Saturday, June 14, 2014


I feel like I've been mentally writing a eulogy for my grandpa for the last 5 years and now, when it comes down to it, I don't know what to say.  My grandpa died last Monday, quietly, with my mom holding his hand and after all these years of build up, his story just ended.

I asked all the usual nursey questions, ticking off my list of non negotiables for the dying: was he comfortable, did he seem at peace, was everyone there with him?  I wasn't there, but I could picture the scene down to the last precise detail since I have been the one at the hospice bedside of so many people who literally have no one to hold their hand as they take their last breath.  I pictured my grandpa laying there as a patient.  He was like all the others I had sat with and it took me a few days to connect with the facts and truly swallow the idea that he was gone.  I couldn't wrap my brain around the fact that the man in the bed was my beloved grandpa.  When it did finally hit me, my grief was like a big slap in the face; one that knocked me down and then laid on me like a weight I couldn't move.

When grandparents die, it's like then end of an era, of sorts.  I have so many glorious childhood memories attached to my grandparents and I fear that now grandpa is gone, those warm happy feelings I felt at the sound of his voice will be gone too.  And yet...and yet, my paternal grandmother has been gone 30 years, but the smell of talcum powder still transports me to her lap, snuggling, and playing with the gold sovereign she wore around her neck.

I have 2 older brothers and we are the only grandchildren.  We all have different memories of grandpa and he played a different role for each of us.  He invested time and energy teaching my oldest brother how to work hard and how to build things with his hands.  He treated Dave like a man which is really what he wanted as the oldest child.  My brother Ben and I are about 18 months apart and were rambunctious and mouthy and my grandpa would take us to job sites with him and hand us hammers and spikes and have us get started nailing into the logs with our scrawny freckly arms and he would follow behind and finish.  Then, when we got bored 5 minutes later, he let us run off and trudge through the rivers and forests, "just come back for lunch."  He didn't care how dirty we got.  That was the sign of a happy healthy kid, to him.

I'm afraid to forget the little things like grandpa's arthritic hands.  He swung a hammer for so many years, his hands were practically stuck in a gripping position to the point where he started wearing jumpsuits because he couldn't button his buttons and yet he could still muster the dexterity to hold grandma's dainty glass coffee mugs she loves so much.  I don't want to forget his hat collection.  He was bald as long as I new him and had work hats that were dirty and dusty, and fancy straw hats for his leisure days. They were always perched on his dash board and he would always impress upon us the importance of protecting his "bald head."  He was a jokester and had the same jokes he would say over and over like telling the waitress there must be a hole in his coffee cup because every time he looked down, it was empty.  No one thought he was funnier than he did.  I get that from him.

Nobody loved this family more than grandpa. He loved my grandma with his whole heart and never tired of spending time with her.  I never heard them fight or bicker.  He would hold her hand and kiss her a thousand times in a day.  They would go for picnics, take trips, and just sit in the car together holding hands when he couldn't walk around anymore.  He never worked late and always made it home to her before dinner.  He had us kids up at his house for weeks at a time and LOVED it.  He was game for anything we wanted to do and we were never ever bored (they didn't have a TV so this is saying something).  Even his decision to take in my mom and adopt her as a teenager was a testimony to his loving heart.  He took care of people selflessly. He had a knack for knowing just what to do to make people happy and often, that just meant spending time with them. We were his treasure and he let us know that with so much more than words.

There won't be a funeral.  My grandma has opted not to do one so I am working on a way to connect with my memories.  I'm making a list of things grandpa enjoyed and I plan to do all of them and give the man who gave me so much a week of my focus and attention.  It feels a little like now that the family man is gone, we can't figure out how to come together as a family.  Time and distance are jerks.

So for me, pretend you are at his funeral with me and I am reading this.  This is my eulogy.

William Lee Ruth was a:

loving husband
devoted father
builder of over 300 log homes in the sierra mountains
unashamed off key singer of hymns
kick ass bowler
5 star whistler (complete with vibrato)
boy scout backpack troop leader
expert sled run constructor
bb gun sharp shooter
and the most amazing grandpa a spazzy freckled girl could ask for.

Grandpa, I am so happy you are free but I miss you so so much. Thank you for thinking I was beautiful.  Thank you for cherishing this family.  Until we meet again...


Rachel Teahan/thedancingpastry said...

Beautiful. This brought tears to my eyes. Grandparents are truly a special and unique girt from God. I never knew one of my grandpas, and the other I was so young, but I cling to the memories that are told of them. I was there when my grandmother passed away and it did seem like the end of an era. I only met your grandfather on a couple of occasions, but the stories I've heard and the eyes I see light up when people speak of him tell me he must have been a remarkable man. My prayers and thoughts of comfort are with you and your family. Love you <3

Brenda Ortiz said...

Sarah, what a beautiful way to remember this wonderfully gentle man.

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