I just got word from my dad that my mom’s father, Harold Ward, died peacefully in his sleep last night, at the age of 88.
Grandpa had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease last year, and had been deteriorating fairly quickly over the past few months. Earlier this week he was admitted to the retirement community’s hospice center, and it was expected that he would pass on fairly soon. Mom flew down to Florida to be with him and Grandma last night, but Grandpa died while she was on the plane. Dad will be flying down as soon as he can. Unfortunately, I don’t currently have the spare finances or available time off to fly down, and as there has been a fair amount of traveling in our family recently as mom fit in as many visits as she could this past year, I most likely won’t be able to be there for the funeral.
Due to the distance between G&G in Ft. Meyers, Florida and our family in Anchorage, Alaska, I never ended up as close to my grandparents as many people do. They would come up to visit us every few years, Grandpa driving their big Winnebago, and we’d go on trips around Alaska (and no trip was ever complete until Grandma had sat on the bread). We’d fly down to visit them in Florida every few years too, and those trips are where some of my strongest memories of Grandpa are from.
He spent many of the last years of his life as a tour guide at the Thomas A. Edison and Henry Ford Winter Estates in Ft. Meyers, and we would always get to go on tours of the grounds. Grandpa would lead us through the gardens with plants and trees from all over the world — complete with a huge, beautiful banyan tree that drops its multitudes of trunk-like roots over the grounds just in front of the main entrance — and then into the family homes, through the workshops, and on into the museum at the end. He never seemed to need a script, and was always content to to keep track of a couple of very excitable (and probably frequently bored) children year after year, filling us with information that was probably forgotten straight away as we looked forward to the nearly obligatory trip to Disney World later in the trip.
I may not have known him as well as I might have had we lived closer, but I have a lot of fond memories of the times we did get to spend with him over the years.
Into your hands, O Merciful Savior, we commend your servant Harold. Acknowledge, we beseech you, a sheep of your own fold, a lamb of your own flock, a sinner of your own redeeming. Receive him into the arms of your mercy, into the blessed rest of eternal peace, and into the glorious company of the saints in light. Amen.
Update: The official cause of death is undiagnosed leukemia. I keep waffling back and forth on that one — on the one hand, Grandpa was already ailing and all, but I really wonder how common it is for leukemia to go undiagnosed (apparently it’s not entirely unheard of), and how much longer he might have lived if it had been diagnosed. Of course, given the effects of the Alzheimer’s and the necessary treatments for leukemia, perhaps this was easier on everyone than a longer, more protracted battle would have been.
“Dies Irae, Dies Illa (Sequence from the Mass for the Dead: Requiem)” by Capella Antiqua Munchen from the album Gregorian Chant: Sequentiae (1992, 6:05).