My grandfather died two weeks ago and my life has been in a whirlwind as I run back and forth in and out of state to be of help to my grandmother (88 years old) who is fighting cancer. So much of who I am is because of them, so I decided to honor Grandpa here with what I wrote and read for him at his funeral:
Jack H. Meek was my grandfather. I grew up just down the street from his home. It is the perspective of a grandchild that I share with you and honor him with today.
It was a blessing for me to grow up with my grandparents right here at home. They were not some strangers, far away, who I didn’t really know or only saw once in awhile. They were a part of my life growing up. Though I’ve come to visit frequently since I left home for college, a few months ago I had the opportunity to come visit my grandparents alone and without children, for the first time in years.
Without the daily pressures and responsibilities of being a mother, it was easy to feel like a kid in their home again. I found myself chattering away freely with them, sharing my life’s aspirations and worries, just like the little girl who grew up down the street.
This trip was unique for me, as Grandpa and I had time to talk quite a bit. And it became obvious that he had some things he wanted to say. Grandpa surprised me. He tried to tell me that he had not been there as a grandfather enough for me growing up. That he too often had been too busy. He had been busy with work, busy with his church, busy with the things that demanded his attention in life. He believed he had not spent enough time with me and for that he was sorry.
I tried to argue with him. His presence in my life has been profound. His home has always been a home to come back to now that I’m grown. As I started out in life, uncertain and scared, there was always a safe place to visit and refresh. His presence acted as a solid part of my foundation and my development as an adult, as a student and as a professional. Not everyone is observant. Not everyone looks up to others. But I did look up to my grandfather.
I began to tell him what a difference his presence had made in my life and how important he was to me. And it’s because of him that I dared to break out on my own, to work for myself, start my own business and even help create a charity project for kids. He did so much in his life it seemed to me, and without pretense. And in watching, I knew I could too. But Grandpa just told me how much he loved me, was proud of me – encouraged me to forge on. He gathered me up in a hug, prayed over me and blessed me. I didn’t get to say as much as I wanted, so I share this for him today.
Grandpa may have felt that he had been too busy, but I feel he and his example were always there for me. As every parent begins to realize, children really do learn by example. And grandparents, without the barriers that parenthood sometimes present, teach in every move, word and image. Perhaps it’s because we children look forward to seeing them so much.
My grandfather was a small business owner. He might downplay the facts, but having an idea, following through with it, giving it life and maintaining it over a length of time is something that takes discipline, confidence and guts. Though I’m sure he had his worries, he never gave the appearance of insecurity or hesitation to be his true self. He seemed confident, successful and strong. He never seemed to me to be a pretender. Grandpa was who he was. What you saw was what you got.
I was often down at the shop and watched my grandfather as he worked. I saw him work hard, and it seemed that whatever he put his hand to do, he did it with his might. The work he produced was of quality and it was done right. I learned from that.
When I had an event or awards ceremony, at school, at the county fair, or when I won at the science fair in town, I remember seeing my grandfather and my grandmother there. When I won my place to a regional talent contest, my grandfather without hesitation congratulated me and showed his support. When I graduated with a few scholarships under my belt and started college at the tender age of 15, my grandparents were among the first to clearly say “You can do it!” Grandpa always gave me a hug and kiss, always seemed to know what I was up to and always welcomed every visit and bit of news when I went to college, got married and had children of my own.
He was never afraid to learn something new and remained interested in continuing his education on a variety of subjects. And he always encouraged me to be the same.
I can only give the perspective that a child would have about her grandfather. But between my parents and my grandfather, I felt encouraged to reach farther and beyond what I knew to achieve even more. When grandparents back up the support parents strive to give, it can mean everything. By example, I came to believe that no matter what happens in life, hard work and a good heart can get you almost anywhere. I feel I learned from Grandpa that success is not a destination, but a state of mind and a place of being. As a result, no matter what life has thrown me, I have been able to meet it with confidence in who I am.
I love my grandpa. I could only know him as a child would. But he meant a lot to so many.
And he meant everything to me.
Julia Meek Chambers
March 3, 2008
Copyright © 2008 by Julia Meek Chambers, all rights reserved.