I suppose when you are a child, the world as a whole can look gargantuan. Revisiting my childhood stomping grounds, the buildings, the fences, the earth, all seem a bit smaller. Lacking also, perhaps in the grandeur I once marvelled at.
How odd is it then that the memories of my dear Grandpa remain constant and the same. A giant in my youth, in his youth. And still as I have aged and he has aged, he has in my eyes remained a giant.
He was strong of heart, of mind, of spirit and of body. Even when his body betrayed him. Loving was never an option to him. It was just a part of life. Family was his highest priority. I know that because he told me over and over again. I can hear him still "Now Ash. You will never regret the time you spend with your family. There is wisdom in it. Isn't our family wonderful?" Yes Grandpa, it is wonderful. I know it melted his heart like butter to see his family together. Smiling, laughing and strengthening bonds.
His children called him Daddy, even when they had children and grandchildren of their own. He was a tender man, but full of strength. Driven to do well. And doing well to him did not include fattening his wallet or buying up real estate. His land was everywhere. In the flats of the desert and in the piny mountain forests. His investments were in his sweet devoted wife, his children, his grandchildren and his great-grandchildren. Doing well meant that he was the best husband, father, son, brother, grandfather and friend that he could be. It meant that he was honest and a man known for his integrity and his faith. It meant that he was the man his mother knew he could be.
He knew the truth, that his treasures were in Heaven. His love for the Savior was and is pure and strong and true. I believe that he would echo the words of Bruce R. McConkie when he testified,"...In a coming day I shall feel the nail marks in His hands and in His feet and shall wet His feet with my tears. But I shall not know any better then than I know now that He is God’s Almighty Son, that He is our Savior and Redeemer, and that salvation comes in and through His atoning blood and in no other way.”
I thought of my Grandpa Burke yesterday evening. Our family was decorating the Christmas tree. How could I think of Christmas and not think of this man? It's not because every pine tree I ever see will remind me of him. It's not because he always brought by the yummiest, juiciest oranges that always found their way to our stockings on Christmas morning. It's because this wonderful, loving, kind and genuine man lived Christmas all year long. He found the joys of life, the goodness of people and the miracles of our Savior in every day and every moment of his life.
Howard Trenton Burke was a giant among men. Those he considered friends, were his friends for life. Those who did him wrong were forgiven. Those whom he loved, he loved with a fierceness that was bigger than himself.
There is an aching in my heart today because this dear giant of mine has passed on. But mostly there is a fullness in my heart. Joy for his freedom from his failing health and deteriorating body. Gratitude for the man that he is and the life that he lived. And peace in knowing that he has returned to the arms of our Lord and Savior.
He will be dearly missed by many, many people. I will miss him for my children who don't understand right now. I have always hoped that they would be able to enjoy him in the ways that I have. That they would have sweet memories of camp outs, days spent by the river, hiking trips and tender one-on-one talks where he shared his wisdom that always seemed so timely.
They wont have that opportunity in this lifetime. But I will be sure to let them know what a great man he was. This gentle giant, who was never really a giant at all if you were judging by appearances. I guess that is it. From my childhood to now I have never seen him truly by appearance alone, but by his heart. His heart that transcended his earthly form. It was his heart I saw. That is what made him a giant. My giant.