Tuesday, October 1, 2019

A Tribute to My Grandpa Stoltzfus

Today was your Homecoming Day, Grandpa. Your day of all days. Finally your fight with cancer has ended, and you have gained the Ultimate Reward!

I still can't believe it. We've known this day was coming, but still---I can't believe that you are really and truly gone.

My mother got to be by your side this morning, when the angels came for you, and she said she and her siblings were singing these words, "Even so, Lord Jesus come, my heart doth long for Thee." You went straight from a beautiful choir of the voices of your children, to the most majestic angel band!

I closed my eyes this morning and tried to picture what your homecoming must've looked like. The first thing that came to my mind was a whole little tribe of the ones of your descendants (grandchildren and great-grandchildren, one adult and the rest littles) who went to be with Jesus before you did. I especially couldn't get out of my mind a picture of a whole row of tiny ones-the many miscarried babies of multiple of your grandchildren-toddling up to meet you and give you little hugs and kisses. It was the sweetest thing to imagine. You always loved children and babies and were so good with them.

With you living in New York, I didn't get to see you often, growing up, but I have a bountiful host of memories from those special special summers when we would come to visit. For every summer that I can remember, when my siblings and I were little, my parents would load us up in our van/suburban after evening dinner and baths, and set out on the 14hr drive to upstate New York, where my mom grew up. Anticipation always ran high; we knew that you and Grandma were waiting at the other end with hugs and kisses and a delicious breakfast upon our arrival. Our visits would be filled with all manner of fun and memories. I also have so many memories from the reunions we'd have with the whole Stoltzfus tribe, every couple of years.

I remember so so many evenings just like this one, pictured above---beautiful evening cookouts on the lawn overlooking the lake, at your old home, where you lived for most of my memories, before moving to the apartment where you died today.

We had so many evenings like this with aunts, uncles, and cousins, when we came to visit. They were the sweetest of times. Games, laughter, and singing. Always singing.

I remember sitting around the breakfast table at your house and looking out the french doors to see this beautiful view of the lake, way down the hill. It was the most beautiful sight. So many delicious meals and sweet fellowship happened at that table overlooking the lake.
I remember the last time I heard you laugh-when we were playing games, last November, in NY. You LOVED this specific game but it definitely wasn't your lucky night and you kept making these hilarious comments about falling further and further behind. I think you were just trying to make yourself feel better about losing rather badly. You had the rest of us in stitches! The later it got, the more we laughed. You always could crack jokes and laugh with the best of them, and you just had the best sense of humor.
I am so so thankful that John brought me to visit you and Grandma last November. It was somewhat of a last-minute trip but it is one that I will treasure always. You were much more frail and weak than the previous time I had seen you, and I knew it might be my last time. When we left to catch our flight to the airport, you told me, "Now, I'll see you here or there, or in the air!" And I think we both knew it would probably not be "here" that we would see each other next. It was a sweet reminder of heaven.
Seeing you meet and love my husband, and accept him right into your huge brood of descendants, warmed my heart so much. You were always so accepting of all the new grandchildren you were gaining by marriages. I know that seeing your grandchildren happy and married was a big joy to you.

I remember calling you in November 2016, to tell you about John, and when I told you that I had "something to tell you", you said, "Hmmm. I'm thinking it might be a boyfriend!" And it was!

When I was in my upper teens/early twenties, I had an apron that said, "Kiss the cook", and you would tease me about that apron, that I should "be careful"wearing an apron like that. =)
And then you'd get that signature twinkle in your eye, and say, "but its okay for ME to kiss the cook" and you'd give me a peck on the cheek. =)
You didn't get to meet my son but he got to tell you goodbye in a little video we recorded and sent on Sunday, your last "responsive" day. My aunt played it on her phone for you and it warms my heart so much that you got to see his little antics and grins, even if through a screen.
I remember the last photo shoot I did with the two of you, the summer of 2016. You would always try to be very serious until grandma would start giggling, and then you'd laugh, too. I think her giggles could always get you going. That third picture describes your love perfectly---you two were so committed to each other. I have a hard time trying to imagine Grandma without you, now.
You loved playing games, and you were always up for a good time with whatever assortment of grandchildren happened to be present. And that's one thing that was never lacking-the grandchildren! There were plenty of those to go around, and around...=)
Your smile in this picture says it all. You just really really REALLY loved your family. I never doubted that for a minute. 
This picture I took of you and Liz, years ago, but I can remember the very same memories from me and you, when I was her age. I was always eager to help you feed your birdies, and you were always thrilled for anyone who wanted to help. I don't think I'll ever forget your little salvaged containers, full of wriggling worms, and the little bags of seeds. You LOVED birds and your "birdies" as you called them, were the most well-fed little flocks around.
This was you, in your element. Even in your retired years, you were always staying busy with projects. Amongst other things, you were:
A master gardener. (my mom got her green thumb from you!) 
An expert bee keeper. (there was always plenty of fresh honey at your house and I remember the little honey bears that always were well stocked on the table)
A lover of birds and nature. (you knew so many birds by name and type and you loved the beauty of God's creation)
A man gifted with his hands. (you caned chairs beautifully, and loved working on various other projects)
A lover of music. (harmonica was your instrument and you loved to play! You also loved to listen to music and sing with your family. Again, I'd say my mom got her voice and love of music straight from you!)
As I mentioned before, some of the greatest memories I have with you involved a big crowd of family and lots of good food. With grandparents like you and Grandpa, I came by my "foodie status" quite naturally. You were both amazing in the food department--you would grow it and grandma would "fix" it, and what a team you were!
I found this picture today, Grandpa, and I couldn't stop staring at it. I loved your smile, and I loved your laugh. You were truly one of the most happy and contented souls I knew. Yours hadn't exactly always been an easy life, and you didn't have much in the way of earthly treasures, but you knew what was really important, and you lived like it. Jesus and family were your priorities. 
My mama doesn't have a lazy bone in her body, and she got that work ethic from you. You knew how to rest, yes, but you were a hard worker and a faithful provider.

