It is not a coincidence America is celebrating Veterans Day the same week my grandfather, Alan Layton, passed away. Leaving behind posterity of more than 100 people Grandpa is one of the last few surviving heroes to defend our nation from Hitler and save Europe from utter destruction in World War II. Certainly my grandfather was a major contributor to what former NBC News Anchor Tom Brokaw called, “The greatest generation any society has ever produced.”
Two months ago as I recovered in the pediatric intensive care unit after my heart transplant my grandparents came up to visit. My grandfather had been experiencing dementia in the last few years and occasionally forgot where he was although he acted like he knew what was going on. This is the difficult part in losing a grandparent, watching them grow old and seeing their vibrant spirit fade. He sat in a rocking chair holding his cane at the foot of my bed. I still had most of my tubes in and out of my body. My grandmother was so enthused by my pink lips she was overcome with emotion. She rubbed my feet at the end of my bed and was saying, "Look at your beautiful color." Meanwhile, my grandfather didn't look to happy she was rubbing my feet and quipped, "Don't rub that man's feet!" We laughed and reminded him she was taking care of her grandson.
My Grandfather’s own mother implanted in his heart a love for God and for other people. All you need in your life is a mother who loves you and you have within you the power to become a giant among men. His blood type was a model for his life “B+”. He was an optimist and believed anything was possible.
Aside creating one of the most successful construction companies in the Rocky Mountain region, Layton Construction, my grandfather spent most of his time with my grandmother building up a strong family loyal to one another.
When I was really young my grandparents bought a 2-acre garden with an intended purpose. Each Saturday grandpa gathered the family and taught us how to work the earth. Whether it was tilling, weeding, irrigating, planting seeds of all kinds Grandpa was busy teaching valuable principles of hard work. We enjoyed the blessings of our labor with plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables to circulate among our separate neighborhoods. He was teaching us the benefits service. Having grown up in the depression and working since he was a child, Grandpa was deeply concerned about people going into debt. He taught, “Pay yourself. You worked for your money. Let your money work for you.” This meant save your money, put it in the bank, and let the interest work to make even more money.
Photo: With my grandparents after our marriage on April 11, 1997 - According to my LDS Faith the person marrying us dresses in white a symbol of purity and of God.
Twenty years ago President Gordon B. Hinckley of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints gave my granddad authority to marry couples in our temples. My wife and I were fortunate and blessed to be married by granddad in the beautiful Salt Lake City Temple. During our marriage ceremony my sweet grandpa gave us sound advice. He said, “Never go to bed angry at one another. Laugh if you have to. Work it out. You need to know what is in each other’s hearts. Tell each other everything.” He counseled us to make God a partner in our relationship. “The good Lord will help you in hard times and bring happiness to your home.” The morning I was born on April 24, 1973 when my parents were told I probably would not make it because of a congenital heart defect my father picked up my granddad and headed to the hospital. Together they took me into a small room shortly before surgery and held a special prayer with all the faith they could muster. That blessing, that quiet humble prayer, has been vindicated time and time again.
In lieu of my brother’s tragic death on June 9, 2009 our family is grateful Grandpa now joins Brian in the afterlife. What a reunion! I can only imagine my brother anxiously awaiting his arrival with open arms into paradise. I’ll miss my grandfather. I know he'll care for my brother and thousands of others who need strong men of courage, integrity, devotion, and love.
The grief I'm experiencing is that an era has come to an end. The sadness is in the knowledge that none of us will ever be little again to enjoy the little things like working in the garden side by side with granddad, getting an ice cream out of his hands, fishing the Grey's River in Wyoming, or listening to his stories of building things, war, or the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Photo: My brother Brian holding his daughter Ava sitting with Grandpa
I’m grateful for this wonderful man, my granddad, Alan W. Layton, who devoted his life to creating nostalgic memories, which brought us closer together as a family and closer to God.