It was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done, but I’m so glad I did it. This is what I said in front of family and friends earlier today (well, I guess yesterday, when we celebrated his life at the memorial held at his church on Saturday).
Hi, I’m Nikki— one of Pop’s many many many granddaughters. and I just wanted to say a few words because Pop and I had few conversations that made me believe he wanted me to share some things with all of you.
I love my Pop pop. But then, everyone who ever met him pretty much loved him too. He was truly a man of many talents— one of those being the world’s greatest grandpa. He and my grandma both led a life of love and laughter that just permeated into the lives of those around them. And he taught me so many things— from how to make balloon animals, how the five second rule while cooking is not only valid—but can also actually be the secret ingredient, how to play cards and when to know to take the deck or let it pass. But while he taught me a lot of fun things, there were some important lessons in there as well that I will carry with me forever. Like how to always have a smile on your face no matter what and how to love another person completely.
Some of my fondest memories are when my grandma would leave the room and he’d whisper to me and my brother, “I just love your grandma. I don’t know what I’d do without her” or “Your grandmother is so beautiful, I just couldn’t wait to marry her.” But of course, he and her both together would loudly say to anyone that when it came to each other, “I could have done worse.”
“I could have done worse.”
It’s a simple, funny phrase that when I was younger, I didn’t get it. But now that I’m older and married myself and after more than 20 years of hearing it repeated over and over during dinners and holidays and card games, I think I’m beginning to understand. And I hear it in my head all the time.
When I get in a little disagreement with my husband, instead of getting angry, I stop and think. “I could have done worse.” And then I appreciate my husband.
When I’m bored or aggravated at work and wish I had any other any other job, I stop and think, “I could have done worse.” And then I appreciate my job.
If it’s one thing I learned from Pop, it’s that no matter what, I am always and completely blessed because I have a family who loves me, a God who takes care of me, and because really…I could have done worse. It’s selfish to complain and blessings are meant to be appreciated. He lived his life that way and because of him, I want to as well.
My grandfather, hand-in-hand with my grandmother, lived a life of serving others with love and joy—an example to all who knew him. And Pop, whether it was through his work at the church serving others, cooking meals for men in motion or snacks for VBS, giving a smile to someone through clowning or card playing, and so much more— he left a legacy behind him. A legacy of what Christ’s love here on earth really looked like. A legacy that can be and will be still carried out by all of us today. And we owe it to Pop, to take those lessons we learned through his time here on earth and apply them to our own lives.
About two years ago, I found an organization online that granted wishes for elderly people and I thought it would be something perfect to submit Pop for. However, I had a problem—I had no idea what his wish would be. So one day, while playing cards with him I nonchalantly leaned over and asked him: “Pop. If you could have ANYTHING in the world, what would be your one wish?” He of course muttered something about not having a wish because he had everything he could possibly need right here, but after a round or two, he paused and looked at me and said, “Nicole, my one wish is for my children and grandchildren to come to have a personal relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ.”
That was his one wish, and it wasn’t even about himself.
I don’t know where anyone’s heart is except my own, but I do know that its times like these where we are faced with a prime example of what the end looks like, that we are given the opportunity to look into ourselves and examine our own hearts and our relationship with the Lord. Pop’s one wish is to see us all together again someday, and if there’s one thing I’m more certain of than ever before—it’s that because of salvation through Jesus Christ, we do have that opportunity to be together with him again in Heaven. I encourage everyone, whether you’re family or friend, young or old, to really take a moment to think about that. Not just for Pop, but for yourself.
Pop lived a life of happiness and service because of his relationship with Jesus Christ. And I know we’ll see him again someday, because if there’s one person I know who followed Jesus the best that he could do and with unshakeable joy in all circumstances, it was Pop Pop.
Pop was many things. A great man. A loving husband and father. A dedicated servant. The best Italian cook on the planet. And a hysterical clown. But when it came to grandfathers, I could have done worse. But I also couldn’t have done any better either.
Thank you Pop Pop. My life was changed because of how you lived yours.