I woke up Saturday morning to find that the most Christlike man I have ever known passed away. Even those who only casually knew my grandfather, Boyd Fugal, could tell that he was a great man. He was a decorated veteran of the Second World War, a successful businessman, and a church leader. But more important than all of these things, he was a loving husband, father, and for me grandfather. Forgive me if you think this hyperbole, but "if all men had been, and were, and ever would be, like unto Boyd Fugal, behold, the very powers of hell would have been shaken forever; yea, the devil would never have power over the hearts of the children of men." I miss you so much already Grandpa, but I am so grateful to know that you are in a better place and will suffer no more. If I had been no more fortunate than to have made your acquaintance my life would have been greatly enriched. To have lived with you, learned from you, and felt of your love is such a monumental blessing that I do not know how to express it.
After returning home from my mission I was blessed to be able to live with Grandma and Grandpa Fugal in their home in Pleasant Grove for a few years while I was attending BYU. Already in their 80s and having successfully raised nine children and helped raise several more grandchildren, they had done enough parenting to fill several lifetimes. I am so glad that they so warmly welcomed me into their home. During the time I lived with them, they made me feel as though I was one of their own children and provided me with some of my fondest memories. That he could make each of us grandchildren feel that way is a testament to how loving he was when you realize that he had 38 grandchildren and 70 great grandchildren. I only wish I could sit and watch Perry Mason as Grandpa nodded off into sleep again, or sit and enjoy Lawrence Welk on a Saturday afternoon with them.
Grandpa's passing was not unexpected. In October he suffered a major heart attack just prior to his 89th birthday, and we didn't know if he would see his birthday this year. I was only able to speak with him once or twice by telephone after that, but I could tell that he was prepared to return to his Heavenly Father and was in quite a bit of pain. Selfishly, I hoped that he might hang on until Stephanie and I returned home for Christmas so that I could see him one more time in person, but that was not meant to be.
Grandpa taught me hard work. Growing up I always admired Grandpa, when I was 11 or 12 we went to visit and he asked if my brothers and I would be willing to get up early the next morning and help provide service for somebody he knew was in need. I think all of us went grudgingly because we were supposed to be on vacation, but Grandpa always taught by example. No matter his current situation, he would serve and work. Even in his eighties he would regularly be seen out fixing fences, planting corn, cleaning out irrigation systems, weeding, and keeping things in order. Grandma would always fret and worry because Grandpa's body couldn't keep up with everything he wanted to do - but he loved to work. When my parents were first married my dad worked for Grandpa's company and he has often told us how Grandpa led by example. Grandpa never expected anybody to do work he wasn't willing to do, and once on a construction job he had an accident that resulted in a serious injury. As soon as Grandpa was out of the hospital he was back at the job site, digging in the trenches as if nothing had happened.
Grandpa taught me generosity. I've already mentioned how Grandma and Grandpa welcomed me into their home and took care of me while I went to college. If ever there was anything I needed, Grandpa was willing to provide it, and he tried to provide it even if I didn't ask for it. Every year that we planted corn would be followed by visits to the neighborhood dropping off big bags of delicious sweetcorn. On another occasion when I was younger Grandpa and I went for a walk in the early morning, he showed me the neighborhood where he lived, where my mother had grown up, the house I was brought to as a baby, and land that he used to own. I didn't know then, but much of that land that he owned he donated or gave away to good causes or to help support his family. I have never known a more generous person with his time, energy, or means.
Grandpa taught me about forgiveness. My parents' marriage did not end well, and my mother was hurt more than I think I will ever be capable of understanding. It didn't take much time being around Grandpa to know how much he loved his family, and my dad seriously hurt one his little girls. But, in a situation where it's understandable for there to be some enmity and distrust, my Grandpa has always been a support to me and my family. On more than one occasion he has taken me aside and said "I always thought Russ was a good man" and asked me about how he was doing. That example of Christlike love and forgiveness was more comfort to me than I think Grandpa ever knew. I love my dad so much, and so many people had unkind things to say that to hear the loving words of Grandpa were, and continue to be, a tender mercy to me.
