Saying Goodbye to my Grandparents

(My mom and aunt ask me to tell my grandparents love story yesterday at my grandmother's funeral. This is what I shared.)

For as long as I can remember, my grandparents, Jewel and Herbert McDonald, have told the story of how they met and fell in love. When my mom and aunt asked me to share a few words at my grandmother's funeral about the people I called Duel and Grandaddy, we all agreed that this story needed to be a part of it. We live in a world where not many things are dependable, sure and true, but this story proves that some things are just meant to be.

As a pretty young newcomer at the local schoolhouse, Jewel Hines quickly caught the older, wiser eye of the dashing bachelor, Herbert McDonald. He watched her at the top of the stairs one day while she chatted with her friends between class, nudged his buddies and said, “hand’s off fellas, that one’s mine.”

Duel

 

And just like that, she was.

They married when she was just 17, and their lives together spanned over 68 years, separated only by duty for country, hospital stays, and death. 68 years is a long time to live and love one person. But their marriage is a testimony to the fact that love can stand the test of time.

My Grandaddy was a proud Navy sailor, and the early years of their marriage would find them moving from the farms of West Virginia all the way to Florida, from Navy base to base, always meeting new friends and putting their strong Christian faith into action by serving in a local church. During their time away, they produced two beautiful daughters, who made their lives full, and plenty interesting.

Duel and Grandaddy loved many parts of our country because they travelled so much with the Navy, but they always missed their beloved mountains of West Virginia and the families they still had here, so after retiring from the Navy, they returned and dug their roots in deep and strong. Here, they continued lives of service at First Baptist Church of Narrows, where they watched two of their grandchildren be baptized and make a profession of faith in Christ.

Grandaddy was a faithful Deacon and Duel a Sunday School Teacher there for well over 30 years. Later, they moved their membership to First Baptist Church of Rich Creek, and always spoke very highly of the love and concern they received as a part of that congregation. Their strong faith influenced and impacted many including their children, grandchildren, and now several great-grandchildren.

All of Duel and Grandaddy’s five grandchildren have wonderful memories of time spent at their little house in Peterstown, WV. My brother remembers Duel giving him baths in their kitchen sink, and learned the art of trading from our Grandaddy. Grandaddy was a master trader, and my brother remembers wondering to himself more than once when he would finally get around to trading Duel in for a new model. He figures the only reason he didn’t was because he knew they’d eventually trade her back.

When we were little girls, my cousins and I planned formal dances in their family room. Dressed up in our Sunday church slips, we turned on their old fashioned juke box, and danced with imaginary boys into the wee hours of the morning...well...until our moms made us go to bed anyways. We wrote and directed plays in their living room, searched for Easter eggs in their front yard, and played cards on their coffee table. We even got a little lost in our imaginations pretending their back porch was a ship surrounded by the ocean, and held on for dear life in their hammock in the back yard as it was rocked by the waves of a storm at sea. We sang at the top of our lungs in their blue bedroom and whispered too late into the night about our prince charmings. Duel and Grandaddy’s house was a wonderland for us, and by allowing us to play with each other, no matter how much we drove them crazy, they gave us something special to look back on, something I know I’ll treasure for a lifetime.

If I could only pick one word to describe my grandparents it would be “servants.” They never had a lot of money, but they were generous with what they did have, giving of both their time and resources to those in need. Never in the limelight, always serving behind-the-scenes, they snuck money and groceries here and there where it was needed, taking care of other people’s needs above their own...that’s who my grandparents were, and that’s the legacy they leave behind.

A few years ago, my grandmother was in a serious car wreck. For weeks she was separated from Grandaddy recovering from injuries that nearly took her life. When she was finally released from the hospital and moved into the nursing home in Rich Creek, Grandaddy insisted on being with her as much as possible, even though his own health was worsening day-by-day. One was simply lost without the other. Just days before he left this life, Grandaddy was able to embrace his wife, kiss her fully on the lips and I’m sure, in his heart, tell her goodbye.

Theirs was a life faithfully lived in service for their Savior. And I’m sure that when Duel arrived in heaven last Wednesday with her new mind and new body, Grandaddy watched his girl coming to him from afar, then leaned in close to our other loved ones there with him and said, “hands off fellas, that one’s mine.”