Remembering Grandpa

When I was a child, I had more grandmothers than I could count—grandmothers and step-grandmothers and great-grandmothers, all beloved—

but only one Grandpa.

ted fishing

Grandpa was from Minnesota—a tough cookie, hardly sick a day in his life. He loved snow and popcorn and apple cider and northern lakes.

josh baiting

He could tell stories that left us in stitches, praying for breath. Like the one about his first date, when a prankster friend put a hunk of Limburger cheese on his radiator. Like the one about his snazzy new yellow car and the neighbor dog who kept coming over to pee on the tires, until Grandpa pinched a 110-volt wire in the car door and the whole thing went live.

kelly and her worm

He’d been a rebel teen who headed for the back forty whenever the preacher came around. But when he found Jesus he never looked back. Powerful revivalist, staunch premillenialist, he was a black-and-whiter, firm in his faith and sure of what he believed.

aarick fishing

I had only one Grandpa.

Photo credit to Andrew Coblentz
Photo credit to Andrew Coblentz

Two weeks ago, I packed up some of his favorite things—fishing tackle, fresh baked cookies, apple cider, and a tin of popcorn—and headed for a park with my family.


When I spent his funeral numb, I thought that someday, when I could feel again, I would bury something—maybe get a box and pack it with some symbols: a fishing bobber, a photograph, a whoopie pie—and bury it in a hole in the ground. When I was ready.


Then I thought Grandpa would never like that. Bad waste of a good whoopie pie.

Kelly's first catch ever
Kelly’s first catch: a beautiful little walleye

So I spent time talking and eating and fishing with my family, and we remembered him. This was the way I wanted to say goodbye, because I could not say it when the time was right.

candle 1

To those who wondered if I was finding fault with the church that hosted the funeral, I can only say how sorry I am for the misunderstanding. I hate saying things wrong.

I’ve never seen a congregation so devoted to a very old man… the care and honor they gave him was beyond praiseworthy. I wrote of my own numbness and pain. There are many times in my life when I long for Presence and cannot find it.

candle 2

After supper we remembered what we loved about Grandpa. Some of us wrote it on helium balloons–


my balloon

regan's balloon

andi's balloon

and then a child counted to three

and we let them go.

Goodbye, Grandpa.

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10 years ago

Oh Shari, I’m with you. This opened up deep wells in me. Thanks for writing.

10 years ago

This is so beautiful, Shari. What a great way to honor/remember/say good-bye to your grandpa all at one time. You began telling me about your plans for this event once upon a time and then for some reason (I can’t imagine why) you got interrupted and never had the opportunity to finish.

10 years ago


Uncle Jim
10 years ago

Thank you, Shari! That was well spoken and I enjoyed reading and remembering in my mind. I miss him!

10 years ago

This is beautiful, and brought tears to my eyes. Your grandpa Eli was a very special man. And, yes, I am one of the ‘black clad body’ who claimed him as our preacher. I admit when I read the other column I felt a twinge of something, maybe a little hurt, but I chose to believe that it was your writing style more than anything else. Thank you for sharing this very personal experience. Blessings!

10 years ago

Yes, you describe your Grandpa well. And I love how you chose to remember him.

10 years ago

Wow! What a neat, creative and truly memorable way to say goodbye! My heart resonated with you in your pain (looking for Presence, I’ve been there too) I’m so glad you’ve been able to come to this place of feeling ready to say good bye and remembering your grandpa in such a way that sounds just perfect for what he liked… Bless you for doing this for yourself and your family!

Mama Zook
10 years ago

this is so sweet, touching! love the collage, and the baby on his lap looks so much like a little baby boy born on Dec 7, 1979. Amazing!

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