Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Just as the Sun by Jesse E. Stay

Just as the Sun

Just as the sun
Which blesses us
During the day
With light and warmth--

And in the evening
Drops below the horizon
Leaving us
In the chill dark of night--

Is not extinguished!

But shines still
On distant shores
Blessing with its radiance
Other Souls
Beyond our view

So this dear one
Who warmed our hearts
And lighted our lives
Through the day--

Now gone
Beyond the limited horizon
Of our mortal view.

Leaving us
In dark sorrow
And chill loneliness--

Is not dead!

But sheds warmth and light
On dear souls gone before
--Jesse E. Stay

I know I've used this poem before, but I thought it would be appropriate to post it again today, as it tells, in his own words, what Grandpa believed about where he has now gone. I also believe it, and find comfort in knowing that he is well taken care of.

So Grandpa died this morning at 7:13 am. My uncle Larry says it was very peaceful, one minute he was here, and the next he was gone. His wife and most of his children were there with him, and expressions of love have been pouring in from the grandchildren, several of whom are coming to town for the funeral.

We've known this was coming for several days, and strange as it sounds, I can't bring myself to be especially sad. I'm sad for Grandma, of course, she'll miss him terribly, I'm sure. I'm sad for my extended family -- it's hard when somebody who's loved as much as Grandpa Jesse leaves us. But I'm not sad for him.

Grandpa was a great man, and a good man, which are not the same thing. Nobody has any doubt about where he has gone -- as a stake president, Regional Representative, Mission President, Counsellor in a Temple Presidency, Stake Patriarch, Temple Sealer, etc, etc, etc, he was obviously living a life the Lord approved of, and the words, "Well done, thou good and faithful servant" were never more appropriate.

I grew up in Michigan and Ohio, thousands of miles from where Grandpa was living in Utah or California. I only saw him every couple of years when we'd drive out on vacation, and then, as often as not, we'd be part of a reunion with a family that was getting closer and closer to the 50 grandkids mark, so I really didn't get a lot of one on one time with him.

I do remember a few things about him from when I was little. Unlike Grandma, who would cheat to let the grandchildren win a board game, Grandpa had a reputation for being cutthroat in a game of Clue or Dominoes. He also loved to go to the beach and fight the big waves (and provide a big anchor for little ones who wanted to do the same), then come back to shore and build a fabulous sandcastle.

A few years ago, in the fall of 2002, I was privileged to live with them for almost a year while I got settled in California. I had lost my teaching job after the budget cuts brought on by the financial bubble bursting after 9-11, and found myself single and unemployed in Cleveland. I looked at my life and thought, "What are you doing here?" Grandma and Grandpa kindly offered to let me live with them and attend the fabulous Pierside Singles Ward that Grandpa had been the High Counsel Representative for for years. I know I'm not the only one who benefited from people recognizing the Stay name, and asking if I'm related to the famous Jesse, but I was certainly thankful for the phenomenon.

When I moved in, I found that both Grandma and grandpa had more personality than I had ever noticed before. I've written about Grandma before, so now I'll tell a few things about Grandpa.

Whenever somebody came to visit, Grandpa would never let anyone else do the dishes, because, he said, nobody else knew the right place to put them in the dishwasher (Grandma had a similar line about the sheets). I think that this was an excuse he cooked up so that he could win the only fight I ever saw him have with anybody -- who can be the nicest and perform the most service. He and Grandma would compete over who could make dinner for the other, or clear the table, or get out the ice cream or things like that.

At dinner, Grandpa would often offer me some tomato or avocado to go with my salad or whatever. He had tomato plants that he lovingly tended, then harvested and feasted on, then cooked down and preserved in the freezer to make tomato soup and gazpacho for the rest of the year (One of my uncles bought him a nifty tool that took the stewed tomato and spat the skin and seeds out one end and the pulp out the other, and Grandpa thought it was the neatest thing in the world). Anyway, he'd offer me tomatoes and avocado every time they were on the table, even though I had told him in no uncertain terms that I was not a fan of either, thank you very much, and they'd simply be wasted on me. The first couple of times, he may have simply forgotten, but later, he said it with such a twinkle in his eye that I knew it was his kind of private joke. I don't remember him telling many jokes, but he had a real sense of humor that would peek out in many little ways, and show me where my Dad and uncles got their love of puns from.

