Author note: I posted this on the one-month anniversary of my Grandpa’s passing. Enjoy.
Once there was a mulberry tree—
Planted when the kids were young;
And like the growing family,
It also upward sprung.
It was there when kids then moved away,
And there when grandkids came;
It was there for family BBQ’s
And every outdoor game.
And growing ever bigger,
It watched us as we played;
And me and panting Ruffles
Would rest beneath its shade.
We’d pick and eat its berries;
Still I hear Grandpa’s refrain—
“Don’t track that stuff inside the house;
The juice with leave a stain!”
Overgrown the tree became, at last,
Steve would trim a limb or two;
But the poor thing got a butcher job
Before the day was thru!
It was there to watch a sleepy lane
Transform to a neighborhood
And it, like me, would often wonder
If “progress” is always good.
Yet, thru the years a sentinel—
It stood as time marched on—
A silent, watchful witness
Resolute in the front lawn.
*** *** *** ***
The faithful tree is gone now—
Dug up and hauled away.
Like everything and everyone,
It had its time and day.
But if you were to pass the house,
You’d see a tiny plot—
A ring of dirt within the grass
That marks a special spot.
A final, resting witness
To limb and leaf and wood
Where once in golden summer
A mulberry proudly stood.
Now today we come united
To honor Grandpa passed;
For people are like trees, you see,
They don’t forever last.
So, as we come together,
Let’s remember as we grieve—
The rich and lasting legacy
That from him we receive.
Then if we wish honor him
What tribute can we give?
The only one that matters most
Is the life we choose to live
So, good-bye for now, dear Grandpa,
We say with heartfelt love;
‘Til beneath the leafy mulberry
We meet again, above.
Saturday morning. Early. Phone rings. It is Mom. I answer.
A wave of emotion swept over me. Obviously, some sadness that one whom I have loved, admired, and respected my entire life has now died and passed on to the other side. But mostly, excitement and joy. Joy that I had the privilege to know him, spend time with him, learn from him, and laugh with him. Excitement that he has left his sick, worn-out mortal tabernacle and has moved on to the next chapter in his eternal existence. That thought makes me want to shout “Hallelujah”!
Over the last several days, I have reflected on the many memories I have of my grandpa. Before he went blind, he took me to pick up my uncle from college. It was a long, long drive, especially for one so young. But he made it fun. We stopped multiple times along the remote highway and hiked off the road to shoot .22s at old bottles. We stopped for lunch in an old pioneer community and the cashier at the small grocery gave us a fifty-cent piece in change. He made me feel special.
Another time, when I and some siblings stayed at his house one winter, he helped us build a snow cave and pretended to get stuck inside. Another time, he saved a sibling and me from a teenage uncle who decided to use us as live targets as he practiced with his BB gun! I also remember Grandpa calling this same uncle a “knot-head” with a mixture of laughter and exasperation after my uncle snapped my grandpa’s credit card while waiting to buy a pizza.
I remember him threatening to spank me when I was just a toddler if I did whatever irritating thing I was doing “one more time” while watching him fix his car in the front of the house. Of course, I did it one more time; and he came out from under the vehicle ready to follow through with his promise. I took off for the house, as fast as my tiny, little legs would carry me. Bursting through the front door, I screamed for Grandma to “save me” as I raced to her. Hiding behind her legs at the kitchen counter while she was preparing dinner, I peered out while Grandma said not to touch me and shooed a bristly Grandpa back outside.
When we would stay over at my grandparent’s home, they would pull out the old, orange sleeping bags and put them on the floor in the family room. Their small dog, Ruffles, would often crawl in the bags and curl up at the bottom by our feet. I would be awakened early in the morning to the smell of hot maple syrup, the soft, golden glow of light coming from the kitchen, and the sound of Paul Harvey playing on the radio as Grandma cooked breakfast for Grandpa before he went off to work.
For most of my childhood, they lived at the end of a quiet, dead-end lane. I remember the cows across the street and how, one time, they got out and Grandpa had to corral them back into the pasture. I remember the tall grass in the field and picking wild asparagus along the ditch bank. I remember Grandpa sneaking us down to the basement cold storage for a treat—even if it was just before dinner. I remember how he could fix anything with twine, duct tape, and an old, metal coat hanger.
But, as I got older, the thing that most impressed me about my grandpa was his quiet steadiness and strength. He had so many health challenges but maintained such a positive attitude. I admire his loyalty to the Lord and His commandments. I admire how both he and grandma have endured their hardships—but more than just endured, they have done so with dignity and grace.
Sunday. The day after his passing. Coming home from church. On the side of the road. I saw them.
They are growing on an old tree in the front yard of an abandoned house, along with overgrown bushes, tall grass, and pink, wild roses. I pulled over and got out of the car. I picked a handful of the deep purple berries and savored their sweet, rich flavor. And, instantly, there I was, a child again, at my grandparent’s home at the end of that dead-end lane, climbing their mulberry tree in the front lawn and eating the same delicious berries, getting covered in that sweet, purple juice, without a care in the world; once upon a warm, golden summertime.
And I knew—I knew it was time to write.
Written: June 26, 2022