Life Lessons I Learned From my Grandma: The Loss of a Son

Anyone who knows me knows that I have a very special relationship with my grandma.  She and I have had a close relationship all of my life.  We have spent a lot of time together laughing and talking about life.  My grandma turns 90 years old today, and I believe that she has had an amazing life.  She has experienced many trials during her life, but she has faced them with a smile on her face, joy in her heart, and an unwavering faith in God.  I have learned so much from my grandma, and I believe you can too.  So, I have decided to commemorate her 90th birthday by sharing a few stories about my grandma’s life with you.  I hope these stories will show you how her faith has brought her through the difficult times that she has experienced.  I will be posting everyday this week and every post will be stories of how God has been with my grandma throughout her life.  I believe the stories will help you to see how God can work in all of our lives and how we can achieve peace through every experience we encounter with His help.  Having such a wonderful grandmother in my life has brought me immeasurable peace and PEACE MATTERS.  

Paul Jerry

My grandma, Ruth Cutsinger, married my grandpa, Paul Van Eckhout, on February 14, 1942 when she was only sixteen years old.  She married my grandpa right after WW II started.  It was a scary time in the history of our country, but it has often been said that that generation was the bravest of any that has ever lived, and I believe that is true. 

Not long after my grandparents were married, my grandma become pregnant.  She gave birth to the first of her three children on May 30th, 1943.  The baby born that day was a boy whom they named Paul Jerry Van Eckhout.  My grandma was overjoyed with the birth of her son.  He was a big boy from the start, and as the months went by he continued to grow.  My grandpa was stationed overseas, so my grandma and Paul Jerry spent a lot of time with my great-grandma.  During the winter of 1945, Paul Jerry became ill.  He didn’t seem to be getting better, and the doctor could not explain why.  The doctor seemed to think that Paul Jerry had a cold, but my grandma felt differently.  She worried about Paul Jerry, but he slowly seemed to be getting better and he was growing, so she trusted that everything would be okay.  

On February 27, 1945, Paul Jerry was sitting on the floor playing.  He was picking up clothespins and placing them in a Mason jar.  He stopped playing and reached for my great-grandma.  She picked him up, and he died in her arms.  I cannot even begin to imagine my grandma’s pain and grief.  Here she was a 19-year-old girl.  Her husband was away fighting in a war from which he may not return home, and her son had just died in front of her.  My grandma had to bury Paul Jerry by herself since my Grandpa was unable to come home for the funeral.  She did have her mother with her and I am sure that helped, but she had to feel so alone and devastated as she laid her little boy to rest.  They say that losing a child is one of the worst events that anyone can experience.  There seems to be no meaningful explanation when something like that happens.  

I am sure that my grandma questioned why God would take Paul Jerry away from her.  I am sure she felt alone and that her life was over.  I am sure she struggled with what God’s plan was for her life at that point.  She may have even been angry with God for forcing her to go through such a terrible trail, but she did go on.  She showed the strength that the rest of her generation had, and she kept going because she had been taught to do so.  She kept going because she had been taught to trust God and to have faith in His plan for her life.   The events of that day in 1945 have haunted my grandma all of her life.  She is 90 years old, and she has never gotten over losing Paul Jerry, but she has continued to live her life and, God has certainly blessed her for that.  She has continued to praise God and do His work in spite of the many trials she has had to face.  That is not to say that she has not questioned God and wondered why Paul Jerry had to die.  

She did make peace with it one Christmas Day, however.  It was in the early nineties, almost fifty years after Paul Jerry died, and she was praying.  My grandma, like all of us, gets a little sentimental on Christmas and she was thanking God for all the blessings in her life.  She began thinking about Paul Jerry and wondering why God had taken him from her.  God spoke to her and told my grandma that had Paul Jerry lived, he would have been the right age to have to fight in the Vietnam War.  She knew how terrible that would have been for her and she would have had to deal with the worry of her son not returning from a war.  I am sure my grandma still would have rather had Paul Jerry with her though, and then God reminded her about how many grandsons she had.  You see the next two children my grandma had were girls.  She never had another son, and she often wondered why, but God had blessed her with five grandsons.  God said to her that day, “I may have taken Paul Jerry from you, but I gave you five boys to help take his place.” 

I remember listening to my grandma tell this story that Christmas morning and how she was filled with joy at her revelation.  I couldn’t help but be reminded of Job in the Bible.  God allowed terrible things to happen to Job, but he praised God anyway and God blessed him with far more than he had ever lost.  My grandma continued to praise God when she lost Paul Jerry and God blessed her with far more than she had ever had.  That is what God wants all of us to do.  He wants us to trust Him and have faith that He knows what is best for us.  Even when we cannot understand why something so terrible could happen to us, he wants us to praise Him anyway and give Him thanks for everything that happens in our lives, the good and the bad, and He will bless us for it.  

So as you go through your daily life and things happen that you do not understand, no matter how small or big, I want you to remember my grandma and the millions of people like her.  I want all of us to remember that God is in control and that we should continue to praise Him no matter what trials may come our way.  If we can praise Him in all things, the love He has for us will sustain us and give us peace, and PEACE MATTERS.