Earlier this week, I gave a tribute at my grandfather’s funeral. The general text of the tribute is provided below.
Thank you for braving the cold and snow over the last few days to mourn with us.
It is a privilege to take part in the celebration of George Gaastra’s life. Today is a celebration because we know that Grandpa belongs, body and soul, in life and in death, to his faithful savior.
Though I am having trouble believing that he is gone, we can’t ignore the obvious blessing here. I am a 30-year-old man talking about the life of my grandfather. I thank God that we were able to spend so much time together, and I thank God for sustaining grandpa for so many years. He had, in his own words, a great life. A refrain that he repeated often at family gatherings.
I am especially thankful that we were able to celebrate grandpa’s life with him at his 90th birthday party two years ago.
As most of you know, grandpa answered the call of his country and served in foreign lands during WWII. I only ever heard the same few stories about his service. While much could be said here about the greatest generation, I’m not going to dwell on his military service today.
My grandpa certainly carried on productive work as a salesman and in the various odd jobs he took on during “retirement.” His work ethic and his devotion to providing for his family were commendable, but I am not going to talk about his work life today.
I am going to talk about my grandpa’s deep and profound love for other people and his insatiable desire to be a servant. This is what I’m going to remember most about my grandpa.
I will share some anecdotes, but to mention a few is to exclude so many more. We will all exchange memories in the days ahead.
I will close by challenging us to follow my grandpa’s example.
Extraordinary love for others
Grandpa loved his family, friends, the Meijer cashier, the Chase bank teller, the waitress, the barber, and, well, you get the point. I don’t know if he ever met someone that he didn’t want to get to know.
Grandpa was a prodigious food donor. So many of us received the pickles, the pea soup, the Pillsbury, and the potato salad. If you sat next to us, you knew that we had received the potato salad [it was full of onions]. He even made sure that Lily had her special long john doughnut on Saturday mornings. Grandpa was a fixture at Meijer. He would buy extra groceries if there were specials and give away the excess to all of us. His food donations were not limited to people, however. Grandpa wanted Tricia’s dogs to like him so badly. He would often swing by McDonald’s to pick up chicken nuggets just for the dogs.
Grandpa gave out $2 bills like he was printing them. I think perfect strangers received $2 bills. This generosity cuts against the miserly Dutchman stereotype, but I will point out that the $2 gift was never adjusted for inflation.
Grandpa was known for, of course, doing his own yard work, but he would also just happen to stop by and do the edging and trimming at his kids’ houses. It’s a strange sight to see an octogenarian doing someone else’s yard work.
Grandpa would employ the grandkids to do a number of odd jobs around his own house—though his house rarely needed much work. After the relatively light tasks were completed, he would send us down to the basement fridge for a few Pepsis, and the workday quickly transformed into drinking Pepsi and chatting.
Grandpa was very concerned about his grandkids as they joined the workforce. During high school, I was employed for a time as a Target Cart Attendant. During cold and snowy days, I was out in the parking lot collecting carts. Grandpa felt so bad about this arrangement that he would often buy me a cheeseburger from Mr. Burger and sit with me in the Target break room during my long break. He would have preferred to do the work himself. I think all of the grandkids can share similar stories.
The women of the family occupied a special place in his heart. He loved his “CC”, Queen, Queenie, Baby, and Leelee. Grandpa adored my grandma. Over the course of 66 years of marriage, my grandma never filled up her own car with gas. Grandma told me just last night that if she wanted an ice cream cone at midnight, he would go out and get it for her. Grandpa, though not much into horses himself, helped my Aunt Betsy with her 4-H shows, hauled her horse, and he never complained. He was a true gentleman.
Grandpa was incredibly consistent. You were a priority in his life. He essentially had a liturgical calendar of coffee stops and phone calls. His routine stops included Bud’s, Arnie’s, the shoe store, H&L, and, of course, Five Star.
His phone calls on Sunday evening were a constant for many of us. Admittedly, I took those chats for granted, and I will miss them dearly. I regret every call that I was too busy or too distracted to answer. He loved me so much.
Life as testimony
My grandpa professed that Jesus Christ was his Lord and Savior. He was a two bulletin man and the Holy Spirit used the ordinary means of grace to create a sincere and child-like faith within him. His spirit aged well.
A few years ago, Aunt Betsy gave grandpa a Charles Stanley devotional, and he read through it over and over again.
Grandpa’s servant heart and sincere love for others set an example for all of us.
Many old men sit in comfortable chairs and spend their last years watching baseball or Fox News. That wasn’t grandpa. Even as his body grew weak, his spirit was always willing.
Grandpa’s passing lowered the total amount of thoughtfulness and kindness in the world, but that is now our challenge.
We no longer will receive grandpa’s little acts of kindness or his phone calls. It’s time now for all of us to be givers and to up our game.
Following grandpa’s example doesn’t require an extraordinary investment. It could be as simple as handing out a few $2 bills or caramel candies or taking a sincere interest in someone else’s family.
Let’s follow grandpa’s example for God’s praise and glory.