When I was in college I worked in the library in the reference section. One day I stumbled upon a book about English Surnames. I looked our family's name and there it was, a brief history and a big fancy family crest. It said most people with the last name Denman could trace our family history back to a Baron in England. The crest had a motto, Prudentia et Constantia which means By Prudence and Constancy. In the dictionary the words mean to be Prudent or Wise in practical matters and Constancy is to have the quality of being unchanging or unwavering, as in purpose, love or loyalty; firmness of mind; faithfulness.These seem to sum up Grandpa without him ever knowing this family motto.
Grandpa was a wise man, I don't know how or where he acquired his wisdom but it was apparent when we needed it the most. The first example I can think of this was as a boy seeing Grandpa lead our church service on occasion when the pastor was gone. I can recall his calm steady faithful voice leading the family in prayer before a holiday meal, oh how i wanted to be able to pray like that.
I remember talking to Grandpa after I came home for Christmas the year Grandma passed away, and I had seen how much my Dad missed her, but Grandpa calmly and as a matter of fact stated he had a long talk with God and he was fine Grandma's passing. I however was not. I had gone to training for my job, 6 months in Southeastern Georgia and I was stuck there at the time Grandma passed. It would be so expensive to fly back on such short notice and the thought of missing more than the allowable days would mean I would have to start the training over and I didn't know if they would let me. So I stayed there in Georgia, while my family laid her to rest. It is something to this day I still feel guilty about, something that I shouldn't have missed. After the funeral I received a copy of funeral program and copies of what Jerry, Dad and Cindy read at her service. Every year I take it out on January 31st, her birthday to honor and remember her. Why do I tell you that today when I should be talking about Grandpa? In 2005 Grandpa was on one of his cross country trips, and in January of that year he came and visited Sandy and myself. Grandpa stayed with his family members for usually about a week, wasn't much trouble just needed a place to stay, maybe an egg and toast for breakfast and just some of our time. The week he was there with us included January 31st. Grandpa and I talked about Grandma and shared stories about this wonderful woman. Grandpa didn't know it, but that helped me so much to let go to some of that guilt. I wish I had had a chance to thank him for how much that meant to me, and how it helped heal my heart. Sometimes God doesn't send Angles, rather he sends somebody into your life at just the right time, just when you need it the most. That was why Grandpa was there for me.
Grandpa was a model of consistency, for years many things about him never changed. His clothes, which always consisted of cowboy boots, cowboy hats, bolo ties and western suits. I loved those outfits! Grandpa was always riding his motorcycle in the warmer months He still rode it when he was 84. I'll never forget the picture of Grandpa, Dad and Jory all on their motorcycles. Prior to Grandma's stroke, every summer off the two of them went to go camping, attached to the back were their matching bikes. All of the Grandkids got to go camping with them, Craig and Jory probably went the most. Grandpa was always working on different carpentry projects, anywhere from adding more trim around his house to helping build my parents house. When he got older he moved into management of these project, allowing his kids to do the project with the grandkids and just looking the entire project over and giving it the Norman seal of approval, right Dad? Every Christmas Eve, the annual tradition of eating oyster stew commences, if you can call warmed whole milk, butter and oysters a stew. All i know is that every Christmas Eve you would see Grandpa, Jerry, Dad and Cindy sweating profusely as they ate bowl after bowl full.
Consistently Grandpa was there to give you a big smile and a hearty hug, that never changed in 40 plus years I knew him.
I was looking over what was read at Grandma's funeral and there is a small story that Cindy shared about how she and Grandma had been to a funeral and a family member of the deceased spoke and Cindy said she didn't know if she could do something like that. Grandma just looked at her and said, you could. So when the three kids planned for her funeral Cindy spoke up and informed the boys that she had to speak. That story has been locked in my brain since I first read it. When my Grandma Harms passed away I knew I had to speak. And it wasn't even a question if I was going to speak today. I am the oldest Grandchild, I feel its my duty to help lead the grandkids in our celebration of Grandpa.
The family has received an number of thoughtful comments regarding Grandpa, how nice of a man he was, how they loved that twinkle in his eye, and how they have such wonderful memories of him. That made me think of something Jerry said during Grandma's service. Jerry read, Never again will we see the twinkle and love in her eyes; but forever we will feel the love she left in our hearts. That exact quote applies to Grandpa as well. Sunday was Father's Day and I got this little gift bag with a couple little cards with bible verses on it, a bookmark, and a mint. The bookmark shows the word Fathers on it, and has a verse on it,
Proverbs 22:6, Train up a child in the way he should go; and when he is old, he will not depart from it.
There is a song called "Things My Father Said" and it echoes this same thought, the first verse includes:
The things my father said would make me a better man,
hard work and the love of friends, a woman that understands.
I hope my father knows the seeds we've sewn still grow,
At night I go to sleep and pray he's watching over me"
As you look at his three children and their spouses, eight grandchildren and 4 spouses, 12 great-grandchildren and one step great-grandchild, you can see that Grandpa taught us the way to go and his words were taken to heart.
During these last few weeks Grandpa had failing health, including trips to the DeSmet and Sioux Falls hospitals. He thankfully made it back to DeSmet nursing home in time where we were able to celebrate his 90th birthday with as many family members as that room could hold. In that same Father's day bag on sunday was another card that had this verse on it:
Psalm 73:26 My health may fail, and my spirit may grow weak, but God remains the strength of my heart; He is mine forever.
I know today is filled with tears, but some are from us saying our earthly goodbyes to a man that was called Dad, Grandpa, Great-Grandpa, brother, neighbor, and friend. The rest are tears of joy we share for we know that Grandpa is now in heaven with our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ. We also know there was a beautiful reunion with his beloved wife of 56 years, Grandma Marg Denman. I am sure they have the camper all set up, and are off on their bikes around the campground once again. We love and miss you Grandpa!