I'm going to Missouri for a few days for Frank Williams' funeral -- my grandfather. He passed away this week at the age of 81, peacefully.
Frank Williams was a pilot, and he said that he never expected to die in bed at a ripe old age. He survived two plane crashes, and he thought that's how he'd go. His wife, my dad's mother and my grandmother, was a pilot herself and died in a plane crash when my dad was 12 years old. (My grandfather remarried to a wonderful woman, who I have always thought of as my grandmother, and who I love very much.)
My grandfather was a pretty amazing man. He was a construction contractor and invented a revolutionary kind of quick-drying cement. He was also a farmer, a rancher, and a businessman. He worked hard, with his hands and with his mind; he raised a good family.
I was never as close to him as I would have liked to have been because he lived so far away, but a couple of years ago my brother and I spent a week with him and grandma at their house outside Springfield, Missouri, and I got the chance as an adult to get to know how incredible he was. There's a difference between knowing your grandparents when you're a child and they're just a vague mental concept -- people you visit every year or so who like to show you pictures of your parents when they were young. But as an adult I could really appreciate my grandfather's years of experience, his intelligence, and the solid determination he brought to every aspect of his life.
I'll miss him, but he's encouraged me to be an awesome grandfather, if and when I have the opportunity.