Grandpa Gray left me many fond memories, and as one of the youngest of his five grandchildren, I treasure every one like a jewel. In my mind he was like a great big teddy bear – soft and cuddly, and so much fun to be with.Sitting on his lap was a treat. One time, Grandpa and I were sitting together in his favorite chair in the living room. My head rested comfortably on him, and I remember looking up and saying that Grandpa was better than a pillow. Everyone laughed, but I only snuggled closer.
I realize now what a privilege it was to have my grandparents close. We were able to visit Grandma and Grandpa’s house a lot, and I always felt special with them. His home videos of our birthday and family gatherings have provided hours of happy reminiscing, and some of the best parts are always when Grandpa’s voice is heard. The camera shows what he saw – the cute, the good, the bad, and everything in between.
On one occasion, my mom was decorating the house for Susanna’s fifth birthday party, and Grandma and Grandpa were assigned the task of keeping Susanna and me out of the way. They took us to Burger King, and we had a blast running up the stairs and sliding down the slide over and over again. We even tried to go in the other direction and climb up the slide! My grandparents watched and cheered us on (and occasionally corrected us) until it was time to bring us home for the party. I guess they didn’t want me to feel left out with all the presents Susanna was going to receive from her playmates, because they gave Susanna and me matching water baby dolls before we returned home!
The last time I saw my grandpa was on my mom’s birthday on April 13th 1997 – just a few short weeks before he died on April 26th. We went out to eat pizza and celebrate. Grandpa wasn’t quite himself that night, but we still had a good time. I didn’t know anything was wrong with his health. When it was time to go home my family walked out to our van. My mom was a little behind us, and she stopped in the parking lot to finish her conversation with my Grandpa and Grandma. In my mind I can still see the three of them standing there talking. It was the last time I saw my Grandpa on this earth, but I know that I will see him again.
It means a great deal to me that my Grandpa Al Gray was saved by the marvelous grace of Jesus Christ. I love listening to the tape recording of my grandpa speaking to a group (I don’t know when it was or where) about the Believer’s righteousness through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
My favorite memory of Grandpa occurred one night when I was staying overnight at Grandma and Grandpa’s house. I was only a small child, and I wasn’t accustomed to sleeping by myself. My sister Susanna and I had always shared a room. Being away from home was an exciting adventure, and I had a great time with my Grandma and Grandpa – until it was time for bed.
The room was dark and the bed unfamiliar. It had seemed so comfy while the light was on, but now the darkness closed around me, and I was terrified. The only thing that helped ease my loneliness was a small baby doll I had been playing with earlier. Its sociable squeak made me feel less isolated.
I don’t know how it happened, but it did. My doll was lost in the dark. Too timid to turn on the light, I just laid there in fear until the darkness was more than I could bear. I tiptoed out of my room and into the hall. I almost went down the stairs to my grandparents, but I stopped at the top of the steps. They might think I was silly to be afraid of the dark and worried over a lost doll! So I sat down, right there, on the top step and cried as quietly as I could – taking what comfort I could from the warm light reflected up from the living room.
My imagination could see them sitting there. Grandpa would be sitting in his favorite chair with his laptop. Grandma was probably on the couch. Their distant voices reminded me of how far away and alone I was.
It seemed like a long time, but it may have only been a few minutes before the talking stopped below. It sounded like someone was getting up and coming toward the stairs. Would I be in trouble for getting out of bed?
It was Grandpa. He came up the stairs and gently asked me what was wrong. I tearfully answered that my doll was lost.
Grandpa led me to my room and gently said, “Let me help you look for it.” He turned on the light, and we began the search. We looked on the floor, under the bed, and behind the door. I think he must have found it, because he asked suggestively, “Have you looked under the pillow, Elizabeth?”
While Grandpa looked on I peaked under the pillow. There it was! My baby doll had been hiding just inches away from me the entire time!
Grandpa tucked me in and said goodnight. I felt much better now that the doll was tucked securely under my arm, but it wasn’t really the toy that comforted me. It was Grandpa’s love.
I loved Grandpa very much. A child couldn’t ask for a better Grandpa, and I thank God that Thomas Allen Gray was mine. I look forward to seeing him again some day.
Elizabeth Ellen Moore