a humble man of God

My maternal grandfather–known as Papa to so many–entered into the presence of the Lord on May 23, 2023. I shared the following at his memorial service on June 17.

Papa was a humble man with a hidden sense of humor.

One of his favorite sayings was, “Eat dessert first in case of the rapture.”

Papa was a man of few words, but when he spoke, it was worth listening. He taught us so many memorable lessons—in both word and in deed.

Another favorite saying was, “Use it up. Wear it out. Make it do or do without.”

He showed me that many things in life—like making bacon, scrambling eggs, and falling in love—require not rushing, but waiting. 

One letter he wrote to me was filled with wisdom such as: “Don’t rush into love. Don’t fall but…wait…and grow in love.”

Another letter cautioned me to “watch out for red flags” and spoke of the importance of working on “the rough spots” in relationships.

But to me, the most memorable of Papa’s gems of wisdom was this: “watch your beginnings.”

In one simple phrase, Papa was reminding us to beware the slippery slope, summing up the wisdom of so many Proverbs and the truth of Ephesians 5:15: “Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise.” 

I’ve come to realize that Papa showed us in a very practical way what it looked like to be careful of your beginnings.

He literally began each day in God’s Word.

He would get up at 4:30 or 5:30 each morning and could be found at the table by the woodstove, his Bible open in front of him, commentaries nearby. He would be making notes on lined notebook paper and carefully underlining words or passages—using a 3×5 card for a ruler. He would get up from time to time to tend the fire or turn the bacon he was cooking for us. But though his cup of coffee was long-finished, he was still drawn back to that table and God’s Word. 

We all know Papa loved sweets—especially ice cream—but he epitomized the words of the psalmist: God’s Word truly seemed sweeter than honey to his taste.

In all my years visiting the ranch growing up, I only ever remember one morning when I got up to find that Papa was not there where he belonged at his table, drinking coffee and studying the Bible. It turned out, he had been up all night with the stomach flu.

Day in and day out, Papa was a godly example of steadfast faith in the Lord, infinite patience with each person (and animal!) he encountered, and faithful devotion to his wife of 69 years.

The 15 months following Papa’s stroke last February brought challenges, but with Papa some things never seemed to change. Even as he struggled to find the words when he prayed, his mealtime prayers were still personal yet poetic. He continued to thank the Lord for His “watch-care over us” and for the food and the hands that prepared it, often using alliteration in his praise. Papa never lost his sense of humor, nor his awareness of his responsibility to his wife. And he always had a grateful heart.

When I visited the ranch the month before he went to Heaven, Papa was drying the dishes and putting them away from his wheelchair. Always polite, always a servant’s heart, always considerate of others, even unto the end.

Proverbs 4:26 says, “Give careful thought to the paths for your feet and be steadfast in all your ways.”

Papa watched his beginnings. He built his life on Christ the firm foundation. Therefore, Papa finished well.

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  1. I stumbled upon your site when looking for sour dough starter info. Then, happened upon this beautiful memoir. What a blessing to read of a life well lived. Praise God for a legacy that points back to Jesus.

  2. Dear Gretchen,
    I wish I had known him! What a moving tribute to a singular man of practical thrift, integrity, wit, faithfulness, patience, and quiet joy.

    May God’s comfort envelop you and your family.

  3. Hi Gretchen,
    I was so saddened to learn of your Grandpa, aka, Papa’s recent passing. I am so sorry for your loss. Of course, I’m grateful he knew the Lord. What a wonderful example he was to all of you – his children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren.

    Sending lots of love and hugs!

  4. What a beautiful tribute Gretchen. Thank you for listening, observing, and following your grandpa and his Godly ways. Prayers are with you as you continue to feel his loss knowing that Heaven is rejoicing! ❤️

  5. So very, very beautiful! I can almost see him in my mind’s eye because you described him so well. I love the picture of his time early morning, in the Word! Thank you for sharing!