A Final Gift From Grandpa

By preplanning his funeral, Kathy’s grandfather took care of his family right to the end.

Kathy Grahn considers herself to be pretty lucky. While many people might only see their grandparents on holidays or the occasional weekend, she was able to visit hers almost every day growing up in small-town Stayton, Ore. As a matter of fact, her grandparents, Harold and Grace, lived just down the street and were a part of her daily life. She forged a special relationship with them that’s never diminished.

Grace was a teacher – Kathy’s second grade teacher at Stayton Elementary, in fact – and Harold was a carpenter who would take time out from projects in his workshop to have lunch and watch episodes of “Perry Mason” with his young granddaughter.

In the summer, Kathy would go camping with them and learned plenty of family history, including Harold’s stories of growing up on the farm in South Dakota. Later, when her parents relocated to Colorado, Kathy moved in with her grandparents so that she could finish up her senior year at the same high school.

“They were really a second set of parents to me,” she said. “I was very close to them and felt like I had a closer relationship with them than the average person does with their grandparents.”

One day, though, everything changed for Kathy when Harold was diagnosed with terminal cancer.

“Grandpa was always thoughtful, he never wanted to be a burden for anyone, and it really did speak to his character that he preplanned.”

At 96 years old, he decided that instead of aggressive treatment, he was simply going to live out the rest of his days as comfortably as he could, at home, surrounded by friends and family. Kathy stayed with her grandparents during his final week and was by her grandfather’s side when he died peacefully in his own bed.

While Harold’s passing was a devastating blow to Kathy and her family, they were touched to learn that he had preplanned his final wishes at the local funeral home. When she accompanied her mom and grandmother to the mortuary Kathy said she was stunned by how little work there was left to be done. Her grandpa had preplanned almost everything for his funeral.

In less than an hour, the arrangements were finalized. Instead of worrying and, perhaps, arguing about all the details Harold might have wanted for his service, she and her family were able to focus on what was truly important – being together to remember the life of the man they all loved so dearly.

“He got to say what he wanted without it being open to interpretation,” she said. “It was just decided and that was a great relief.”

By preplanning his funeral, Harold gave his family a final gift – peace of mind.

“My grandpa always planned things,” Kathy said. “He was always thoughtful, he never wanted to be a burden for anyone, and it really did speak to his character that he preplanned.”

“It fit him. He was the type of person to always take care of everyone and everything, and he did that right to the end.”

Prior to her grandfather’s passing, Kathy said she was only vaguely aware of what it meant to prearrange a funeral. She knew that her grandfather had organized some of the details of his service, but she never imagined how much his decision would benefit her and her family.

“It was a really easy experience, all things considered,” she said. “I got to see first-hand how helpful it was for grandma. Knowing that she didn’t have to suffer through some sort of process was a wonderful benefit.”

Though just 46, Kathy said her experience with preplanning has left a lasting impact on her. In fact, she and her husband are now talking about organizing their own final wishes.

“There’s a side of you that thinks ‘oh, it’s so far off,’ – I mean my grandfather was 96 – but as we know, things happen and it’s better to think about it now,” she said. “Preplanning takes the burden off of your family.”

Harold’s passing is still an emotional memory for her, but Kathy’s relationship with her 97-year-old grandmother, Grace, has never been stronger. They don’t live on the same street anymore, but the two still talk nearly every day and Kathy said she continues to be inspired by her grandmother’s optimism.

“She always looks to what’s good about today and what can you be thankful for today,” Kathy said. “I really admire that about her. Embracing everyday and not dwelling about what you could be upset about. Grandpa was a lot like that too.”

What’s Your Story?

Have you already made your arrangements, or benefitted from a loved one who did? Share your experiences with our community and help others take the first steps toward peace of mind. We’d love to add your story to our library of true testimonials on the importance of preplanning.

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