Unexpected goodbye

A couple of weeks ago, after just six weeks of being back in Peru, we received the sad news that my grandpa, Dr. Bill Greenman, had passed away at 93 years of age. Since then, life has felt like a whirlwind—making coordinations to come back home for grandpa’s funeral and then spending the last week and a half here in Michigan seeing friends and family again far sooner than we ever expected. We even had an opportunity to meet our new nephew, Easton, who was born the day that Kate, Will, and I began our move back to Peru! Will enjoyed the chance to meet his new baby cousin. Overall, it was a blessing to see friends and family as we came together to celebrate the life of a man that I love and admire very much.

I had the opportunity to share some words at grandpa’s funeral as we honored and remembered him together, and I share those same words below.

Grandma Pat with her 6 great grandchildren all wearing their Great Grandpa Bill t-shirts

When I think about grandpa, I am flooded with many fond memories. I remember the quick-witted man who always had a one-line joke up his sleeve—albeit a joke that we may have heard over and over again. Even if he couldn’t make us laugh at his jokes anymore, he was always guaranteed to crack himself up! He would always ask me how I was doing—my natural response: “Pretty good.”—then I would cringe immediately, knowing that my automatic answer just gave him the ammunition he needed for the same joke that I had heard a thousand times before. Already chuckling he would answer, “You might be good, but you’re not pretty!” I think, for grandpa, playfully picking on someone was his way of telling a person just how much he loved and cared for them. Sorry grandma, we all know that he loved you the most!

I remember walking through the halls at church, talking to people who would ask, “Are you Dr. Bill Greenman’s grandson?” When I replied, “yes,” I would often be met with words of sympathy for having to put up with all of his jokes over and over again! But I would inevitably also learn how much this person appreciated grandpa and how the Lord had really used him to touch their lives. I have constantly heard so many people who really appreciated the wisdom he shared in his Sunday school class. People tell me that it was always packed and that they had to show up early if they wanted to get a seat because it was often standing room only. I also fondly remember his Sunday school class, though I was never present for the teaching part of it. I remember excitedly darting out of my children’s Sunday school class, trying to make it to the gymnasium in time before all of the donuts were gone! His class was the best!

Grandpa teaching during Sunday school

I also remember the man who we always used to call scrooge at Christmas—he never wanted any gifts. It was all we could do to get him to open up a Costco sized tub of peanuts on Christmas day. He wasn’t really a scrooge, though. On the contrary, he loved celebrating the day that God became like us and entered the world to save us by emptying himself and serving us. He would always happily volunteer to read the Christmas story from the Scriptures.

As I grew up and got to know grandpa even better, I think I can honestly say that I haven’t ever known another person who loved and cherished his time in God’s Word like grandpa did. He loved God fervently, and his passion was to share and teach that which he learned from the Word. As he grew older and struggled to get around as easily as he could before, it just gave him more time to spend reading and studying the Word and praying for his loved ones.

As Kate and I have spent the better part of the last decade serving in the ministry in Peru, grandpa never stood in our way; on the contrary, he was always one of our biggest cheerleaders. I know it was difficult for him to see us living so far away, meaning that we had less time to spend with him. But even when it came at a cost to him, he always encouraged us to pursue the Lord’s call on our lives. He supported us 100%. He always had time to talk if we were looking for advice. He always looked for ways to show us that he was thinking of us and that he loved us.

When Kate and I decided to get married in Peru, one of the saddest parts of the decision was the reality that grandma and grandpa probably wouldn’t be able to come down to witness our marriage. Boy, were we wrong! The invites went out, and we almost immediately got a response from them that they were, indeed, coming. So, at 87 years of age, grandpa boarded a plane to take him all of the way down to Peru, where he not only witnessed our wedding, but he performed the ceremony for us! It was such a privilege to share that day with grandma and grandpa, and I know how difficult it was for them to make it all of the way to Peru to support us.

He would also support us with small gestures. I have to laugh; at one point he found out how hard it was for us to get peanut butter down in Peru. There was a season when he and grandma were some of Big Boys’ best customers, and each time they had breakfast there grandpa would faithfully collect the individually packed portion of peanut butter that he was given for his toast, take it home, and deposit it into his, now empty, Costco peanut bucket. Each time we would come home to visit, grandma would meet me at the door with buckets full of Big Boy’s peanut butter, rolling her eyes, saying PLEASE TAKE THIS! JUST GET RID OF IT! It was far more than we could ever carry back to Peru with us, but it was just another way that grandpa showed us he loved us and supported us.

A couple of days ago, I was putting our 2-year-old son, Will, down to bed. We have a bedtime routine of reading a couple of stories from the Jesus Storybook Bible and then saying our prayers. Will has just started saying his own prayers at night, and after a day full of us sharing memories of grandpa as a family and going through old pictures, great-grandpa Bill was on his mind. Will took some time in his prayer to thank God for great-grandpa Bill. He also thanked God for Noah and Moses.

In the storybook Bible that evening we had just read about Christ’s promise that he is going to prepare a place for us. It was a beautiful opportunity for me to share grandpa’s legacy—that he lived for Christ—and that we know beyond the shadow of a doubt that grandpa is now moving into this wonderful place that Christ went first to prepare for him. He is delighting in the perfect fellowship of his Savior.

We love grandpa, we cherish his memories, and we look forward to seeing him again.

We appreciate your continued prayers and support as we continue to grieve the loss of grandpa—and as we make, yet another, long journey back to Peru with Will.

Billy and Grandpa Bill

4 generations of William Greenman – August 2017

4 generations of William Greenman – January 2019

Right before we returned to Lima in September 2019

One Comment

  1. Carol Tyrpak says:

    Friday, November 8, 2019 at 7:16 am

    Billy, thank you for sharing these beautiful words and pictures. I have a soft place in my heart for your grandpa, and got to interact with him often. As one of the members of his Sunday school class, I remember and still use many of his wise instructions. A fun memory was when we first started attending Ward. We visited your grandpa’s class with our 3 year old son, Chris, standing on a chair between us. We sat in the very back. After your grandpa prayed and everyone sat down, Chris was able to see your grandpa on stage, and shouted out, at the top of his lungs in the quieted room, “MOM! I see him!!! I see him!!! It’s Santa Claus!!!” Your grandpa looked our way and smiled, and we just embarrassingly shriveled into the floor. Prayers will continue for you and your family, Billy. You are his beautiful, Godly legacy…

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