He loved to sit in his chair in the corner, and gaze up at the model airplanes another son gave him, representing the planes he flew in WWII and later. He often spoke of the joy of flying, feeling the airplane respond to the stick in his hand. He didn't often speak of his time in the war -- and didn't watch the PBS miniseries about it, but he did talk about flying, and regretted being too old to do it anymore (people offered to give him rides in old WWII aircraft, but he said that unless he was actually piloting the plane, he'd just get airsick).

I was never in a house that had so many clocks in it. Every room in the house had at least one or two. He was especially fond of his cuckoo clock and the grandfather clock in the front room. The cuckoo clock played Laura's Theme from Dr Zhivago, and Edelweiss. Whenever young grandchildren would come to visit, he obligingly made the cuckoo come out and the people dance, even though it meant that he'd have to reset the clock to get it synchronized again. He got them pretty well adjusted so that the grandfather clock would gain 30 seconds a week, which was exactly the amount of time it had to be stopped when Grandpa wound it. In the past few weeks, I knew something was really wrong when the clocks wound down and he didn't wind them up again.

He and Grandma also loved to do crossword puzzles. Their paper had three puzzles a day, the New York Times, their own daily puzzle, and a little one they got syndicated from somewhere. Grandma and Grandpa would switch off who got what puzzles based on the day of the week. Only after the owner of the puzzle got stumped, could the other person help out or finish the puzzle. They would often ask me questions that they got stuck on, and I could often come up with the answers, so they thought I was some kind of crossword genius. Of course, the questions they couldn't get were often related to computers and current entertainment, which were topics I kept myself informed about, so I kind of had an advantage there. I was often stymied about questions on operas or actors from old movies that they had no problem getting.

Speaking of computers and technology, that's another place where I often helped Grandpa out. I have been very impressed with the way Grandpa has kept up with new technology and tried to use it in his life. He and Grandma did a lot more with computers and the internet than many people their age (and younger). There were still a lot of things that confused him though, and I was glad to be on hand to help out. I showed him how to use the Satellite TV system, writing directions for how to turn everything on and which remote control to use. I made his cell phone play the loudest noise in the lowest register so he could hear it ring -- though almost every week I'd have to show him how to make it switch back from vibrate because he couldn't figure out what to do after he silenced it in church.

I also helped him make the switch to a new computer and get DSL internet. One funny error he got quite frequently happened when he'd be typing up Patriarchal Blessings. Somehow, he'd hit Ctrl-N instead of Shift-N, and Word Perfect would pop up a new document in front of the one he'd been working on. This made him think that he'd lost all his work, and frustrated him to no end. It took a while for him to understand that the old document was still there in hiding, and find a way to bring it up again.

I struggled with depression while I was there, and went on lots of dates that didn't turn into lasting relationships, so I'd often come home feeling sad. Grandpa didn't really understand the depression-as-a-disease theory, but he did his best to provide encouragement and counsel from the scriptures. Even though it didn't solve my immediate problem (and nothing Grandpa could have done would have), it was comforting to know that he loved me, and that he knew that the Lord loved me, and that they both wanted me to be happy and have joy.

It was also to see how he tried to keep himself in shape physically and mentally. He'd ride his bike down to the beach, or for a couple of miles around the streets of Huntington Beach. He and Grandma also went on walks together when it cooled off in the evening, enjoying the fresh air and flowers and feeling the blood pumping through their veins. Along with the crossword puzzles, he and Grandma also watched Telenovelas on Telemundo to keep up their Spanish (With the closed captioning, I could even understand most of what was going on--not that there was much originality in the plots).

I think it's that, most of all, that makes me not too sad about his passing. In the past several months, I've had a painful jolt each time I noticed that he or Grandma has given up something else they used to love. The Crosswords are too hard, His balance went, so he had to give up his bike, and then even walking very far (though he stuck it out with a cane for a long time -- he had two that he liked -- one made my dad, with lots of fancy carving, and one made by an ancestor while in jail for polygamy, with a nice curve, and a tiny face on the end of the handle). He got lost while driving and couldn't find his way home, so I helped him buy and set up a GPS navigation system for his car, but soon, he couldn't even remember the three clicks to tell it he wanted to go home. It's very sad that Grandpa had to die, but really, he hasn't been living the life he enjoyed for several months now.