I can remember few times in my life when I have felt worse than after disappointing Grandpa. Knowing him and living with him and his example has made me a much better man. If I live to be half the man that Boyd Fugal was, I will have lived a great life. I was able to visit the graves of many of our family members each year with Grandma and Grandpa on Memorial Day and to learn about my family history. I was able to enjoy drive Grandma and Grandpa as they attended weddings, gatherings, and shows. And every time I was able to speak in Pleasant Grove was more exciting because I knew that Grandma and Grandpa might be able to attend and Grandpa was always so supportive with his words and advice. I experienced my first true heartbreak while living with Grandma and Grandpa, and he was there to give me gentle encouragement and a much needing blessing from a spiritual giant. And I was so happy to have Grandma and Grandpa attend as I graduated from BYU. Without their support college would have been an entirely less fulfilling experience. I treasure my memories of sitting down to breakfast as Grandpa asked me what I was learning and how my life was.
Of all my memories of Grandpa, my fondest are little tender moments I observed between him and Grandma. My grandparents were married for more than 65 years, astounding to me as Stephanie and I approach our first anniversary. And yet, after all that time they were still learning from one another and about one another. And they were still very much in love. One morning as we sat down to breakfast Grandpa started telling me a story from his youth, before Grandma and her family moved to Pleasant Grove from Provo. As he finished his story Grandma turned to him and said "I didn't know that!" I thought it was so awesome to see how two people could know one another so well and yet still learn more about one another. On another occasion Grandma was out of town on a trip with all the girls (my aunts and mom) while Grandpa and I stayed home. I answered the phone one evening and it was Grandma calling to talk to Grandpa, but he was out in the field working on his farm. Grandma asked me to have him call her when he got back inside, and then with a little extra tenderness I could hear in her voice she said, "and tell him that I miss him." When Grandpa came back in I told him that Grandma had called and that she wanted him to know that she missed him. I watched as that amazing smile of his changed and he choked back a few tears and said in a moment of complete sincerity "well, I miss her a lot too." After so many years you could just tell that they still meant the world to one another.
I was single a lot longer than I expected to be, and I knew that my grandparents would eventually pass on. I secretly hoped that I would be able to meet my wife before they did, so they could know her and so that she could see what wonderful people they are. Just over a year ago I was able to take Stephanie home and introduce her to Grandpa. We had a nice little dinner with Cy and Brittany, Grandma and Grandpa all in their little dining room. He gave her one of his big hugs and said "well, I think the two of you should team up." When Stephanie and I sat across from one another in the sealing room the sealer commented how in all his experience he had never sealed together two people where all four grandfathers were present in the room and what a special experience that was. I am so glad that Stephanie got to meet Grandpa and that he was able to witness at our wedding. To have him there was one of the great blessings of my life.
Grandpa, you were always such an amazing example to me. I have kept this picture of you protecting Grandma from the cold wind on my desk or at my bedside from the time I left on my mission. I use it as a reminder of how I want to be, I hope that I can be a husband to Stephanie like you were to Grandma. I hope I can shelter my loved ones from the cold. I hope that enough of you rubbed off on me for me to be as kind, generous, forgiving, and wonderful as you. I miss you so much already Grandpa. I wish that Stephanie could get to know you better, that my future children could have known you. Selfishly, I wish you were still with us. But I know you are home in the everlasting embrace of our Heavenly Father. Don't worry Grandpa, I'll try to follow your example. My kids will know you because I will tell them all about you. Thank you for being such an inspiration, thank you for raising my wonderful mother, and thank you for watching over me.
When I woke up on Saturday and saw the message from Mom that Grandpa had passed, I responded by saying that I wished we could make it home for the funeral. Finals start on Monday. Christmas is Stephanie's busiest time of year as a photographer. I wish we could make it home for the funeral. It didn't make sense in terms of time or money to try to make it home. But every time I think of you I know that there are more important things than school and money. I'm so glad that I have a wonderful wife who knows that I need to be there. I'm so glad that we found a way to fly home that won't be too expensive. It's currently 2 AM and I can't sleep because I feel like I need to share what I'm feeling. I've cried myself to sleep every night since you passed, I don't think Stephanie has noticed because she's usually asleep before I start to think of you. Don't worry Grandpa, there are more tears of joyful memories than tears of sorrow. I hope you know how much I love you, how much we all love you. The world is a darker place without you, but heaven will be all that much brighter. Until we meet again. I love you.
Grandma and Grandpa's 60th Wedding Anniversary Video