My grandfather made another journey today – one into eternity. My grandfather, the tenderhearted World War II fireman and veteran, the prankster, the encourager, the benevolent giver is gone. The world is a little worse at his loss. Heaven is a little sweeter.
I was extremely blessed to known all of my grandparents, and to have them all until six years ago. In December of 2005, my other grandfather passed on, both of my grandmother’s in the middle all in December and January. My Grandma Goodwin was the only one to pass on in January, which was probably as she would want it – she always liked to be a little different All but Grandma Pierson was in their nineties and she was in her late eighties. They all lived good, full amazing lives. I miss them. We always will.
They were from the World War II generation – tough, strong and forever changed by the world they grew up in – one that faced the terrors of World War II, the Great depression, the Vietnam War and the Cold War. A generation that saw an unprecedented expansion of technology and wealth.
My grandmother Goodwin especially cared deeply about racial equality. In the 1920′s she secretly brought her black friends into her white church in Dallas, and stood with them as a statement that segregation was wrong. It would be a passion that as a ninety – something year old woman in an assisted living she would continue, when an elderly white woman made racist slurs against the staff in the home my grandmother demanded she be moved from her table. Her fiery sense of justice was something we will never forget. It was convicting – not something that made her popular in her era, but something she would be known for her whole life.
Her indignation proved to be prescient – she was fighting for equality a good twenty years before Martin Luther King Jr. arrived on the scene. We look back in history today and can’t believe people thought the way that they did. I reflect back on my grandparents and realize that not everyone did. My grandmother refused to excuse the woman in the assisted living as just being a “woman of her time” in regard to racism, because she also was of that time, and had always believed that deep down, people should know better.
For this same belief in justice, my grandfather Pierson with a deep sense of duty signed up for the US Army Airborne at 18 and spent seven years from the beginning of WWII and not returning until he had served through the recovery efforts in France. Moved by his sense of right and wrong, my grandfather was one of the first to sign on to fight and one of the last to leave. He chose to stay and rebuild though he didn’t have to, his original commitment was long over. He believed so strongly that Europe should be rebuilt that he stayed an extra two years. Who can say the lives that were touched by that decision? He faced the worst of circumstances, stared it down and yet believed that good would come of it all. When he later would say “All things work out for good” it was with the conviction of one who had lived to see it true.
I was a recipient of my grandparents strong beliefs in education – all four of them encouraged me to go to college and finish. All four financially supported my educational goals at different periods. They were excited for me – I had my own cheerleading squad, rallying me on throughout my whole career in undergrad and graduate school.
They believed in and nurtured strong families – combined my grandparents marriages equaled 136 years of marriage – my Pierson grandparents marriage lasting for 63 years, my Goodwin grandparents making it 73 years. I never questioned their love – either for me or my family – they made it clear every time I visited them.
Their influence spanned four continents and countless countries. Grandpa Pierson was with the military as a fireman in the US Army Airborne, which preceded the US Air Force that my husband serves in today.
My grandpa Pierson was a quiet man, known across West Texas for his generosity. Though he was never wealthy, he gave what he could helping many young college students who were not his own children with their educations. He constantly gave to missionaries and churches and causes that he felt would change the world for the better. While his investments on earth provided him with a decently comfortable retirement, his investments in future generations and eternity will last forever.
As I stop and think back over their lives, I am amazed – I could go on for pages and pages listing their combined accomplishments and still miss important ones. Their combined lifespans equaled 368 years. In their lifetimes, they watched the world change in so many ways that it is not possible to count them all. From the steam ships to Africa in the 1930′s to the dawn of air travel, to my grandmother’s pride at figuring out how to send an email (that she never checked!) to the horse and buggy days, and factory work in the Depression to the internet and cell phones, the .com craze, the space race, television, computers and ipods, will there ever be another generation that bears witness to so much change so quickly?
From my fathers parents I gained a love for charity, for the outdoors, for horses, respect for the military, simplicity and for conservation. From my mother’s parents a love for travel, courage to go to the ends of the earth without fear and a deep love for grace and justice. From them all a love of education, honor, love for God and for goodness and grace to all.
As my family gathers to say goodbye to a great and deeply loved man, we grieve because our loss. We are a little worse for the loss, but Heaven has gained a beloved man. I am sad, but I know he is happy again, rejoicing with my grandmother again, singing the songs that they loved, free from the cancer and pain that claimed his life. Free finally to be with the God he so loved and walk again in a world restored. One day, we will see him again.
Until then, thank you Grandpa – thank you for who you are, who you taught me to be. I will never forget what you taught me, and will strive to be someone who would make you proud. I miss you so much, but am comforted – someday I will see you again. We can ride hard on horseback in Heaven, through the hills on an earth renewed. I love you.