My Opa died September 2. 

He would have been 95 on September 7. We had planned a birthday party for September 10, and since the family was already going to be together, the decision was made to make it a memorial luncheon.

It was a nice gathering. My brother made a beautiful box for Opa’s ashes. We enjoyed the company of each other. Wished Opa a happy birthday. But that was it. 

I need a service.

I need to hear what people outside the family remember and love about this man who was larger than life to me for so long.

And I need a song.

So, this is my attempt to have a service for my Opa.

Growing up, Opa came to see us maybe twice a year. He was exotic, and it was always exciting when he was coming. There was a time when he had a little camper and parked it in the back yard. I was fascinated by the original tiny house. He lived in Europe for part of my childhood and had extensive travel experience. The gifts he brought always seemed quite extravagant.

But one of my favorite things was trying to learn Dutch from him. I was not successful. I think mess means knife.

I was an adult before I knew anything about Opa’s amazing past. He was taken off a train by Nazis in occupied Netherlands, forced to work in a plant in Germany, escaped, joined the Dutch resistance, became a Dutch Marine, trained in the United States, met my grandmother.

 I was always proud to say that my grandfather was a naturalized citizen who had taken hold of the American opportunity and worked hard. I thought it made me special that I was second generation on that side of the family.

But it is also as an adult that I appreciate this man who, quite honestly, somewhat intimidated the me child. He had a sense of humor that I can still smile about. One of our last conversations included a joke about his medication. And he worried about my well being and happiness. Not long ago when Steven and I went to visit him, we had a few minutes alone and he encouraged me in my marriage to be kind and thoughtful so we would have a better chance of making it work.

What makes me special is not my immigrant grandfather, but his love.