Lessons From Grandpa

Published by Thriving Erin on


At 1:00am on Tuesday morning I received a call that my Grandfather had passed away. It was 3:00pm on Thanksgiving Monday there, where the rest of my family had gathered to say good-bye. My Grandpa was 82 years old and two days before had what they called a “catastrophic stroke.”


My Grandpa and Grandma on his 82nd birthday

Grandpa Rick as I called him, was healthy and active. He was still living a life that many people would have been jealous of. People will say he lived a good life; that he would have preferred it this way, to go suddenly “with his boots on.” No long battle with cancer, no time in a hospice wasting away. Those people would be right, he would have chosen that, but that doesn’t stop the tears coming because simply put, he was a great grandpa, I loved him, and I’ll miss him. My daughter (his third great-grandchild) who will be born in December, will never meet him.


There’s something about death that inspires self-reflection. It highlights our fear of insignificance and our desire for meaning. As we remember someone we scrutinize their life, remembering their achievements, honoring their values, and assigning meaning to everything they did. If this person found meaning and significance then perhaps we all can. What lessons can I learn from my Grandpa’s life?


Grandpa Rick worked hard. The morning of his stroke he fixed the toilet. The week before, my sister came home to find him up on the roof cleaning the gutters. He had enough tools to start a small hardware store and he used all of them. He used his tools on the house, but he also made us an amazing dollhouse and I remember one time spending the day with him building my first bird house.


Proudly showing off the birdhouse I built with Grandpa.


He liked to be prepared. When he heard a joke he liked he would write it down and keep it in his pocket. Whenever he came to visit, he always had a new one to tell.


He always looked sharp. I don’t think he went a day in his life without shaving in the morning. His button-up shirt was always tucked in perfectly, and if he wore a tie it would hit the middle of his belt perfectly, not one millimeter higher or lower. He kept a comb in his breast pocket and kept every hair in place.


Grandpa Rick loved to talk politics, today is the federal election and you know what, his voice will still be heard. He took his responsibilities seriously, and he had taken advantage of advance voting. Even though he’s no longer here, he will have a say in who becomes Canada’s next Prime Minister.


My mom used to talk about growing up and joke about how he would often complain that kids “made dust.” That idea went against his desire for order, but I think he softened by the time the grandkids came around because we always had a great time at Grandma and Grandpa’s house, with no fear of ‘dust.’


He lived very intentionally. Whether it was in business, finance, recreation, or his relationships, he was very intentional with where he invested money and his time. But despite all these things, his significance isn’t found in his successful business or in his hard work. His significance is found in his relationships with those around him. In the way he loved my Grandma, provided for his daughters, and was the stable rock through any crisis. His significance is found in the fact that he was present. The fact that he showed up and loved us. His intentionality and hard work are part of what made these relationships strong, those values are as much a part of him as the handkerchief he always kept in his pocket, but it’s who he was as a husband, father, and grandfather that will be remembered forever.


This I think, is the greatest thing to learn. We can be intentional to become smarter, richer, more generous, and more organized, but to find significance in our lives, we need to be intentional with how we love and be generous in how we give of ourselves, just like my Grandpa did.



Categories: Musings


Debra Kiel-Callaghan · October 23, 2019 at 8:32 pm

Erin, This heart felt tribute to Grandpa is so beautifully written. You have always been blessed with that amazing writing talent. I can only imagine how difficult it was due to the close and special relationship you had with him. He loved your laugh, and always said with pride ” That Erin, she’s such a smart girl”
May you find comfort knowing our strong family blanket is wrapping you with loads of love.
We all felt you there with us through grandpas entire journey and now we hope you feel us as you deliver and bring our new baby into the world.
I look forward to following more of your posts. Love you always. Auntie Deb

Lori gunn · October 23, 2019 at 4:15 am

What a beautiful tribute to your grandpas life erin. Written straight from your heart, so loving and I love the way you saw him and worded your memory of him with such love. He would’ve been so proud. I’m so sorry for your loss. And congratulations, such happy news about your daughter ❤️

    Thriving Erin · October 24, 2019 at 11:42 am

    Thanks Lori, I really appreciate it.

Tyler · October 22, 2019 at 4:36 pm

Hi Erin! I’m so sorry for your loss and I can feel how proud of you he must be. I love how you turned the reflection on his life into an inspiration for all of us! What will you tell your daughter about the great grandfather she won’t meet? How else can you preserve his legacy for her? My condolences and best wishes for this painful time.

Steven Thompson · October 22, 2019 at 4:05 pm

Such a beautiful post. I am sorry to hear about your grandfather. From your writing he sounds like he was an amazing man! This is one of my favorite parts-

There’s something about death that inspires self-reflection. It highlights our fear of insignificance and our desire for meaning. The story of the dollhouse was amazing . Grief is very hard. Yet you did such a wonderful job honoring your grandfather and his life. Thank you for sharing!

Maria · October 22, 2019 at 2:04 am

Hi Erin, I am very sorry for your loss. I am grateful I got to know your Grandpa Rick through your writing. Thank you for sharing your reflections with us. I love every word you wrote. You described precisely the amazing man in these photos!

You must be thrilled about your daughter. I am sure she will get to know her great grandfather through your beautiful stories. December is around the corner. Take good care of yourself.

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