On Friday, March 29th, my grandfather left this world. I feel so blessed to have known him. The following is a compilation of a few memories I shared at his funeral today.
It is my privilege to take this opportunity to tell you about my grandfather and how wonderful he was.
First, I should probably explain why he was called Gunky. It's my fault really. He was the type of grandfather that came running towards me, arms wide open and a smile the size of Texas each time he saw me. He was crazy about me and in turn, I was about him. I desperately needed to give this amazing man a label. However there was a problem - the common and endearing title of 'Grampie' simply was not yet a word I could produce. Instead, out came 'Gunky'! It stuck and has been passed down ever since!
So, now that I've cleared that up, I'd like to share some things I knew about my Gunky.
To start, I knew my Gunky enjoyed a good laugh. This observation has been well verified over the last few days as stories have poured in of the jokes he played and the pranks he pulled. Let me tell you, I was not exempt! I remember him taking me sliding on the hills in the golf course behind his house. I was still young enough to be afraid of cruising down those slopes all on my own so each and every time, Gunky would jump on the sled too and join me for the ride. However, there was this one time when he got me all settled at the front of the sled and told me to hang on tight. I did just that, laughing and chatting to Gunk the whole way down the hill. When I reached the bottom and turned around I realized he had not joined me at all. Oh, no! He was at the top of the hill, bent over and laughing hysterically at the look on my face!
He taught me well that it is good to laugh and have some fun.
I knew my Gunky was a man who made sacrifices for his family. I was very much aware that he always desired the best for us even if it meant he might need to give up something. Sometimes something really good... Like a traditional after supper nap. I now fully understand just how precious and sacred such naps are. But then, I did not! What I knew was that he and Nan had just bought me a slide and it needed to be assembled! And so, I gave the poor man no peace until he would agree to put my beloved slide together instead of take a nap! You wouldn't be wrong to say I had him tied around my finger!
He taught me that you sacrifice for those you love.
I knew that my Gunky was a man who had empathy. He truly cared about other people when they were sad, upset or needed help. I got to experience this first hand many times in my childhood. I don't know how many times I came pedaling up to his house, sobbing, tears streaming down my face and a dead pigeon in the basket on my bike. I was heartbroken that the poor bird had died. Gunky didn't minimize or ridicule my grief. Instead, he would lead me to his back yard, dig a hole for the deceased bird and help me bury it as I wailed over the injustice of it all.
He taught me to show empathy to others, to provide them with care even if I can't understand or relate to what they are going through.
I knew that my Gunky was a hard worker and a patient man. He was a painter, a man who worked with his hands and he did his work well. I have fond memories of him tinkering away at things in the shed behind his house. It was a wonderful place, filled with various tools and contraptions hanging on the wall. He enjoyed explaining the function of whichever one I was curious about. Anyhow, at some point, I got it in my head that I wanted a playhouse. Knowing him to be a handy sort of guy I made my request and, of course, he got to work fulfilling it. My plan was that I would help him build it! He patiently instructed me on how to drive a nail into wood with a hammer. He congratulated me on my sad attempts and endured my participation until I got bored and ran off to find something better to do. After that it was no time before I had my playhouse complete with a front door and password!
He taught me the value of working hard and of being patient with others even when it is hard and they slow you down.
I know now that my Gunky made my childhood beautiful, magical even, in the simplest and best of ways.
He tied a rope to the tree in his back yard so my brother and I could swing on it and pretend we were Tarzan.
When my attempt at a garden was a flop, he ventured out early to place store bought cucumbers on my garden plot. When I ran outside to inspect my garden later that morning I was thrilled to find that my plants had magically grown overnight!
He would take me on hikes in the middle of the winter through the woods near our home and find the perfect spot to stop and sit to enjoy a thermos of hot chocolate. Along the way, he would point out rabbit tracks and tell me stories of when he was a boy.
Without complaint, he would sit and allow me to fill his hair with dozens of barrettes, enduring my girly compliments with a smile and only minimal protests.
The list could go on and on of the wonderful memories Gunky made for me. He poured himself into my life and my brother's life. I can't remember him ever being mad at me ... except maybe when I would see him at the mall and hit him up for a coffee. Then he would put on a show of grumbling and growling and digging through his pockets for change, making comments of how he was going to go broke with me asking for coffee all the time. But then he got to wrap his arm around me, show me off to all his friends and declare that I was, and always would be, Gunky's girl! I'm pretty sure he wasn't too upset at all!
I'll leave you with one other thing I knew about my Gunky. I knew he was a man who had been changed. I did not witness this change but I knew of it and I knew it had made all the difference in the world. He was a man who had been rescued, ransomed, redeemed by a Savior. As a result, his life was altered in fantastic and wonderful ways. As he loved his family, served his church and helped anyone who had need His life spoke of this. And so, today I can confidently say I know he is infinitely happy, happier than the best of times we had with him. He is in heaven praising Jesus, the very One who had set him free, washed him clean and conquered death so he can live forever with the God he loves. This was his hope and it is mine too.
Today, I do not grieve as those who have no hope. Rather, I celebrate because Gunky has fought the good fight, he has finished the race!
Well done, Gunky. I love you.
I will always be Gunky's girl.