Two weeks ago (12 June 2010), Sam's grandfather passed away. Death is in no way convenient but it was very nice that we were already in Utah and we didn't have to buy more flights to Utah. Sam was asked to share some memories at the funeral and below is what he prepared along with a few things added in that time did not allow for previously. Life is such a precious thing and from the things shared, I feel his grandpa used it to the fullest. I am glad I was able to meet him; he was also so sweet and loving to me.
I knew Grandpa's health was failing, but somehow I always thought that he would be there. Somehow I thought that he would defy the hands of time to be there to be a great-grandfather to my children. I wanted this because I have only fond memories of Grandpa. Because I am the oldest son in my family I was asked to be the representative of the rest of my siblings and share our memories of my grandpa. One thing that was clear in my own recollections and was a recurring theme as I spoke with each of my sisters and brother was that we all loved him very much, and that there were no unhappy memories of Grandpa. Any time any of us grandkids think of Grandpa, it will always bring a smile to our faces.
Grandpa had a way of making everyone feel welcome and at home. Anytime any cousin brought a friend, boyfriend or girlfriend, or even just a neighbor to their house they were immediately welcomed in like family and given the same treatment. I don't think there's anyone that after coming to their home would not have happily come back. This may not seem that spectacular, but if you saw all the "interesting" outfits, crazy Mohawks, hairstyles, piercings, and tattoos that were regularly present on both cousins and visitors you'd be more impressed. Most of these things we don't even really bat an eye at now, but my grandpa was 84 and from a very different generation and was still very accepting of everyone.
My grandpa was an English teacher and studied both English and Psychology in college and so he had a pretty impressive library. Bryan, my eldest sister's husband remembered how Grandpa always willing to let anyone borrow any book at any time. We never felt as kids that we were not welcome even though there were things that got broken because of our playing. Grandpa would come and roughhouse with us instead of reprimanding our youthful exuberance.
There was never any doubt in my mind that Grandpa loved me, and that he wanted only the best for all of us. Each of my siblings mentioned this same sentiment to me in one form or another. I think you could ask any of the grandkids and they would all tell you that they secretly thought that they were Grandpa's favorite... I know that I'm the only one that was actually right when I thought that, but... what can you do? He knew us all so well, and it wasn't necessarily that he knew every detail of our lives; it was more on an emotional, and perhaps even spiritual, level. Anna told me about the time that Grandma and Grandpa came to her Christmas choir concenrt and as part of one of the songs she gave him Rudolph's red nose and to this day it is still on display in their home.
Grandpa always had something nice to say to everyone. I remember him always telling the girl cousins how beautiful they were, and to the boy cousins how big and muscular they were becoming. It was clear that he loved people and he was always more concerned with the well-being of others than his own. On that note, Grandpa loved Grandma. Anna's husband Spencer reminded me of an experience we had a few Thanksgivings back where we were all going around the table saying something that we were thankful for, and Grandpa was cracking jokes throughout that weren't always coherent. When it got to be his turn to say what he was grateful for though, he described his love and gratitude for Grandma very beautifully and succinctly. Some things don't deteriorate with age, and Grandpa's love and devotion to Grandma was one of those things.
Growing up we went to Grandma and Grandpa Merkley's house almost every single week, which meant there were times when we went there that maybe we were grumpy because of a fight with a sibling or a parent, or even for no reason at all, but as soon as we saw Grandpa, he could sense that we were unhappy and he would immediately take on the responsibility of cheering us up. Grandpa had a second sense of the mood in the room, and he was always quick to lighten it so that people could be happy. Grandpa had a great sense of humor and was always cracking jokes and making people smile.
Speaking of our weekly Sunday visits, we now enter the food portion of my memories of Grandpa. I don't think I ever felt spoiled by Grandpa, but I'm sure he passed me much more illicit candy and treats than my parents would have liked. You know how there are some candies that because you eat so much of them you overdose and can't eat them anymore for a while? Twizzlers are like that for me. There was always a bucket of licorice waiting for us to eat at Grandma and Grandpa's house, and we loved it. We loved pairing a nice glass of water using the licorice as a straw with some of Grandpa's homemade popcorn. Yes, homemade popcorn, he actually grew the corn in his garden and dried it or whatever you do to prepare it to be popped. I always thought that his popcorn was the best, but was afraid that I was biased. But then, an outside source, Bryan, confirmed our beliefs after his first experience eating it. The next food memory my siblings and I had was of eating ice cream out of waffle cones. Grandpa was always willing to dish out an extra scoop while our parents weren't looking. I remember eating watermelon off the rind and then throwing the leftovers back into the garden or into the vacant lot next door, we were never allowed to throw rinds around like that at home and we loved it, I think grandpa was even the one that started us doing that. I remember grandpa making homemade root beer that was so delicious that I drank until I had a stomachache and still wanted more. I remember eating turkey sandwiches the evening of Thanksgiving.
Grandpa was a very hard worker, and we as kids got to see that good example both through our father that learned it from him, as well as directly from the source. Grandpa had a gigantic garden and he worked so hard on that thing to make sure that we would always have fresh food to enjoy. Grandpa's yard was always so well-manicured and his flowers looked beautiful. The girls remember Grandpa giving them roses and how special that made them feel. Seth and Emily both remembered working on houses with Grandpa as he built them for his sons. Seth also remembers mowing Grandma and Grandpa's lawn and the shooting the breeze with Grandpa afterwards, which was one of his fondest memories of Grandpa. Seth loved hearing Grandpa's war stories. I think we all remember the story of Grandpa in his school days. He was being a little too mischievous and the teacher got so annoyed that she threw an eraser and Grandpa ducked causing the teacher's pet to catch the eraser right in the face. We remember the story of how Grandpa missed his birthday because he crossed the International Date Line and skipped his birthday entirely.
Grandpa got a little frustrated toward the end, and I think that this was because he felt like he was unable to help people any more. Grandpa never wanted to burden anyone, he was self-sufficient all his life and being the recipient of service instead of the giver was hard for him. Grandpa had a strong testimony of the church and loved sharing his feelings about the gospel with his family. He knew that the church was true and he applied its principles in his life. Grandpa had charity. I can't think of a lot of people in my life that I've felt like truly had it, but Grandpa did, and the fact that he was possessed of it at the end of his days makes me feel sure that Grandpa is in a better place now. I think he's looking down on us all waiting for the day when we will all be reunited again.