Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Grandpa Great Passes Away

My wife’s grandfather James Carl Merchant passed away early this morning after a brief stay at Veterans Memorial Hospital in Spokane. Numerous family members gathered on short notice yesterday when doctors suggested his time among us was nearing an end. As soon as we heard the news of his imminent passing, Rhonda and I withdrew the children from school and went immediately to his bedside. He was lucid and calm, though several times he commented on how tired he felt. In spite of obvious physical pain and personal discomfort, he looked so peaceful surrounded by the ones he loved. I’m so thankful I got the chance to say goodbye and to tell him how much I love him.

In the coming days, I’m sure we’ll hear many testimonies of the remarkable life he lived; how much he loved genealogy and the temple, but especially how much he loved his family. More than once I heard him say, “Family is all that matters.”

My wife and her family share many fond memories of their beloved grandfather because of a lifetime of shared history. Obviously, I entered his life much later than other family members, but my love for him is just as tender and real.

I traveled a different path to his heart than many others. Of course, I married his granddaughter and enjoyed his immediate love and support. But even when we struggled in our marriage and I eventually withdrew my name from the church, his kindness for me never faltered. There were those who criticized my failings, but Grandpa Great always treated me with honor and respect. He made me feel like his equal; though I’m sure he surpassed me in every significant way. He invited me into his life with warmness and acceptance, and always allowed me the right to disagree with dignity on substantial matters of faith, or politics. In truth, he embodied so many qualities of the Living Christ, not because of orthodoxy or doctrine, but because he loved as Jesus loved.

Grandpa Great leaves a tremendous void in our hearts; though I’m sure he walks in higher places than before and watches over us with kindness and eternal love.

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