Friday, July 23, 2010

Celebrating Grandpa

One of the wonderful benefits of marriage is gaining a whole new family. When I became a Hefft nine years ago, not only did I gain a husband, but I also gained new parents, grandparents, siblings, aunts, uncles, and cousins. All of them welcomed me with open arms, a blessing I don't take for granted.

One of those new family members was Howard Eppler, Paul's maternal grandfather. I knew who Howard was for a long time before I started dating his grandson. He and Virgina attended my home church, always seated in the right center section of the auditorium every Sunday, three or four rows from the front. When Paul and I started dating, I got to know Grandpa and Grandma Eppler better. We had dinner at their house several times. We talked more at church. Their acceptance and love for me was instantaneous. Howard and Virgina became my grandparents, and I became their granddaughter.

On Saturday, July 17, at 9:45pm Grandpa graduated to his heavenly home after struggling with failing health for several years. Tomorrow, family and friends will be gathering in Kansas City, Missouri, to celebrate his life and lay his body to rest.

Unfortunately, we won't be physically present at the funeral (although one of our cousin's is working on setting up a Skype call so we can see and hear the service!), so I wanted to share some of my favorite memories of the man we were blessed to call our grandfather.

Our first date. No, not for Paul and me, for me and Grandpa. The spring before Paul and I were married, Grandpa Eppler asked me if I would accompany him to a Calvary Bible College banquet, since Grandma Eppler was ill in the hospital. I thought it was sweet that he would ask me to join him. He even brought me a flower. Another sweet memory from that night: during the banquet he got a call from Grandma saying she wasn't feeling well. He quickly and politely ditched me, and sped to his wife's side. His love and concern for her was so evident.

The way he said my name. I'll never forget the way he would smile and greet me with a hearty, "Hi, Mel!" whenever I would arrive. He always seemed happy to see me.

Watching him with my kids.
I'm so glad Josiah and Anna had the chance to get to know their great-grandfather. They always loved to go next door and "visit" Grandpa and Grandma Eppler whenever we were staying with Mom and Dad Hefft in Arizona.

Josiah in "Grandpa's bike"

Grandpa holding Anna for the first time

Kansas City Chiefs. Grandpa liked football, especially the Kansas City Chiefs. Even after he moved to Arizona, Grandpa still kept up with Chiefs' games. I'll never forget the day, I walked into his apartment and there he sat, eating a bag of chips and watching an old game from the early 90s. It made me smile.
Bonding with our brother-in-law, Ben, as they watched Chiefs stats being posted live on the internet while we celebrated Christmas at our house in Dallas in 2007.

His amazing memory. I'm fairly detail oriented, but Grandpa Eppler gave the term a whole new meaning. When he told a story, you always got dates, times, locations...everything.

Listening to him pray. Howard Eppler was a prayer warrior. Several times while I was in Arizona, I had the opportunity to "eavesdrop" on Grandpa and Grandma Eppler as they sat together after breakfast to read the Bible and pray. I heard him pray in detail for each of their children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Then, he went through recent missionary prayer letters and lifted up those requests to the Lord. Praise God they were on our prayer team. His prayers for us will be missed!

The last time we saw him. I'll never forget the last time we saw him on this earth. Our family gathered together in their little apartment in Arizona, and Grandpa prayed over us. Then we took a family picture, hugged, and said our goodbyes, not knowing if we would see each other again on this side of heaven. One month later, our family would get on an airplane and fly here to Tanzania, where we would begin assisting the work of Bible translation. A veteran missionary, Grandpa was passionate about world missions, and he had even spent 10 years serving in our particular organization, so I know he was excited about what we were going off to do.

Even though we wish we could be with family this weekend as they celebrate Grandpa Eppler's life, we know he would rather we stay here in Tanzania and continue the work of advancing the Gospel. We're proud to do what we can carry on his legacy of serving our Lord and Savior.

Thank you, Grandpa, for the example you set before us. We love you! You'll be missed!


  1. Great blog about Paul's grandpa. The memory part reminded my of my grandma. When she would tell her "sea stories" of being in the Navy she would tell you who she was with, where, what she was wearing, and what they ate from a story during WWII. I usually don't remember what I ate the night before! :)

  2. We are there with you in prayers, having just experienced this exact same thing when we were in Ireland.