“A man who says he’s not afraid of anything is either lying or he’s a fool. A brave man is a man who’s afraid, but does what he needs to do anyway.” This statement is more or less the definition of bravery I’ve carried with me my entire life. I didn’t have to wait for it until I was an adult and read almost the exact same thing in Aristotle’s Ethics. I heard this statement over and over again from the bravest man I’ve ever known: my granddad, Clyde Sarver.
October 2, 1935 - July 17, 2014
Last Thursday, Granddad, passed away at the age of 78 after a year of increasingly deteriorating health. He wasn’t afraid of death at all; he was ready to go whenever it was his time. But he was afraid about what would happen to all the people he left behind. You see, Granddad was a worker, and even up to the last few months he did everything he could for other people. I held his hand in the hospital three weeks before he died and told him not to be afraid for us. If he needed to go, if God was calling him home, we would be okay. And so he did go, when it was time; and so those of us who were touched by him during his life are trying our best to be okay.
Granddad had an interesting life. He was, at various times, a farmhand, a cook, a prison guard, and a security officer. He was a helicopter mechanic in the Army, and flew to
Camp David and other presidential places under Eisenhower. He was stationed in Germany
and then in Korea.
He left the service just before deployment to Vietnam,
giving up a big promotion in the process, in order to care for his two
children, my uncle and my mom, in the wake of his wife’s death.
|Granddad toasting |
my lovey bride and
me at our wedding.
For me, he was one of the best friends a kid could have. I remember shooting my first gun at his house, picking beans in his huge garden, going with him and my great-uncles to cut wood up in the mountains, and fishing with him in the creek. I remember riding with him to pick up his paycheck at the prison every month and stopping on the way to buy some horehound candy for the receptionist at the payroll office there, because they were her favorite. I remember the lowback Pointer brand bibs he wore, and the smell of his truck: freshly cut wood and tobacco. I remember how he made the best sausage gravy ever, and how he would always cook something for my sister when she was being a picky eater. I remember all the times I spent the night at his house; we would play poker and checkers at the kitchen table (I never in my life beat him at checkers), and then at night he would make shadow puppets on the wall and tell stories. He had the gift of storytelling, one of the best gifts a human being can give another. I was endlessly fascinated by stories of his time in the Army and the jobs he did here and there, of the pranks he and his friend Lloyd pulled when they were kids (dropping dynamite in an outhouse among other things), and of the countless ghost stories and local legends he knew. He was always there with good lessons and good advice. He was also the best man at my wedding.
But of course, these are just the things he was to me. To everyone, he was a courageous person who would stick his neck out for others even when there was no benefit for him. I saw him going and doing for anyone who needed anything, even if it was a person he didn’t particularly get along with. He was a hard worker by disposition, and disliked nothing so much as laziness. He was an avid reader, a lifetime learner, and was always ready to try new things. He loved to tell and hear jokes. He was young at heart even when many younger people around him grew old. And in the end, he was an amazing example of faith, holding firm to Jesus in his dying hours when he was in the most pain and suffering.
|Granddad with a new toy.|
I wish I hadn’t waited so long to learn from all of his lessons. I wish I had been a harder worker when I was younger, had been a braver person sooner. But I can’t deny that who I am now and who I continue to become will forever be shaped by Granddad’s example; he’s still my hero. In a thousand little ways every day, it feels like something is missing, like the world is impoverished somehow now that Granddad is no longer in it. But what he left behind for those who knew him is a legacy that will continue to be felt for generations. To paraphrase Shakespeare, “Here was a man! When comes such another?”
|Life Lesson Number 37:|
Who needs teeth, anyway?