This speech was given at my step-dad Art Grunder’s Memorial Service Monday May 12, 2014.
Speaking notes are below the video.
For those who don’t know me, my name is Daryl Hatton. I’m Darlene’s eldest son. From her, I’ve inherited a predilection to cry over sappy commercials on TV so we’ll see how this talk goes. Right now I wish I had more of Art’s emotional calm…
My mom had a tough time being single again after her divorce. For a while that period seemed much like a harsh Prairie winter which chills to the bone and makes you wonder how you will survive.
But then mom met Art. And it was as if spring was here to stay. Like a flower pushing up out of the ground to chase the warmth of the sun, mom blossomed.
And like all good children, we tried to vet mom’s new boyfriend (turnaround is fair play, right?). But Art was a big challenge. He was quiet and reserved, from first appearances a very nice gentleman, a good listener but not much of a social talker and really, sincerely, a bit hard to ‘sus-out’ at first.
But what was easy to see was the spring in my mom’s step, the smile on her face and the pronounced and prolonged giggle in her voice when she talked about him. From the first days they met, she felt very safe, he made her very happy and, based on our best attempts to flush out even a little clue from him about how he felt, she made him happy, too.
New lovers! So cute. They’d shyly hold hands when they thought no one was looking. She talked about how Art was always the perfect gentleman, how he held the door for her, how he rode his bike to visit her so that he had to go home before dark, always called to make sure she was safe when she went home at night, and how he had the nicest friends. Good people hang out with good people and in that area, the tremendous respect he had in the community and especially here at the church was a great indicator of how well he lived his life.
I sometimes wonder how the collision between our boisterous, opinionated, gregarious family and Art’s more reserved style affected him. They say opposites attract because they complement each other. Art’s self-confident strength and calm manner gave my mom all sorts of permission to be the social butterfly she likes to be. Mom’s energy and enthusiasm for social things helped Art step out and have more fun. I can recall, especially in the early days of their marriage, hearing comments from their friends about how nice it was to see Art happy again. Just like the tinkering he did with the tractors in Ontario, I think he simply took the opportunities in being with Darlene to experiment a bit with who he was and how he lived. For Art was a disciplined man in thought, word and deed. Some have said he was the most disciplined person they had ever met.
One thing I know about Art was that he not only had a sharp, dry wit but that he had a VERY sharp mind that missed nothing. He enjoyed sitting quietly in a room observing the conversation flow around him, only occasionally supporting it with facts or observations. I know he had some strongly held opinions but I never saw him try to push his views on anyone else. In that way he was not only respectful but also very tolerant because even if we didn’t agree I never felt that he judged me for my differing opinion.
He was never boastful of his accomplishments except for the occasional subtle hint that his bike ride that day was perhaps a little more difficult than it might first appear. And yet, he was always very curious about my family’s accomplishments. He loved to hear stories about the ups and downs of my new business and the sports and educational adventures of our children.
My sister Kate and her son Pierce wrote a piece about this just last night. Here is what they said:
Art was an amazing Grandfather…
He had the patience of a Saint and the guidance of a Scholar.
He showed his love through play, and never passed on a request to go for a bike ride, or a walk, a swim or a ski. He’d crack open a rock and would teach. He’d lie in a hallway and roll a ball back and forth for hours, never complaining that his playmate was only 10 months old and was more likely to “gum” the ball than toss it.
Art loved to see his grandchildren smile.
He knew how to do it – it usually started with his trademark chant on someone’s birthday of “We want cake, we want cake!” or he created it on Christmas mornings by playing with you and your newest toy. Or you’d see him in the audience at your school concert.
And then there was that red nose… he’d wear it trick or treating and never ask for any of your candy… He’d get a smile from you by offering you an ice cream cone while at a music concert in the Village. He’d for sure get a smile out of you when he’d take his bike over a jump that you never imagined he would attempt.
Just last month, it was a lovely April evening, just after dinner. He and his youngest grandchild Pierce went out to the patch of grass at Grandpas for their ritual rocket launch.
Art pumped up the nerf rocket blaster and shot one off into the sky. They watch it blast high above the trees and waited to see where it would land. If it hit a tree, Pierce would climb it to recover it, if not Art would retrieve it and launch another mission.
That sunny April evening was Art’s last rocket launch… no more planned details of the next mission. Quite possibly no more smiles.
For the next 24 days we watched his grandchildren come to his bedside, gently take his hand and thank him. And still, even in the toughest of times he brought a gentle smile to their face with his loving grace and quiet kindness.
Thank you Art for being a wonderful, giving, loving and genuine Grandfather to our children. We love that you loved them.
Art was a physically strong man, much stronger than his slight frame might lead you to believe. I have to admit my awe at his ability to windsurf the ocean with men forty years his junior. His grip, even as recent as three weeks ago, was one of the strongest I’ve ever experienced. He was also a very stoic man. In his final months and weeks leading up to his passing he experienced lots of pain but worked very hard to not even show a tiny bit of it.
Earlier this year, in spite of the mounting pain, Art decided to take “just one more trip”. This time, it was to Australia. And so they set out on yet another adventure. I think Art was an experienced traveler before he met Darlene but together the two of them definitely managed to cover a big chunk of the globe: Africa, Egypt, Cambodia, China, Israel, Britain, France, Spain, Portugal, Venice, Turkey, etc., etc., etc.
I think they visited all these different places because Art had a tremendous curiosity about people, their history, their culture and how they fit into the big puzzle of this world. It wasn’t enough to read about it or watch a show about it – he had to experience it for himself. This desire for an authentic experience provided them many, many “quality moments”. I know these memories will help fill the hole Darlene feels in her life right now.
Some say “show me a grateful man and I’ll show you a happy man”. Aesop said, “Gratitude is the sign of noble souls”. Art seemed to be very grateful all the time. Even doing simple things for him like helping fix their computers and Internet connections (which break all the time – grrrrr) produced a very sincere expression of gratitude. One of the reasons Art could be grateful like he was is because he was also a very generous man. He generously spent precious time and effort to take care of those around him.
It was interesting to watch an evolution of sorts. It was wonderful that in the last few years Art started to hang around near the door when we were leaving after a visit. At these times we tend to give lots of hugs and “I Love Yous” and Art started to quietly join the line for his turn. At first it was a bit awkward for him but over a little while he became much more comfortable and in the last few months really leaned in to the hugs.
In the days leading up to his passing, Art and Darlene were still a happy couple, even more in love than ever before. It was beautiful and inspiring to come into the hospice room and see them sleeping, mom lying in a recliner chair next to Art’s bed, holding hands and gently snoring in rhythm together. Or, even when he could no longer speak, to see the brightening of Art’s eyes and the grin on his face when mom would come back into the room at the hospice from doing chores at home. While some couples grow apart over time, it was a blessing to watch them do exactly the opposite.
With Art now gone I’d like to express my gratitude to him.
Art, I’m grateful for the tremendous love you had for my mom, for the amazing companion you were to her, for the memories you created with her and for the soft and gentle ways you looked out for her and supported her so very well.
I’m grateful for the way you included my entire family in your life, the generosity of your spirit and the warmth of your companionship.
I’m also grateful for bringing us into your family, and bringing them into our lives. David, Linda and their families are very dear to us. I sincerely hope we can stay close with them.
Art, you’ve only been gone a few days but you are already greatly missed. Safe travels kind sir. I hope our paths will cross again sometime.