I read this at the memorial service for Alvin Goerzen on March 23, 2005.
For us grandchildren, our earliest memories of Grandpa are of visiting
him at his farm. It was always fun to be there. Family gatherings
were usually there, and he always made delicious food. Peter, James,
and I remember the Zwiebach, borscht, and monster cookies the most.
If any of these things were ever missing from a meal, I’d be
disappointed, even though the food was still great.
The family usually was at Grandpa’s place for Christmas. Grandpa’s
tree had the wheat-weaving ornaments that Grandma Goerzen made. I
don’t remember her, but I always admired those ornaments.
After dinner, we’d have our gift exchange. We’d all get our Christmas
presents, and then after it was all over, Grandpa would get a sly
smile and a little twinkle in his eye. He had “extra” presents for
each of us grandkids every year. No matter how nice the other
presents were, Grandpa’s always seemed extra special.
There were lots of things to do at Grandpa’s place. He kept toy
tractors and vehicles in a closet off his living room. They were
probably 30 years old, but they still worked fine. He also had a
large supply of board games. But the most unique thing was his air
hockey table. It was always great fun to play a game of air hockey
We have lots of memories of Grandpa’s yard and farm, too. The yard
was always good for exploring — an old implement here or there, or an
old vehicle. Or maybe some wasps if you look in the wrong place. I
never got stung, but I still remember what places to avoid because of
wasps or bees.
I remember the day I was exploring behind some buildings and found an
old John Deere tractor. I had heard people talk about this tractor,
but I couldn’t remember ever seeing it before. It seemed almost like
a legend to me, and I was quite excited to actually find it.
Grandpa’s creek at the edge of his pasture was good for fishing and
camping. The cows didn’t seem to mind the visitors, and sometimes
came surprisingly close.
Grandpa liked to be a bit of a tease. He’d greet us with “Hi, Skeezix”
when we’d arrive at his place, and he often called me Hanschen.
Grandpa was always interested in our lives. He was at all our school
concerts, recitals, and plays. Last fall, Terah had been sick, and
just as she was getting better, Grandpa was taken to intensive care.
We visited him there, and it was the first time he had seen Terah
since she was sick.
Grandpa looked asleep when we got there. Terah said “hi” and started
to ask him how he was doing. He immediately interrupted her. In the
strongest voice I heard from him in quite awhile, he said, “Terah, how
are you?” Grandpa refused discuss how he was doing until he was
completely sure that Terah was OK. It’s a special feeling to know how
deeply he cared about us.
Grandpa always wanted visitors, even when his illnesses made it
difficult. Terah and I often visited him after church on Sundays. He
wanted to know how we were doing, what happened in church, and might
tell us how he was doing if we asked. He sure wouldn’t say anything
if he thought it might interfere with hearing about us, though.
Sometimes, it was difficult for him to talk, but every time, he made
sure to say thank you for visiting. That made us feel special, too.
Terah remembers another hospital visit. Even though Grandpa looked
asleep, she held his hand and talked to him for awhile. When she said
goodbye, Grandpa managed to open his eyes for a moment and thank her
Last Thursday, Terah visited Grandpa at Bethesda. She called me at
work to tell me that Grandpa didn’t say “thank you”. She didn’t have
to tell me what that meant.
We hurried back to Bethesda that evening. Grandpa was still not doing
well. He said a few words when we got there, but by the end of our
visit, he was too tired to thank us for visiting.
That time, I was the one that said “thank you”. I thanked him for
letting us visit him so many times. He brightened all our lives.