My grandfather died last weekend.
My beloved Grandpa Frey.
He was 96 years old, but still his death was a bit of a shock to me. I saw him just a few weeks earlier, and though he was weaker than normal, getting over bronchitis, he still enjoyed Christmas dinner, opening gifts, and of course, telling a story or two.
Grandpa had been a chaplain in WWII and a pastor to several congregations. Though I didn’t directly know him in these roles, it shaped the person I knew– someone who strove for peace and social justice in this world.
Over the years, as I have become more interested in issues of social justice, I have loved hearing his perspective, as someone who saw concentration camps and was a pastor during the Civil Rights movement. These conversations were enjoyable, and he would often mix comedy with wisdom. He always seemed to know what to say, and when to end with a quick “well, I think we’ve solved the world’s problems…for now at least”.
I spent an afternoon recently looking through pictures I have of him. They speak rather well to the images I have in my mind, of the kind, quiet soul he was, always happy to see me and tell me a story. He is one of the only nanogenarians I know who enjoyed their days, and he told me a few years ago that he “never knew growing old would be so fun!”. Indeed, Grandpa did seem to have fun in his life, and continued through into his last years. He took up playing the clarinet, joining the community band after a 70 year break from when he had played in high school. SEVENTY years. I can’t imagine picking up a talent after that long of a break– but Grandpa enjoyed it, and played with the band for 6 years.
One of the things I loved most about my Grandpa was that he was a great letter writer. His script could be difficult to decipher, but he was loyal with it, and I would enjoy a letter from him every few months. They would range from words of encouragement, to telling me about a good book he had read, or sharing a funny story. I just received my final letter in the mail two weeks ago.
In a similar fashion, he started writing his life story in journals when he turned 91. This was originally my brother & sister-in-law’s idea, and it was brilliant, because Grandpa kept this up, filling 5 journals with stories from his life. These journals were only turned over to my family upon Grandpa’s death– a bittersweet moment. As I’m saddened by the loss of my Grandpa Frey, I am excited to read and learn more about who he was. Surely his legacy will live on.