“Symbols of Love,” Tambuli, Dec. 1988, 49
I searched and searched for the perfect gift for Grandpa. Grandpa was dying of cancer, and this would probably be his last Christmas with us. I had been thinking for months on just the perfect thing to get for him. I wanted to give him something unique that would be just a small symbol of all the love and admiration that I had for him. But nothing that I saw seemed to be a worthy representation of that love.
Grandpa was the kind of person that everyone loved. I think that was because he loved them first. He was always eager to help anyone, strangers as well as friends. Once while traveling, he lent a very expensive set of tools to a traveler he had stopped to help on the roadside. He did this small favor with no guarantee that the tools would be returned.
His entire life had been filled with hard work, service, and dedication. He had remained faithful through many trials including the premature death of his parents, the death of most of his brothers and sisters, and that of a granddaughter. His fiancée had been killed in a car crash, and he had almost lost his own life in a railroad accident. But through these trials and many more, Grandpa grew spiritually stronger, and he never questioned the Lord.
Grandpa had a great desire to serve, and no matter what the job, he was dedicated to it. He served as stake clerk for many years. When age made the shaking of his hand so severe that it became difficult to write, the stake president asked him if he would like to be released. Without hesitation and with a smile, Grandpa replied, “You know, President, it’s not writing I have a problem with. It’s fishing. Whenever I go fishing my hand gets to shaking so badly that I can’t tell if I’ve got a fish on the line or if it’s just me.” Grandpa continued to serve as stake clerk almost until his death.
Shortly before his death, when the pain of cancer had become very bad, Grandpa said these words in a special family prayer: “Lord, just give me enough strength so that I can continue to serve thee and my family.” In my view, nothing that I could buy would be worthy of such a great man.
Soon it was Christmas Eve and I still didn’t have a gift for Grandpa. I went shopping one last time, and once again I came home without a gift. I started thinking, if Grandpa had some money, what would he do with it? How would he want the money spent? The answer came to my mind quietly but positively: He would give the money to someone less fortunate than himself. So that’s how the money was used.
I got some paper and wrote about all the feelings I had for Grandpa, told him what I had done for him for Christmas, put the letter in an envelope with a Christmas card, and quickly gave it to him with a kiss. Before he could say anything, I wished him a Merry Christmas, and went back to my room.
A little while later, I went to get something for my mother and passed Grandpa’s room. Tears were rolling down his cheeks. He called me in, drew me close to him, and gave me one of those huge hugs that only grandpas can give. “That was the best gift you could have given me,” he said.
That was Grandpa’s last Christmas with us. It wasn’t until some time after his death that I slowly realized that Grandpa had given me one of the most precious gifts that I’ll ever receive. He had helped me understand that the best gift that one can give is a part of one’s self. Through example, Grandpa had awakened in me a desire to be like him and in so doing, had given me a better understanding of the glorious personage whom he was striving to be like.