May 11, 2016

A Truly Great Grandpa

My Grandpa Emery finished his beautiful life here on Earth today just shy of 93 years old. I know he is enjoying his first morning coffee, donut, and newspaper in Heaven right now.

Emery Rantz, husband, brother (to 10 siblings!), veteran, father, grandfather, great grandfather, and friend to many, was the epitome of a kind-hearted man. I think Eloise was the only one who got his title just right by honoring him as the great human that he was.

Here are just a handful of my favorite memories of and with my Grandpa Emery.

+ His love of cheese. He passed his cheese-loving gene on to me. He and I shared many sneaky snacks of sharp cheddar together.

+ His sports enthusiasm. For many seasons growing up, our annual Michigan State football tailgates included Grandpa Emery. He loved to hear the marching band warm up with the fight song echoing through campus. Grandpa Emery was also a devoted Cubs baseball fan. Someday (and that is a big, optimistic someday) when the Cubs finally win the World Series, I know it will be for him. Once while golfing with my dad and grandpa, I chipped a ball from a ways off the green and sunk it right into the hole. Trust me, it was a total fluke. But my Grandpa Emery, the avid golfer, smiled for weeks.

+ His smile. Getting Grandpa Emery to smile for posed family pictures was always a challenge. But when he was truly happy or proud? See for yourself throughout these pictures.

+ His love for Brad. Maybe it was their shared service or their matching kind hearts, or maybe Grandpa Emery was just glad to finally have a grandson! Whatever it was, their bond was special. Once the two of them got to chatting together, the rest of the world just faded away. His pride was palpable when they would video chat while Brad was in Afghanistan.

Receiving a flag flown in his name in Afghanistan from Brad

+ His simple pleasures. Grandpa Emery loved my grandma's homemade pie, ice cream, and a good dinner roll or three on his Thanksgiving plate. He loved attending Lakeshore softball games (sorry none of your granddaughters were even remotely athletic, grandpa). He loved his many mornings at Dale's Donuts with his buddies. He loved summer concerts at the bandshell downtown. I love that he cherished the little things.

+ His pride in his service. Grandpa Emery was a WWII veteran, serving alongside four of his brothers. He loved to talk about his time in Europe, and it was very clear how proud he was of his country. His oldest brother was killed in action at the Battle of the Bulge, and he honored him often in many conversations. I know traveling to West Point for our wedding and experiencing it's military history was a major highlight of his life.

+ His adventuresome spirit. My Grandpa Emery and his wife, my Grandma Jean, were married for 67 years and shared a lifetime of adventures. They loved to travel to Australia, and for 18 years they "worked" security at the Masters golf tournament. Their adventures together were beyond what many dream of.

October 1948

+ His family pride. Many of my classmates probably remember my grandpa as the random guy at the gas station who would ask anyone in a Lakeshore varsity jacket if they knew Whitney or Kayla Rantz. He was endlessly proud of my sister and I and was quick to tell anyone and everyone all about it. He was always in the stands for Friday night football, but he was actually just there to see Whitney cheerlead and me dance at halftime. Every time the honor roll was printed in the paper, we were quietly slipped a proud $20 bill from Grandpa Emery. Lately he loved to brag to his medical providers about my nursing career. He was all of our biggest fan.

+ His kindness. Hands down, my favorite thing about my Grandpa Emery was his kindness. His words always made you feel important, and his actions were always in the interest of others. He made friends everywhere he went, and he valued them all. Even in his last days, he was recalling fond memories from decades ago with such sharpness as if they were yesterday.

+ His role of great grandpa. The first time Grandpa Emery met Eloise, his spirits lifted and there was a new spark in his eyes. The rare but genuine smile I mentioned earlier was bigger than ever. He loved to admire her blonde curls, and her grin matched his sitting on his lap for a picture after her baptism just ten days before he passed. I cannot express the joy it brings me knowing Brad and I were able to give him the gift of knowing his great granddaughter.

With me in 1988 and with Eloise in 2015

I could go on and on. Instead, I think Eloise and I will go enjoy a cheese snack together in the sunshine and smile in appreciation of such a long and happy life. 

I think the hardest part of this for me is witnessing my dad's heart break in losing his own dad. This is the first time either my mom or dad have lost a parent. We have been fortunate to have so many great years with all four of them. Dad, I see so much of grandpa in you every single day. The way you love Eloise is exactly the way he has loved me.

Grandpa Emery, I will carry your kindness with me always. Rest peacefully. The head of the table at family dinners will never be the same without your smiling face. 

I love you so very much, and I miss you already.

No comments: