My Pop-pop, Richard Rasmussen, loved to tell stories. He lit up when my cousins and I would asked him to tell us one about his life. Our favorite was always how he’d fallen in love with my Mom-mom in the 7th grade.
He told us all about the ways he tried to woo her: the Frank Sinatra concert he took her to, working hard for months and months to be able to afford it. Then how she went on to date another guy.
He put on quite the dramatic show as he explained the days, months, and years he waited patiently for her to finally return his feelings in their early 20s. She would roll her eyes and say “Oh, Richie, stop!” in mock annoyance. But no matter what, she’d always, always give him a kiss at the end of his story. Their love was one for the ages.
Pop-pop also told stories about his time in the Marines. He recalled being a cook for hundreds of men. And he reminisced about the friendships that began back then and remained strong decades later.
A war hero
One day, he told us the story of his friend, Henry. He and Henry had been friends all through school, and they decided to join the service together. My Pop-pop wanted to go into the Army, but Henry wanted to go into the Marines. Leading up to the day they enlisted, they had both been unable to sway the other to switch their preference. So they parted ways once they arrived at the military office.
Pop-pop began mulling over his choice of going into the Army. He realized he didn’t have any deep-rooted feelings toward either military branch, so he decided to switch and join Henry in the Marines.
He looked but couldn’t find Henry. But he went through with enlisting in the Marines, deciding he’d surprise him after finishing his physical.
However, unbeknownst to my Pop-pop, Henry had the same idea. He had changed his preference and joined the Army so he could be with Pop-pop. When they found each other after their physicals, they couldn’t believe what they’d done. My Pop-pop would look at us and say, “That’s what true friendship is: sacrifice and love.”
Due to our age and naiveté, Pop-pop left the story at that for many years. I was much older when I found out Henry never returned from the war. My Pop-pop never told us how he died. There are some war secrets that, no matter the age, are too much to tell and too much to hear.
Pop-pop just said he always felt thankful and indebted to Henry for the life he was able to keep living after the war.
An eternal hero
Isn’t that what Memorial Day is all about? Remembering those who sacrificed their lives so we could live in the land of the free? They died so we can have life.
And when I think of sacrifice, I can’t help but remember the One who made the ultimate sacrifice. Jesus was perfect. Without sin. He wasn’t sentenced to the same fate humanity faced, death. But He willingly gave his life, dying on a cross, taking all our sin upon Himself so we can have an everlasting relationship with God. So we can one day live in the true land of the free, Heaven.
So this weekend, celebrate Memorial Day the best way you know how. Go to parades, picnics, and gatherings with friends and family. Live your life to the fullest in honor of those who gave theirs so we can enjoy days filled with laughter, food, and freedom. Those like Henry. We all thank you.
But let’s also remember the One whose death ultimately gave us the abundant life. His sacrifice is above all others. It not only gave us freedom to live for Him in this life, but also the hope of an everlasting life in the one to come. Jesus, we praise you.
Copyright © 2019 Jenn Grandlienard. All rights reserved.
Jenn Grandlienard grew up an East Coast Philly girl, but now loves calling the Midwest her home. She lives in Xenia, Ohio with her husband, Stuart, two sons, Knox and Zeke, and pup, Stella. Jenn and her husband work with Athletes in Action, a ministry of Cru that teaches college athletes what it means to have a relationship with Jesus. She loves to read, work out, laugh really hard with friends, and spend time with her husband and boys. You can check out her blog about all these things and more at OurGrandLife.com. Find her on Instagram at @mrsjenngrand and on Facebook.