of 97 with his health failing his passing was met more with relief than shock. He will be truly missed in this life, but we are glad to know that he’s no longer suffering the ills of old age and is being reunited with family on the other side of the veil. Sadly, because my great grandparents live in Australia I will be unable to attend any sort of funeral services so I wanted to write a brief tribute here.
As you can imagine, my relationship with my great granddad was limited by the distances between our different continents. However I was able to see him on our family’s three trips to Australia and he also made several trips to the states with my great grandmother and stayed with our family on a number of occasions. It was always amazing to me to see that despite huge distances, you always have a special connection to your family that you can’t have with anyone else. I always knew that my great grandparents loved me and were interested in what was going on with my life even though on a day-to-day basis our lives weren’t very connected.
My parents shared on Facebook some thoughts on my granddad’s passing and talked particularly about something that has always fascinated me about him. In the 1950s Granddad listened to the missionaries from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and was baptized a member of the church. Because of that decision my grandma was raised in the church, and she in turn raised my mother in the church, and my mother raised me in the church. The greatest blessings in my life have come from the church and in large part stem from a decision that was made about three decades before I was born. I am reminded of the ripple effects of our choices – nothing we do is truly done in a vacuum. Our choices affect not only ourselves, but those around us and generations after us. I will be forever grateful for that one decision that he made all those years ago.
Later my granddad fell away from the church. On one of his trips to the US he was sitting next to my dad during a sacrament meeting. After singing “Hark All Ye Nations” granddad leaned over to my dad and told him, “We use to sing that song all the time back in England in the pubs…but, the words were all different… come to think of it, none of those words would ever be said in a church.” It’s now a family joke whenever we sing that song in church that we’re all singing a drinking song. My granddad left the church for 40 years. That’s amazing to me, 40 years is more than my entire life span so far. What’s amazing about it though, is that after 40 years – he came back. You would think that after all that time his choices and attitudes towards the church must have been totally solidified and there was no way he’d come back. Yet, when he was in his 80s he chose to return to the church and died after almost two decades of faithful membership. One special memory I have is that he and my great grandmother were able to attend Eric’s and my wedding. Traditionally the father of the bride and the father of the groom act as witnesses to the sealing. However, as Eric’s dad is a sealer and was able to seal us we had an extra witness seat. At the last minute my mom thought we should ask if granddad would like to be that witness. I felt bad that we asked Eric’s brother at the last minute to concede that role (sorry!), but it was a really special thing that after all that time of being away from the church, here was my great granddad – all the way from Australia – assisting in one of the most sacred ordinances. It was a very special thing to me that he could come and be such an integral part of that very special day.
As I reflect on this part of my granddad’s life one thing sticks out to me – it is never too late too change. You are never too old. You are never too stuck in your ways. It is never too hard. You may be 2 or 102 but you still have your agency to choose that tomorrow you will be different than you are today. I think this is both thrilling and terrifying. Tomorrow you could choose to eschew poor habits, create a new life, start on a better path. Or tomorrow you could choose to leave behind all that is good and glorious in your life and make choices that will lead to misery. No one is immune. We should never look at someone and think, “oh, they’re too far gone, they’ll never turn their life around.” Nor should we think, “well they’ve clearly got it all figured out and they don’t need any help from me.” We all need each other, every day. Let us choose each day to be a little better than the day before. Let us look at others with more compassion for where they might be. Let us never give up on anybody, ever. You never know who that person might be tomorrow.
Thank you Granddad to the example you were to me, for the love you have showed to my family and for the foundation you gave for my life. I will be eternally grateful for all the good things that you made possible for my family. God be with you until we meet again <3