A couple of weeks ago, the last of my grandparents passed away. The funeral was beautiful, but the day was emotionally draining for me. I loved all my grandparents dearly, but Grandpa Hall had a special piece of my heart. He just radiated goodness and he had a super tender heart. He was 93 when he passed. He lived a great life and was wonderful example of what a man is and should be.
As the oldest of his grandchildren, I got to know him in a way many of the other grandkids did not. I have memories of him when he was still young and vibrant. I am only a few years younger than grandpa’s youngest son, my Uncle Jared. So, I got to see and experience Grandpa before life and age slowed him down. During the summers as a boy, I would go down to Provo and spend a week or so at my grandparent’s place. They spoiled me rotten, especially my two aunts, Laurie and Wendy. I worshiped Phil and Jared, my uncles who are only a few years older and watched as they built model airplanes and blew up dirt hills with M-80’s and endured the endless teasing of my older uncles Brian and Rod.
Grandpa was a WWII veteran, a fact in which I take enormous pride. I always stuck my chest out a little bit when I got a chance to talk about his legacy of service to our country in one of the world’s darkest hours. He served in the Army Air Corps, 20th Air Force, 509th composite group based on the Island of Tinian in the South Pacific. He got into the war in 1942 serving as a radio operator on a B-29 Superfortress and was on his way to active combat duty when the United States dropped the bomb on Hiroshima, Japan, which effectively ended the war. He always told me that the Japanese surrendered because their intelligence services had found out that H. Blaine Hall was coming. I believed every word of it, even when my elementary school teacher said otherwise.
He instilled in me a passion for BYU sports, especially the football team. From as long as I can remember we would sit in the stands at the then Cougar Stadium with Grandpa to watch the football games. These were special times for me and we bonded over the team, always hashing over how the team was doing or how good they would be for the upcoming season when we would get together. Saturdays in the fall will always have a hole in them now for me.
During the funeral, I listened to the speakers talk about Grandpa. They told a lot of stories that I already knew, but some that I had never heard before. I listened as well-wishers told me about how my Grandpa had had a positive effect on their lives. He served in many church leadership positions and was a very active member of Kiwanis and Sons of the Utah Pioneers. He was always serving others. As I listened to these stories, I was struck by the legacy he left and the legacy we ALL leave and my mind has not been able to leave the subject alone. Thus, my need to empty my noggin with this blog post.
I was impressed with by this notion of legacy. Legacy is something that is transmitted by those who have gone before and received by those still going. It is one of the few things that can be left behind when we die. This legacy can be both good AND bad and it can have a powerful impact for good or ill on the surviving posterity. As I listened to those talking about my grandfather’s legacy, I thanked God for the overwhelmingly positive impact he had on my life.
Since the funeral, I have been thinking about this notion of legacy, especially as it pertains to me and the legacy I will leave behind. I have asked myself repeatedly over the past few days, “What am I leaving behind?” The question has haunted me. I try to be a good person. I think we all do. I worry about what impact my weaknesses will have on my children. I pray all the time that I don’t screw them up. I hope that when its my turn to lie in that casket that my posterity and associates will say the same things about me that were said about my grandfather.
We all have our strengths and our weaknesses and so did Grandpa. But, he lived so that his strengths made him who he was and lived so that his weakness did not define him. I hope that I am doing the same for myself and for my posterity.
There was a beautiful feeling of love and family at that funeral. I have been so blessed to have good family around me. That is another legacy that Grandpa left. His family was his utmost priority. To this day, his children get along with one another and love and respect each other and there is harmony, with one unfortunate exception, a point of deep sorrow that sadly Grandpa had to take to his grave. He loved his family and you knew it when you were around him. I remember when I would leave his house or say goodbye to him on the phone that he would choke up and therefore, so did I. I am choked up now as I write this and reflect upon those moments. Those moments tenderly telegraphed love from his heart to mine. I loved him. He was a beautiful person.
His last few weeks were not good for him. He died slowly, going in and out of coherence and in some pain. I was in Utah about 3 weeks before he died and paid him what I knew would be my last visit. He wasn’t well and I was worried because I hadn’t seen him that bad before. I phoned my Uncle Jared who came and we helped him use the bathroom and take his pills and get him comfortable in a chair – a minor but sacred act of service I am so glad I got to provide. As I left, I told him I had to say goodbye, to which he responded, “I know.” I kissed him and told him that I loved him and that I was so thankful for his good example. He said that he hoped that he was. Oh, was he ever! I will forever treasure that tender moment and the lovely mercy that he was coherent and knew who I was in that moment.
I am now left with my thoughts and personal resolve to take greater care for the legacy I leave. Grandpa’s funeral was a good reminder that I have work to do and lives still left to touch and influence. I acknowledge the need to improve upon my weaknesses to further strengthen my family bonds and to avoid leaving harmful footprints upon my posterity. And lastly, I am thankful for my belief that our relationships do not end when this life does. How can something so beautiful as love possibly be defeated by death? It cannot, or God is not a God love. Love you Gramps. God speed and until we meet again.