Symbols of Love

I had searched and searched. Ties, shirts, cuff links, watches, pens, books, pictures, records, monogrammed socks—I had been looking 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 about what would be 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 lend a helping hand to friends and strangers alike. Once while traveling, for example, he lent a very expensive set of battery cables to an out-of-stater he had stopped to help. He did this small favor with no guarantee that he’d see the cables again.

His entire life had been filled with hard work, service, and dedication. He had remained faithful through many trials. He had lost both his parents while still a young boy. In fact, all of his brothers and sisters except one had passed away at young ages. Grandpa had almost lost his own life in a railroad accident. He had seen a granddaughter pass away, and his own sweetheart had been taken in a car accident at an early age. Through these trials and many more, Grandpa never questioned the Lord. He silently grew stronger in the midst of them.

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 the shaking of his hand became 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 twinkle in his eye, 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 that I can’t tell if I’ve got a fish on the line or if it’s just me.” With that, Grandpa continued to serve in his position almost until his death.

When the pain had become quite intense, 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.” After the prayer, there wasn’t a dry eye. 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 empty-handed. I started thinking, if Grandpa had this money, what would he do with it? How would he want the money spent? Ever so quietly the answer came. He would give the money to someone less fortunate than himself. So that’s how the money was used.

I got out a Christmas card and proceeded to put all the feelings that I had for Grandpa on paper. Sealing it all in an envelope, I took it downstairs to him. Along with the card, I gave him a big kiss and wished him a Merry Christmas; then, before he could say anything, I ran back up the stairs.

An hour or so later I went downstairs to get something for my mother. Tears were rolling down Grandpa’s cheeks. He drew me close to him and gave me one of those mammoth 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. The full impact of that experience did not become apparent to me until later. I slowly became aware that Grandpa had given me some 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 portion of himself. Through example, Grandpa had given me a small portion of himself. He had kindled in me a desire to be like him and in so doing, had given me a more clear knowledge of the glorious personage whom he was striving to be like.

[photo] Photography by Craig Dimond

[illustration] Illustrated by Dave McDonald