It has been a month since my Grandpa passed away.
I have wanted to write something in memory of my Grandpa since he passed. He was such an amazing man, and I wanted more people to get to hear about him. But at the same time, I haven’t known where to start. How can you do justice to a man who lived such a full, rich, and admirable life. My family knew that he was special, but I think some of us were still caught off guard by the outpouring of love that we saw for him in the days after his death. Facebook became an active and vibrant memorial for a man who had clearly spent his whole life impacting the lives of others. My Uncle posted about his death and there were over 200 comments on it, almost all sharing a memory, a story of a life changed by Grandpa’s kindness and selflessness. And his memorial was full of the same – people from all walks of life, gathered together to honor a man whose life had touched more others than I ever imagined.
So, I write this knowing there is no way to fully capture the amazing man that Paul McIver was. And I write this knowing that for anyone who never had the joy of meeting him, a lot of this, even the sadness that I still feel, might not make sense. But nonetheless, here is my personal reflection of a man who I am so grateful to have been able to call Grandpa.
Grandpa was kind. He had a way of making people who barely knew him feel like they were his best friend. He was always excited to see, meet, and talk to people. Especially if they were people who the people in his family cared about. He knew my friends, my friends parents, my friends’ parents’ friends. And he was interested in each one of their lives. He would ask how Tanner was doing in baseball, or how Nate was doing at his church. He would see my in-laws around town and treat them like family, long before they were even my in-laws. He loved JoBeth, and he and Grandma would even go watch her high school soccer games when I was away at college. When he wasn’t in town to keep up with everyone, he loved to use Facebook to stay involved in the lives of his friends. I think he just really believed that each person he met was made in God’s image, and it showed in the way he treated everyone he met.
Grandpa was patient. I think I have one memory of my Grandpa raising his voice at me, when I was very young, and I was refusing to get out of a pool. It stuck with me because it was so rare (and by “raise his voice at me”, I mean he probably was a tad more serious in his tone than normal, I’m just sensitive like that). He was always giving us and others the benefit of the doubt. It felt like there was nothing I could do to change the way that he saw me, loved me, and cared about me. Perhaps it is just that after so many years of serving as a principal and teacher there was just nothing we could do that would surprise him. But as I learned from so many Facebook comments from former students, his patience has been a constant, and countless people recalled his patient and loving discipline as a monumental part of their education. He was never in a hurry – there was always time to help, to have a conversation, to just be with people.
Grandpa was selfless. Getting his way was never a chief concern for Grandpa. He was much more concerned with the needs of others than he was his own. He was always looking to see how he could help, serve, give. Moving? He was there, with boxes. Working on a project? He probably had a tool or supplies that he would love for you to have and he would be there to show you how. Need a ride? If he couldn’t drive you he would find a way for you to take his car. Not only was he generous and selfless, but he was also full of many skills. So while he was a great carpenter, a picture of strength, he was also a gifted florist, his gentleness on display. At a few homecoming dances I think I both borrowed a tie from him and gifted my date with a corsage, specially crafted by Grandpa himself. It was never about him. He loved Panera Bread, but I think even that is really just because Grandma loved it and knew it and he loved her.
Grandpa was fun. He loved to play a game, crack a joke, or tell a funny story. He is lovingly remembered for witty Facebook comments that took some thought to understand at first, but almost always had a humor that was subtle and mischievous. One of my favorites was while JoBeth and I were broken up, he commented on a picture of her (wearing a hat) and a guy who wasn’t me, saying “I can only click like on the one with the hat.” I can almost imagine the smirk he must have made as he typed that one up. He was great at Balderdash and checkers, and terrible at Farkel. He told the best stories from his younger days. I wish I could remember some of the specific stories, but what I will always remember is him sitting across the table, leaned back in his chair, hands behind his head, twinkle in his eye as he told me about his college friends, his army days, or absurd youth group adventures that he led. His playful spirit was on full display as the attire for his memorial service was not stuffy, somber suits and black dresses – but Hawaiian shirts.
Grandpa was wise. I imagine a lot of people feel this when someone dear to them passes away, but I have constantly wished for just a few more conversations, a few more opportunities to learn from him. Or I wish I had written down some of the things he taught me over the years. One thing that I am incredibly grateful for is that when I was getting married, my brother reached out to some men in my life to ask them for marriage advice to pass down to me. He compiled their advice and put it together in a book. My Grandpa was one of the men he asked, and listen to this beautiful insight:
“There will be times when you can almost know what the other is going to say. Yet, taking an extra moment to let each other speak may well be one of those golden moments. There is more to listening than hearing.”
This isn’t just a beautiful thought – it is something that I had watched him practice for so many years. JoBeth and I are only a year into marriage and this already feels so insightful – I can only imagine how much more true this was in his 57 years of marriage. I pray that his wisdom would continue to shape me.
Words will never fully describe the man that he was, and the legacy that he leaves. But maybe they can be a start. And I think that these words – kind, patient, selfless, fun, wise – might help paint a pretty good picture. While I do hope that this meager attempt at honoring my Grandpa would be encouraging to some, especially my family – I hope to best honor my Grandpa by continuing his legacy of kindness, patience, selflessness, fun, and wisdom. I’m eager to follow his example, in the same way that he was following Christ.