I just got home from Kansas City, where I attended my Grandpa Davidson's funeral. I titled this the best funeral ever with absolute sincerity. What a celebration of an amazing life. So thankful for his presence in mine. There was an opportunity for his grandchildren to speak, and I have been asked if I would post what I said. So, here it is.
When I look back on who Grandpa was through the eyes of a child, I recall that he had a seemingly magical quality. His eyes had such a twinkle, and oh, that smile! You could be in a room full of people and life (any room with more than 2 Davidsons in it tends to be rather lively) and somehow Grandpa would catch your eye. Calling you over with a slight nod of his head and a quick little wink. The next thing you knew, you were sharing his chair, he was snuggling you in, whispering, "that's it!" It seemed that the more importance he placed upon the message, the more dramatically quiet his delivery. I often found I needed to snuggle in closer to catch it all. He had a way of being completely present in the moment and ensuring you were, too!
Grandpa was always happy to listen and even happier to guide. I can assure you that these little chats had at least one little nugget of wisdom tucked inside. However, looking back, the phrases I most recall were, "You are so precious!" "You are my special, special girl!" and "I am so, so, so proud of you." In fact, I heard these sweet whispers so often that I actually believed that I held a favored spot in Grandpa's heart. It wasn't until a few years ago when my cousin, Addie, mentioned being his special, special girl that my bubble was popped. If I am honest, I will admit to a moment of selfish disappointment. However, my awe of Grandpa soared to an even higher level as I realized that all of his granddaughters, his daughter, his daughters-in-law and probably many of you celebrating with us today were his special, special girls. It dawned on me then what an amazing gift he gave us--a gift of confidence. The gift of knowing we have immense worth!
Most of my memories of Grandpa are so intertwined with Grandma. It is difficult to talk about one without talking about the other. I was blessed with two amazing grandparents, each with very different gifts and personalities. But, Grandpa Marshall and Grandma Helen truly were an example of the sum of the equation being greater than the two parts. I didn't fully appreciate this until Grandma passed away. Whenever I would call, neither would talk until the other had picked up a phone. Every letter written had a message from one, followed by a message from the other. Often, they would each add comments to the other's message in the margines. Grandma would often melt into the background when it was just the three of us and Grandpa wanted to chat, either picking up some reading material or leaving the room. When the chat ended, I would notice Grandma sitting nearby, watching us and smiling. Sometimes, Grandpa would wonder off suddenly, muttering about a project that needed fixing--giving Grandma and I some time. When the other rejoined, they would often give the other a compliment, a kiss, or just a knowing smile. Somehow, that show of unity strengthened the value of what you just shared with the one.
Grandpa need not worry that his nuggets of wisdom during our chats got lost in his message of love. This is because Grandpa and Grandma lived their wisdom every day. As is usually the case, I learned way more from watching them than I did from their words. I would like to share with you the legacy of the Davidsons as I see it.
The top 6 principles for living a life of contentment:
1. Don't waste your money on things that don't matter. If you save it, you will have it when you need it and when the right opportunities to share with others come your way. Money is best spent on:
A. helping others and sharing God's message
B. experiences and memories--creating opportunities to share and spend time with others. They understood that life gets busy and we all prioritize differently. They repeatedly organized and funded family reunions to insure that they would happen and we would ALL be there. I think we would all agree just how priceless those times were.
2. If you want close relationships, they must be fed. After my dad died, Grandma and Grandpa (his parents) kept putting themselves in my mom's life. Inviting her to be a part, accepting and even embracing her new family when she remarried. Every letter I sent them was followed by a response from them both. And, if the time between my response stretched to long, another letter from them would arrive. They were constantly touching the lives of those around them, looking for and creating opportunities to keep the bridges strong.
3. Work hard, don't expect anything to be handed to you. Grandpa was a commercial painter. Grandpa and Grandma raised their family while putting Grandpa through college and seminary school. Often in our chats, Grandpa would comment more on how proud he was for my hard work than for actually reaching my goal. The journey was more important than the prize.
4. You can do anything--the longer you sit and cry about it, the longer it stays broken. I came for a visit once right after breaking up with a boyfriend. Grandma and I chatted about it for about an hour. She listened and encouraged. Then, the next thing I knew, Grandpa came in the room needing help shoveling snow on the farm. After about an hour of hard work, Grandpa and I were making snow angels in the yard. That's it then, time to move on!
5. All people have worth. You don't have to agree with them, or even fancy them, but they are children of God and should be honored as such. During graduate school, I got to go on a trip to Europe with my grandparents, and two of my aunts, Rose and Rhea. Towards the end of the trip, Grandma let it slip that she and Grandpa found a certain person to be difficult to deal with on occasion. I was shocked by this revelation. Every interaction between them had been full of love and acceptance throughout my life. For over 20 years I had been clueless that this person ever bothered them! Bottom line, this person was a child of God, was important to someone they loved. They didn't have to live with this person, or even agree with this person. But, this person deserved to be treated with love and respect, we all do. Wow!
6. Love God, study Him and strive to live your life as He would choose. God gave each of us a brain and many abilities. Trust them, follow Him and you will have all you need to go far and make them so, so, so proud of you!
In closing, I would like to reflect on the Davidson goodbye. I have witnessed in other families, the goodby that lingers. Not so in the Davidson house. You enjoy the visit right up to the very end. Then, you give a quick, very strong, goodbye hug. "You see," Grandma would say, "you have to say goodbye in order to feel the immense joy of reuniting!" Then, you hop in the car, roll down the window, stick your arm out and wave energetically until you are out of sight. Full of love and full of the promise of next time!
Until next time, Grandpa!