I have dealt with a lot of loss in my 38 years. I’m not sure I can begin to count all the extended family, but there have been several close, too – a Grandmother, a Step Grandmother, an aunt, an uncle, even a couple high school friends.
The first one I remember is my Uncle Roger. He was my dad’s baby brother. If I remember correctly, he was 20… I was six. I remember he would call me George. I honestly don’t know why. He was raised as the youngest of three boys and I was the first grandchild and first girl in their family… so he called me George.
I also remember my Grandmother Annabelle… I was in the 4th grade. I can still see her sitting at the table, listening to some silly thing I was telling her, like it was THE most important thing she had to do… and when I finished, she would tilt her head back in laughter and slap her knee.
I could go on, but I would never get to my point, so I won’t. I spent the Christmas holiday missing my Grandpa – John Dale Miller was a fixture in my life as long as I can remember.
As the youngest of three, my Grandpa would often get interrupted when he was speaking. Later in life, he would start telling stories (usually they were very funny) and he would just stop in the middle… and wait… and when he KNEW you were listening, he would finish. Sometimes, he would take off signing songs he would sing when he was in the army… you had to laugh at the old man singing dirty songs!
I’ll be honest, growing up, I just thought he was a grumpy old man… someone who didn’t like little kids, and therefor, didn’t like me. Even so, he would take me fishing, hunting, hiking and just on rides to the mountains (one of the advantages to growing up in Wyoming).
I remember the day that changed very clearly… It was my 17th birthday… and I think I was at their house for lunch… they were close enough I could walk from school, and did often (though I probably drove more). That day, he stopped me from leaving… he had something for me. He walked into their basement and came back with one of his fly rods. He was a man of few words, but his actions spoke volumes.
He did it to me again in August 2008, when he asked me if I had replaced a pistol that had been stolen several years before (it had been in my car when it was stolen). I had not. Wanting to make sure my family and I are protected, he went to his room, and brought me the pistol he kept there. Then he turned to T and said, “Now, you go get you one!”
I learned at his funeral, that he was proud of me even before I turned 17. We were out in the mountains, Grandpa, a cousin MA, and me… I was about 12. There probably were others, but the three of us were together. We had taken a moment to rest, when Grandpa pointed to an area, “MA, where is that over there?” MA and I looked around Grandpa at each other, and at the same time said, “Over there!” Grandpa had a few choice words for us! What I learned, was when we got up to leave, MA started in one direction, me in another, and Grandpa stopped him, pointed at me as I walked off and said, “That’s MY granddaughter!” I am so grateful MA shared that ending with me.
John Dale Miller left a big hole in my life. I learned much from him. I learned to listen well when others speak… or sometimes you will miss out. I learned to enjoy the world God created. I learned to wait quietly. He will be greatly missed. As I continue to live my life, I hope to do so in a way that will be honoring to his name. I hope to do so in a way that will make others say the same thing about me. I want a life well lived.
My Grandparents, in the last picture I took of them together. This was Thanksgiving weekend 2008.