Thursday, January 26, 2012

Grandpa Ozinga's Funeral

These were two hard days.  Grandpa's visitation/viewing was yesterday, and today was the funeral.  Isaac especially was bombarded with a sea of faces he'd never seen-great-aunts and uncles, second and third cousins and the like.  I think he felt like he should've known who they were, and felt bad that he didn't, but that's part of it.  I rather enjoyed meeting Isaac's cousins that hadn't made it to our wedding, but the circumstances sure have made it hard. 

Isaac and Jacob typed up memories of Grandpa for me to read today during the eulogy portion of the funeral.  How do you wrap up a man like Grandpa into just a few words?

Grandpa loved Jesus first and foremost.  The boys don't remember ever hearing about a morning in which Grandpa didn't begin the day by making coffee for Grandma and sitting down at the kitchen table to lead them in morning devotions.  He moved his family, wife and three kids at the time, to Liberia in 1952, long before many people ever wanted to go to such a 'dangerous' place to be missionaries.  He fell in love with the Liberian people and worked hard to build a school for the village and teacher them sustainable farming practices.  Isaac's dad was born during their years in Liberia, and he totally grew up as an African kid. 

When political issues necessitated the return of the Ozingas back to Michigan, Grandpa quickly did what was needed to be certified to teach in his home state.  He taught history for nearly 30 years.  Grandpa was in a tough inner-city school, but he made sure his kids knew he cared about them and tried to make history exciting, back before we had the internet and cool videos to help us with that.  Some of his former students even left notes about how much he meant to them in the online visitor's book the funeral home provided.  Grandpa was always trying to teach the grandkids about history, relating it to things of interest to them. 

Space exploration intrigued Grandpa, especially from a historical viewpoint.  He was so stinkin' proud that Isaac interned with and was hired by NASA.  He drove around Michigan and their winter home in Florida with a NASA logo stuck to the back of his car.  He talked about his grandson who worked at NASA a lot!  Grandpa was one of Isaac's biggest supporters and encouragers when it came to applying for the astronaut corps someday.  Help us, Grandpa's death probably just means my dear husband will fight even harder to get accepted.  :)  Isaac's dad made sure that Grandpa's NASA lapel pin was lovingly in place on his suit coat for the viewing and funeral.  Grandpa would've been tickled pink to know he was proudly wearing that pin for all to say goodbye to him. 

The more I've learned about Grandpa this week, I've realized two things.  First, it's incredibly ironic and not so very surprising that Isaac chose me to marry.  Few people are more fascinated by history than me, but Grandpa was probably one of them.  Then, the bond with Isaac's family and Africa runs as deep as it does in my family.  The overwhelming, burning, fierce desire to be a place half a world a way is breathtaking most days.  I won't say that Isaac necessarily sees Grandpa in me; that would be weird, but I think he was comfortable with my boldness because he grew up seeing it in a man he adored.  For me to join into a family deeply rooted in Africa fits just as nicely as it does for Isaac doing the same with my family.  In other words, we're seeing how God has had His hand in this for many, many years. 

The second thing I've learned is that Grandpa left big shoes to fill.  He left his kids and grandkids a legacy that won't die because he instilled so much of himself into them.  It's not going to surprise me one bit when Isaac is named to the astronaut corps.  The man has more determination now than ever, and Grandpa has helped with that.  I think Grandpa has also lit a fire for Africa in Isaac for which I'm incredibly grateful.  The money isn't together yet, but Isaac's as determined as I am for us to get to Zambia together, and I can't wait. 

Thank You, Jesus for such an awesome man to teach so many about You!

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