Reflections on the Life of a Great Man

It’s been almost two weeks now since my grandpa Erich passed away. Between all the busy-ness of flying back home to St. Louis to be with family and attend the funeral, the times of mourning, and the busy-ness of Kevin’s graduation and saying goodbye to friends, I haven’t made time to write lately.

Even more, in the midst of sadness, new blog ideas definitely took a back-burner in my mind as I processed the death of a very special man.

But I’m ready to write again. And what a better way to pick back up than to take a moment to reflect on the life of my grandpa?! I believe that we can learn from every person, experience, or encounter, if we would just take some time to observe and reflect. Over the many years I spent as his house, I certainly learned a lot from my grandpa. Even now that he is gone, I learn about the person I want to be when I reflect on his life.

Grandpa 2

1. He let me be a part of his hobbies and routine.

Some of my most cherished memories are those growing up at my grandma and grandpa’s house. I adored my grandparents, and it wasn’t because they bought me all sorts of gifts and toys. My grandparents gave me the gift of their time. Growing up at my grandpa’s house was special because he let me join in on his every-day life. My grandpa let me spend time in the shed with him (until I got too bored and decided to go run outside and play!). My grandpa let me help him feed the cows and barn cats. My grandpa let me help him find dandelions that needed to be sprayed. All of those little things meant so much to me because it was in those moments that my grandpa shared his heart with me.

As a friend, and probably someday a parent and grandparent, I want to be like him. I don’t want to rely on gifts to form a relationship, but on genuinely sharing life with each other. I want to share my hobbies and my every day duties with my children and grandchildren. I don’t have to change around my life for them, I just need to be willing to invite them into the life I already have and share it with them. I want others to know that they have a place in my life.

2. He was a hard worker.

Though my grandpa had retired by the time I was around, I’ve heard the stories about how hard of a worker he was for his family. He would work a full-time job at McDonnel Douglas and then still come home and tend to the farm. He did what he needed to in order to make ends meet. Even as he got older and his body faced health issues, he would do all he could do keep up the farm and the house. My grandpa was determined to get the job done.

…And then here I am, constantly saying how I’m ready to retire! Ha! I want to be as hard of a worker as my grandpa was. I want to do the job well. And I want to do it humbly, without complaining.

3. He had a good sense of humor.

In my experience, my grandpa was definitely more of the strong, silent type. He wasn’t a man of many words. But I do know that he liked to laugh. He had a great smile. I can faintly hear the sound of his laugh as he would tickle me as a child, or push me on a swing. When my grandpa laughed, you couldn’t help but smile along with him.

I want to exude joy and laughter. There are times to be serious (as he was many times), but also times to laugh and revel in the moment. I can sometimes get so caught up in the stresses of life, that laughter is far from me. I want to find simple joys every day to make me smile.

Grandpa 1Grandma and Grandpa in the photobooth at my wedding!

4. He was devoted to his wife.

My grandpa was married to my grandpa just shy of 68 years. And even up til the end, he continually cared for her. Even when her health started to fade, he took on the household duties she couldn’t do…laundry, cooking, shopping. He visited her in the nursing home. He loved my grandma.

I want to be devoted to Kevin for the rest of our lives. Even in the hard times (which I know there will be), I don’t want circumstances to affect our commitment and relationship. I want to care for him forever, no matter what that looks like.

5. He lived a full life and faced death bravely.

My mom told me that near the end, my grandpa said he was really ready to go. He was ready to face death, and to see Jesus. He said that when he saw Jesus he would sing the old song, “Jesus loves me, this I know.” My grandpa was able to say such things because he lived a full life. I know that he and my grandma went on some amazing trips and had tons of unforgettable experiences. He had meaningful relationships. And he had faith.

I want to live a life such as that, so that I am ready to face death. Of course, because of my faith in Jesus Christ, I have no reason to fear death and I know my life is in God’s hands. However, I want to live this life to the fullest. I want to soak up every opportunity and make meaningful relationships. I want to do something great for God with the time he gives me. When I’m old I want to be able to look back on my life and know that I lived it well.

You see, I want to be like my grandpa.

Grandpa 3Grandma and Grandpa at my wedding.

I know there are so many more things I can learn from my grandpa’s life. He was a very special man to me. It is weird thinking he’s, just, not here. At the funeral, all our family was gathered so it felt like grandpa should be there too. Such a strange thing. I do miss him.

But not only do I miss him, but I miss what used to be. I miss those care-free days growing up on his farm. I miss the simplicity. I miss my grandparents as they were in those cherished memories, before so many health issues took their toll. I am saddened to think that I will never make any more of those types of memories. I am sad to face the end of a chapter.

But of course, the end of a chapter only means the start of a new one. And a great reason to make these stories great ones: to honor the life of my grandpa and to, hopefully, one day be the type of person he was.

Grandpa 4Grandpa and Grandma with their grandchildren at my grandpa’s 90th birthday.

Erich August Brakensiek, January 21, 1925 – April 29, 2015


One thought on “Reflections on the Life of a Great Man

  1. He was a great man and demonstrated the gifts of patience and long-suffering. I hope to see him again in heaven, those beautiful blue eyes and mischievous smile!


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