Cover image: my dad and grandfather hand in hand just before the passing
Yesterday I experienced one of the much-anticipated life moments for which you can never foresee your reaction. My grandfather got sick and in his bodily condition there would certainly not be the usual recovery. All of his children have dropped everything and will be with him in Washington. For pretty much my whole life the greatest acts of service my dad has done have happened because of an expressed example his father gave him. That role model and life hero of my father was passing away.
I got the news while I was in the middle of a full-day outing a couple hours away assisting missionaries and a Mexican immigrant family completing marital legal work. (Being legally married is requisite for baptismal worthiness.) It’s not normal to do these kinds of things often, but it’s because of my parents’ example I accept the calls when they come. My dad tells me he does the same because of the Christlike principles he learned from the example of his father. I had always known my life experience was thoroughly shaped indirectly through Grandfather, even if I never felt like I totally knew or understood him, myself.
Today is Fan’s and my fourth wedding anniversary (and only 2nd we’ve been physically together for), but I knew last night that I would not be mentally present the way I had anticipated I would be before today.
Dad’s message last night:
Father’s lungs have filled with fluid and his body has lost the ability to improve the situation. He did not wish to be kept alive with machines, and he is currently being kept alive by a super PAP machine. The doctor will remove the breathing machine.
Father will die in minutes or hours. He has not understood what has been happening in the hospital and has been fighting all nurses and medical devices with pushing and shouting as if he were a prisoner of war fighting to evade torture. This plus the fact that the last bit could be painful suggest there is a good chance the ending could be ugly.
It is moments like this that remind of how precious are family and life. I love you all!
This morning I got up and felt an overwhelming duty to read Grandfather’s autobiography, Glancing Backward. I am who I am in great part because of this man but there are serious questions for which I do not feel I have good answers. What was the life he lived? What legacy is he leaving behind? Why did Heavenly Father give me this grandfather? How do I live up to his standard? I explained to Fan what was on my mind and she supported me on spending the day the way I wished to.
I voraciously read 80% of the 200 pages by the time afternoon came around when I received this text message:
We arrived at the hospital at 8:30 and came to Father’s room… Father was still on the breathing machine. The doctor came in and informed us that Father’s conditions had worsened a bit and was still hopeless, so the family decided to remove the breathing machine and give him sedatives so that he would not suffer as his body shut down.
Mother invited everyone to go to a room down the hall to share memories. I asked to be excused and remained alone with Father. I sang him the Clive song then his favorite hymn (Lead Kindly Light), then my favorite (Ye Elders of Israel), then Come, Come Ye Saints, and many others as the nurses were making preparations.
Then the whole family came in to his room and Steve and I prayed as we stood around the bed holding hands. Then they removed the machine. I sat by his side holding his hand for 4 hours until his death and then for 30 minutes after. He was peaceful all morning and had a lovely passing. We are mindful of how richly blessed we have all been by father’s life of service and discipleship.
Here is what I have found in my day of reading and reflecting on Grandfather’s life and legacy. I have found so much on who he became by the time he was my age and what he did during the rest of his life. I have written about them here:
One other legacy my Clive grandparents have provided is achieving perfect retirement through frugality and sheer hard work. In my eyes, they set the world record for that. The two longest chapters of Glancing Backward are by far the longest, with ‘Travel’ being only slightly shorter than ‘Married Life.’ Despite the extraordinarily many years of grit and stressful work, and despite his extensive experience dealing with death, he did live 20 of his latter years traveling 60 or so countries with his best friend and eternal companion. Even considering this, I feel that the focus on his coming of age and decades of service take priority. They reflect entirely on what Grandfather made of himself and what he did. His perfect retirement was just the natural by-product. I may get to that one day.
And in case it’s of any interest, Fan and I had a low-key but enjoyable anniversary dinner together at home. Here’s Fan and Lincoln before eating the sushi we made in the kitchen together.