There are so many more memories I could share, and so many special pictures from my "younger years" of memories. I remember long walks on the winding road behind your house. I remember rides in the little red wagon. I remember going with you to feed and play with a batch of squealing puppies that you raised to sell. I remember standing at a distance to watch you work your bee hives. I remember going with you to the garden, scissors and bowls in hand, to collect all manner of yummy produce-radishes, lettuce, and carrots, among many others. I remember Sunday mornings attending your church. I remember our big Stoltzfus reunions where you and Grandma were always the center, sitting and watching and just loving being there with all of us.
And that's not even to mention the memories from the times you would make the long trek to Iowa to come visit us.
All those sweet memories. I didn't know it then, but I know it now---those were the GOLDEN days.

And the legacy you left? Oh my. Words really fail me to describe it. You raised a family for Jesus, and you passed on the message of the Gospel and the principles of truth.
All nine of your children love and know Jesus. WHAT A GIFT that is, just that!
I had to look on the most recent "Stoltzfus Family List" for the current family stats, and even those aren't totally up to date---there are already a number more great grandbabies on the way and grandchildren dating/engaged, just since April 2019.
But as of April 2019 our Stoltzfus tribe numbered 132 people, just from you and Grandma.
That is faithfulness and FRUIT!
Most of all, you were a man of the Word. You knew Jesus. And time with Him was always your top priority. When we were visiting you in the summers, I remember waking up and coming out to the living room to find you sitting in your chair, reading your Bible. Afternoons after lunch would often find you back in the same spot. God's Word and old hymns of the faith were your staples. 

Every morning after breakfast was always family devotions. Our Daily Bread and your Bible and time in prayer. You prayed for all of your children and grandchildren every day. I remember one of the more recent times that I heard you praying and it struck me what a gift that was. I had always kind of taken it for granted. But hearing you pray specifically over each of your children and their families, and the way you mentioned, by name, specific requests or grandchildren on the mission field, etc, blew me away and brought tears to my eyes as I realized what a TREASURE I had in having a grandpa who prayed for me.
I love you, Grandpa. I miss you more than words can ever say. You were so much more than just a Grandpa---you were a hero, a spiritual giant, a living legacy. The impact of your life lives on every day in each of your descendants, and I thank Jesus that I had the honor and the privilege to know you for my twenty-eight years of life.

I'll end this with your favorite hymn-the one you would request your children to sing, at every family reunion, and the one that I am sure we will sing at your celebration of life this Saturday.


Precious memories, unseen angels, sent from somewhere to my soul
How they linger, ever near me, and the sacred past unfold.

Precious father, loving mother, fly across the lonely years
And old home scenes, of my childhood, in fond memory appear.

In the stillness, of the midnight, echoes from the past I hear
Old-time singing, gladness bringing, from that lovely land somewhere.

As I travel, on life's pathway, know not what the years may hold
As I ponder, hope grows fonder, precious memories flood my soul.

Precious memories, how they linger, how they ever flood my soul
In the stillness, of the midnight, precious sacred scenes unfold. 

Grandpa, I love you---and I'll see you again!


  1. This is beautiful Chels! And brought tears to my eyes. Hugs❤

  2. A beautiful tribute Chelsy.

  3. This is so beautiful. I'm very sorry to hear the passing of your grandfather. What a legacy he has left behind. Praying for peace for your entire family during this difficult time. I'm sure it's a great comfort knowing he is safe in our Father's arms!

  4. Chelsy-
    I am so sorry! I lost my dog in April, and that was so hard. I can only imagine that losing a grandparent is so much harder! This is a beautiful tribute!
    I will be praying for you and your family.
    But What a blessing to know that he is in heaven, and that you will see him again!

