Blogs - The President's Desk
February 08, 2013
Lessons Learned from a Great Man
I just returned with my family from the funeral of my last surviving grandparent, Roy L. Myers. I was very proud of my grandfather, active, thinking, funny, and a bright spot in people’s lives up to the very end. He leaves behind the “clan” of which he was so proud: his two sons, seven grandchildren and their spouses, and fourteen great grandchildren.
My grandfather was a veteran of World War II. One of the Greatest Generation. I had the honor of delivering his eulogy at the funeral. I wanted to share it with you because it brings up themes we should be thinking deeply about, and acting on, in our times.
Eulogy for Roy L. Myers, December 29, 1921-February 3, 2013. Delivered February 7, 2013
I’m Jeff Myers. Roy Myers was my grandfather. I called him “Grampy.” I’m not sure who came up with that. Someone heard me once and thought I said “Grumpy.” That would not have been a good name for someone who loved joking and had perfected the art of light-hearted sarcasm. His names for me were numerous including “Peanut” and “Dingleberry.” I didn’t figure out what a dingleberry was until I was in high school.
When I was thinking about what to say, I remembered my favorite books of the Bible, the book of Esther. I think it could be a strong connection but it seemed odd at first, so hang with me. Esther was a called to a foreign country as a young person to confront a tyrant and save Jewish people from destruction. In some ways it was a similar mission to what my grandfather had during World War II.
But Esther’s mission was complete and she was still very young. I always wondered, “What did she do then?” What do you do when the most heroic thing you will ever do is finished and you’re still very young? After observing my grandfather and his generation, I think I know the answer. Millions went off to war. Many didn’t come back. Those who did come back asked nothing but the opportunity to work hard, raise families and make this country the greatest in the world.
It was not any one of them who did this. Each by doing what was right for his family mustered a tide that could not be turned back. Maybe this is why we call them the greatest generation. There were at least four things I learned from my grandfather:
- The value of hard work and ingenuity. You hadn’t really worked hard until you had worked for my grandfather. I remember one summer my job was to clean out a warehouse. It must have been 120 degrees in there. My job was to clean it up and haul everything away to the junk yard. To do this we had a 1948 Chevy dump truck. To my grandfather it was practically new. It didn’t have a starter, though. I asked Grampy what to do. He told me to put it on a hill, roll it down, and pop the clutch. This was in Kansas — there are no hills. Undeterred, he said, “Well, call Morris and have him pull you to a start, then when you get to the dump there’s a hill. You can park it going downhill and pop the clutch and you’ll be good to go.” It all worked great until I got to the dump and realized the truck had no emergency brake either. It must have been great comedy seeing me park on a hill, jump out before the truck started rolling, chock it, and do all of this in a way that the dumper would still work. But that’s the way it worked. Grampy didn’t feel sorry for me. He had been driving trucks since before he was a teenager. He didn’t try to make it easy or tell me how to do the job. Being resourceful was part of his expectation.
- The value of reading. And learning and teaching. My grandfather had a great library. I had never seen such a library in someone’s house. When others were playing games or watching football I would sneak in there and grab a book. It inspired a lifelong desire to read. My grandfather preached right up until the end of his life. Maybe he wasn’t so much a preacher as much as someone who naturally thought others would find inspirational the things he found inspirational. I’m like that too. When someone like that learns something he thinks is fascinating, he can’t not share it. He’ll preach to you whether you want to be preached to or not. I find myself following in his footsteps in this way almost every day.
- The value of exploration and travel. My grandfather and grandmother went all over the world. Their tales of adventure sparked something in me. I’ve been all over the world now, sometimes following in their footsteps. I love his attitude — there’s a lot to see out there. Get going!
- The value of marriage. My grandfather and grandmother were married for 66 years before my grandmother passed away. They were not just a husband and wife. They were constant companions. For most of their lives they not only lived together, they worked side by side. There should probably be a psychology book written about them — about how they managed to work in adjacent offices all those decades without killing each other. It inspired me to see my relationship with Danielle as a partnership in every area of life.
I want you to take your program and look at the picture on the front, of my grandfather as a young man. He’s wearing his uniform. It must have been after the war because you can see his four battle stars. He would have been 23 years of age then. One time my grandfather shared with me his responsibilities coming into Normandy the day after D-Day. It was his job to offload ships. Not carrying things off in his arms, but take responsibility to get hundreds of thousands of tons of war material to the front.
It’s incredible that a young man would have been given, and would have taken, that kind of responsibility. Today we hardly expect kids that age to feed themselves. That’s the legacy of my grandfather I want to keep, to raise up a generation that will be faithful, hard-working, responsible, wise, and always committed to do what is right.
Micah 2:10 says “Arise and go — for this is no place to rest.” I know we’ve all felt that way about life here on earth. The time will come for each of us. Until it does, history does not ask of us to be successful, but it does demand of us that we never give up. This is what I hear my grandfather saying to me: You’re a Myers. Be faithful. Be wise. Do your best. Leave the results to God.