He was 52 the year I was born. I’ve never known my life without him. I’m privileged that way, and so are my kids.
Today, he would have been 93 years on this earth. Would have. But his body could not hold him any longer. It wasn’t big enough or strong enough. He needed to ride again. He needed the strength of a white horse~Maybe Silver? beneath his long cowboy legs. He needed wide open pastures. The kind that go on forever and ever. He would always quote the scripture about God owning the cattle on a thousand hills~and he would smile. I hope that Heaven has a photo album so that when I get there I can see that moment when he smiled at the open range, the cattle and the horses, running freely.
I have no idea how to put into one blog post all that my Grandpa was to me. I have no clue how to describe to you, the reader, the impact of his life on his family, his friends, those he employed during the ranch years, and the many folks who crossed his path over the past 9 decades. His presence was large but he was not prideful. Some call him a proud cowboy but I disagree. He was humble and hardworking. The only things he took pride in were his horses and ranch and his family. And those were the things that could cause him much pain too~both physical and emotional.
He was a man of his word and I’ve never known anyone to accuse him of lying, cheating or stealing. That simply was not in him and was not acceptable to him either. He lived by the cowboy code. He was so much a cowboy, he didn’t need a hat or boots(though he wore both) to let everyone know that he was the real deal. He rode the community pastures in his younger years, participated in more cattle drives than any Western movie producer could create and he ultimately made a very good living rounding up wild horses, often selling them as rodeo stock.
He was authentically old west~horse, chaps and attitude included.
I grew up across the road from him for the first few years of my life and then the last few years, a fairly short drive away. I have been blessed to have conversations with him about family, heartache, politics and prophecy. My grandma would always say, ”Oh Len” when he got to talkin’ about how the whole world was corrupt and filled with sin. She didn’t much care for his soapbox moments but I sure loved them. I guess maybe he felt like he had a friendly ear when I was around because we sure had quite a few deep discussions. Maybe that’s where I get my love of all things current events and news-y. One thing you could count on: Grandpa knew the news. CNN was his favourite channel, and then maybe the weather network or World Junior Hockey if it was on. We had a common love of the Calgary Flames and he knew many of the players even up until this past season. Iginla was his favourite(can I get a shout out??). But one thing you wouldn’t see my grandpa watching was frivolous , mindless television. I don’t ever recall it being on. No weekly dramas, sitcoms or movies. Maybe they did in their later years, but I never saw evidence of it. They would watch various evangelists and Billy Graham was definitely near and dear to my Grandpa’s heart(they are the same age).
The Bible. He knew it so well. It puts me to shame. He awakened each day and read it. During the ranching years, we would visit and breakfast time was not complete without entire passages being read and thoughtful, powerful prayers being lifted. He prayed for each of his children, grand-children and great-grandchildren by name. He knew us all. How many men in their 90′s do you know who can tell you the names of their 48 great-grandkids? That was my grandpa.
I knew of Valentine’s Day and we made heart-shaped cards and cookies in the same kitchen where my grandpa prayed those prayers and where Grandma served her family. But February 14? That was Grandpa’s birthday. And for as long as I’ve been alive, that is what is on my calendar every year. Grandpa~ the foundation and the pillar of this family. The man who never strayed from his convictions and never shied away from proclaiming the Gospel. He loved people and he wanted them to know how much God loved them.
One thing that is particularly special to me is the tender way he spoke of the name of Jesus. He had a reverence rarely seen or heard these days. To him, the name of his Lord was precious and worthy of all glory and praise. This is my final memory of him.
In the hospital, the week before he passed away, he was developing an infection and fever was causing him discomfort. In and out of sleep , he began to sing praises. He was singing hymns and I recognized most. As weak as he was, his voice with that baritone strength , filled his entire room. He was singing louder and louder as the minutes rolled by. I seriously felt as though he was calling Heaven down to earth. In between songs he would pray out loud, calling on Jesus;his precious Jesus. He continued on and repeated ” God in three persons, blessed Trinity”…over and over again.
I wanted to sing with him. I started with My Jesus I Love Thee. He quickly joined in although his eyes were closed and I could tell he was in some level of pain. He sang out and beat me to the lyrics. He knew every verse~we sang them all.
I will cherish that memory forever, as tears rolled down my cheeks. Not that I was sad for him or for me but more that I was standing in the presence of one of God’s servants who in spite of pain and old age, continued to sing the praises of his Father. I believe that is how he entered Heaven a week later: singing unending praise. And that is the legacy he leaves for us.
Jesus first. Jesus only. All the way, His Saviour led him.
I have listened to a lot of hymns the past few weeks and have often wondered which ONE best describes my grandpa. I can’t come up with one. But there is one that comes close to saying it all.