The other day I spent five hours reducing six file drawers down to one Uhaul file box. There was one file, about six inches thick, that intrigued me the most. It was a file I had started years ago with the tag “mementos.” As I plowed my way through letter, after card, after program, after bulletin, my emotions went from joy, to melancholy, to happiness, to tears. It was quite a ride.
About two-thirds of the way through the file I ran across a packet of materials my grandmother had put together shortly after my grandfather’s death in 1977. It was a chapel sermon my dad presented a week after my grandfather died, a letter from my aunt to my grandfather, and letters from each of my grandparents to each other.
At the risk of going against my grandfather’s wishes, I’d like to share the letter he wrote to my grandmother about six months before he died from the ravages of liver cancer. I wish so much my children could have known my grandfather, and I think you’ll know why after you read this letter:
Oct. 9, 1976
To My Dear Wife:
Just a word of love and appreciation to the woman who has made my life complete these past 39 years.
I don’t know just how empty and barren my life would have been without you dear but I do know that sharing all these years has been thrilling and rewarding to me.
I have been married to a most beautiful and companionable woman who was always at my side to share my fun or sorrows: One who stuck by me to bolster me when it was needed, to keep me on an even keel when that was needed, one who backed me always, one who reasoned things out with me, who planned together with me, who raised my family with me and made them the best in the world in my estimation, who shared my love and my life with me to the fullest extent.
Remember those days of our early marriage when we raised our children and I was gone so many nights to meetings and was always backed by you to do my duty to the church, school, and high school? Those years when I sold the coal business and had the store, the years that I was doing any kind of job that I could to keep us going and then buying this home, how we always with the good Lord’s help were able to give our children a good Christian education by always working together with the Lord’s help to keep going. Finally we saw our children grown up and married to wonderful spouses and each blessed with a wonderful and healthy and outstanding family.
I love you with all my heart and soul my dear and may the good Lord give us many years to share our love and devotion to each other. His will be done.
With all my love,
Grandpa concluded the letter by asking that it only be shared between the two of them. I, for one, am glad that we are able to see it. Sorry, Grandpa, but this letter has let your legacy live on.
My grandfather worked many years of manual labor, was an entrepreneur, devoted his life to the church, and raised a Christian family. He gave us the appropriate number of “birthday spankings” on our birthdays, and always had a sense of humor and smile on his face. I remember that even when he was painfully ill, he never complained. His life was cut far too short.
May his legacy live on, not only through my father and mother, my aunt and cousins, my sisters and me, but through all of his great-grandchildren, as well.
What is the legacy that was left behind by your grandparents?