I lost my grandpa today.
It’s a bittersweet feeling. He died doing what he loved: he suffered a heart attack while driving his motorcycle. He was 91 years old.
And what an exemplary life he lived. He was in the Navy and later the Foreign Service. After a stint in Israel and Jordan, he worked in Turkey where he met my grandmother. They moved back to his hometown of Miami, Florida. After they became believers early in their marriage, they dove right in. My grandma regularly had the neighborhood kids at their house in Miami where she taught them Bible stories and God’s truths, and my grandpa was active in the church. Their three kids were raised with missional hearts, and from a young age, my mom wanted to serve overseas.
I mostly knew them in the latter part of their lives, when after my parents were serving as missionaries in Ecuador, we often stayed with my grandparents while on furlough. My sister and I would live with them while my parents traveled and spoke in churches. My grandpa had a thick tickly gray mustache and often smelled of the sawdust from his woodshop.
After he retired, he and my grandma began a new career path. They bought an RV, which they towed all over the U.S. and Canada, spending months at a time serving at different organizations. They came to Ecuador several times while we were there. My grandpa would work in the hangar or on construction projects while my grandma volunteered in the school library.
As they traveled, they took each of their grandkids on a trip with them. In 1996, I spent a summer with them at the Wycliffe Center in England. Again, they modeled servanthood. My grandpa worked on a new building, my grandma reorganized the campus library, and I got assigned to gardening duty a.k.a. pulling weeds. It was a character-building experience for a 16-year-old. On weekends, we explored the country, while my grandpa figured out how to drive a stick-shift on the left-hand side of the road.
My grandma died of cancer in 2004 while I was volunteering with OM. But Grandpa Frank never stopped their ministry lifestyle. If there was a need a church, he was there. He preached every month at the truck stop, where passing truckers could spend their Sundays in a make-shift worship center. He went around to all of his neighbors and invited them to weekly Bible study at his home. Some of them came, and the group continued to meet regularly in his home for the rest of his life. I know my grandpa was instrumental in helping lead some of those men and women closer to Christ.
Since we’ve been in Oklahoma, my grandpa visited several times… driving the whole way from Florida on the motorcycles he had enjoyed his whole life. Everyone was amazed at how much stamina the 80-something year old man had.
He was a reader, consuming books and magazines and sermons. He read everything that I wrote, encouraging us. He supported me when I went with OM, he supported my sister when she joined a mission organization, and I’m sure he did the same for my cousins. I know it brought him great joy to see his grandchildren following the Lord.
Like I said, it’s a bittersweet feeling to know that he’s gone. I won’t see him again this side of eternity. But when I think about it, though my eyes fill with tears, there’s a smile on my lips. He died doing what he loved. He lived well, and he left a legacy of godly servanthood to follow.