  5. Beautiful! A life lived for the Lord Jesus and family is a life so well lived!! Praying for you and yours as you remember your dear Grandpa.


  6. I'm so very sorry for your loss. What a beautiful tribute you have written. May you be greatly comforted in the Savior's love.

  7. This is so perfect. Thanks for taking the time to put this tribute together for our grandpa.

  8. Sorry to hear about your loss. May your grandpa rest in peace. Prayers for you and your family that you can take comfort in your cherished memories. God Bless.
    Joan,Marion and Marilyn

  9. What a precious tribute! He lived a life for the Lord and was the hands and feet of Jesus on earth and is now at the feet of Jesus in Heaven? Well done my faithful servant! It so comforting to know we will see our loved ones again...because of our salvation in Jesus! My prayers are with you all!!!

  10. Oh, Chelsy! I'm so sorry to hear about your grandpa's passing! But what a joy and comfort it is to know this isn't the end; you will see him again. A beautiful tribute to such a godly man. ❤️❤️

  11. Dear Chelsy, thanks for writing this beautiful tribute to my dear father. As I sit in his garage while reading this, through my tears I see his garden coat and hats, the mostly organic sprays & fertilizers that he faithfully applied to his plants, brushes and a sink for washing produce from his gardens, and a wheelchair that he used a very small number of times between weeks of “I don’t need a walker or wheelchair” (in spite of tremendous pain and weakness in his legs) and his last few days that he spent in bed because his legs wouldn’t cooperate with his determination and courage.
    Yes, his absence brings so much pain to his much loved family but also joy because we have these sweet memories plus the assurance of his eternal life with Jesus.
    Love you. Mother

  12. Oh, what a touching tribute! He sounded like such a Godly, sweet, kind man. I am SO sorry for your deep loss, and you and your entire family have my deepest sympathy.

  13. I cried reading this, it sounds like he was wonderful man! I lost my grandma to cancer about 6 years ago, it is so hard.

  14. This is so beautiful, Chelsy! It brought tears to my eyes. Praying for you and all you family during this time of loss.

  15. Chelsy, this is beautiful. My grandpa also passed away this past week, and nearly everything you said could be said about him as well. He loved the Lord, and he loved his family. I miss him so much, but it truly is a blessing to know that we will see them again in the air. Praying for your family as you grow closer to each other and to the Lord during this time. Blessings, Mary

  16. What a lovely tribute may your memories comfort you and your family.

  17. I have been following your blog for a while now and this post really spoke to me. The memories of your grandfather reminded me so much of visiting my own grandparents in Iowa when I was little. My grandfather was a pastor for the Assembly of God, and I remember seeing him reading his Bible in the mornings the same way you remember your grandfather. I still miss him so much, as I know you will miss your grandpa Stolzfus and make sure that your little boy hears your memories of him and knows what a great man he had for a great-grandpa.


  18. Such a beautiful tribute! It brought tears to my eyes as today is the three week mark since the death of a student I taught for two terms. The pain of death is very real, but God is faithful in healing our pain and we are thankful for the precious memories we have! God bless you and your family!

  19. Hi Chelsy! Although I have never met you personally, I have followed this blog and your family's blog for quite some time. I will be praying for your family in the days ahead. Two years ago, to the day, I lost my dear grandfather. This post brought back so many good memories for me ❤ I too fondly remember my grandfather praying for each of his children and grandchildren by name every time he prayed. When he passed away my brother and I looked at each other and said, "Yes, we lost a grandfather, but you know what we really lost a great prayer warrior." Thank you so much for sharing this piece of your heart.

  20. Praying for you and your family Chelsy. October 1st marked the 30th anniversary of my mom's death. She was only 47 so never got to meet any of her grandchildren. You have been blessed with an amazing heritage!

  21. Dear chelsy.. just want to send you my love and a huge hug.. losing loved ones is never easy, but oh so beautiful when we know where they are going! My grandma passed away last year.. she did not have jesus in her heart and that was crushing to me.. praying for you in this hard time❤

  22. Chelsy, are you related to Julian Stolzfus?

    1. Yes, he is my cousin!
      His dad and my mom are siblings.

    2. Wow, that's super cool!! Julian and Ruthie (and little Corin of course) were just at our place (in Maine) a couple weeks ago. Julian was speaking at our youth retreat!
      I had to ask because Julian mentioned how he had just been in New York for his Grandpa Stolzfus' funeral, and somehow it seemed like these two stories should be connected! ;)
      Thanks for answering a question from a stranger. :)
      -- Susanna

    3. That is so crazy! What a small world!
      I got to meet Ruthie + Corin for the first time at the funeral.
      Thanks for checking in and asking-I always find it fun to make connections like this. =)


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