I also have the comfort of knowing that I did spend time with them and help them while I was able. I lived with them for one year, and I've been going down to visit them weekly for at least the past year. When Grandma got very sick, they decided they needed someone to take care of the finances and make sure the bills got paid. I set up autopay for most of the bills, wrote checks for the others, and made sure the bank statements balanced each month. This gave me an excuse to go visit them on a regular basis, without having to justify to them each time that they weren't being a burden or a bother (something both Grandma and Grandpa have a notorious horror of). I've been very grateful for this opportunity, and I'm even more grateful now that I don't have to say, "if only I'd visited him more when I had the chance."

I'm also thankful that he got to meet Elizabeth. He loved her, and loved to see her when I brought her over. He'd smile and wave and make googly noises, and Elizabeth would give one of her patented heart melting grins, and it really seemed to make both of them happy. When he was in the hospital about a month ago, he called, wanting something from home, just as I was about to leave his house. I convinced Grandma that I could take it over to the hospital on my way home, and stayed for a few minutes to visit him. It was touching to see how excited he was to see me, and how proud he was to have his great granddaughter come to see him as well -- he introduced her to three separate nurses. When I saw him for the last time on Friday, I came into the house, and he was lying in bed, drifting in and out of sleep. I lifted Elizabeth up and had her wave, "Hi Grandpa," and he woke up enough to smile, wave back and say something like, "Hi sweet thing," before drifting back to sleep. Grandma said, "That's the most alive he's seemed all day."

I'm gonna miss my Grandpa, his jokes, his solicitousness, his loving kindness, his testimony and love and devotion to the gospel and the church. Often when I'd say goodbye and see 'ya later, he'd say, "Mi casa, su casa." I know that he really meant it, and I only hope that I can follow his example well enough to make my home as welcoming as his home was.


  1. What lovely memories. I agree...I wasn't sad when Roger died...not for him...but in the past nearly 2 months I can't seem to get over the longing and missing him for myself. How weird that I can know the Plan but not have the Happiness. Maybe later.

    Glad you had the time with your grandpa...wish your dad could have been there at 7:13.

  2. You grandpa looks like a real sweetheart! I still wish I could pick up the phone and call my grandpa these days...but some day we'll be together again and I know his light is warming many many others at this very moment!

  3. Grandpa's Obituary
    Jesse E. Stay, 86, of Huntington Beach, CA, retired Air Force Colonel, died June 17, 2008 of old age. Jesse was born July 20, 1921 to Joseph Charles Stay and Alice Stay in Draper, UT, the youngest of 12 children. He met his sweet heart, Helen Valantine in California while they were both in college and they were married July 13, 1942.
    Jesse joined the Army Air Corp in 1941 and served as a pilot in the South Pacific during WWII. He was awarded two Distinguished Flying Crosses and many other commendations for his remarkable service. He was the founding commander of the Air Force ROTC at Brigham Young University and trained over 1,000 cadets. He remained in the Air Force until 1968 and was awarded the Congressional Legion of Merit for his service as the Director of Defense Information for the Department of Defense at the Pentagon.
    After a year in Hawaii as an Assistant to the President of the Church College of Hawaii, he was recruited to run the Motion Picture Studio at Brigham Young University, producing such works as "The First Vision" and the first LDS temple films.
    Jesse was active in the Boy Scouts of America and was awarded the Silver Beaver.
    Ecclesiastically he served as Bishop, Stake President, Mission President, Regional Representative, Sealer, Counselor in the Los Angeles Temple Presidency and as a Stake Patriarch for the LDS Church. He also served on the LDS Sunday School General Board.
    Jesse is survived by his wife Helen, his seven children, Sharon Brown (Keith), Randy Stay (Becky), Linda Danielson (Darrel), Judy Moore, Larry Stay (Joyce), Greg Stay (Jennifer), Tim Stay (Dalita). He has 50 grand children and 89 great grand children.
    Funeral services will be at the Huntington Beach Fourth Ward Chapel on Saturday June 21 at 11:00 A.M. There will be a viewing from 10:00 - 10:45 A.M. Jesse will be interred in the Orem City Cemetery in Utah on Monday, June 23 at 11:00 A.M. with military honors.
    Published in the Daily Herald on 6/19/2008.


  4. What a wonderful tribute to an amazing man! You certainly have followed his example in making your home welcoming to your in-laws.

  5. Karen,

    I loved reading about your Grandfather Stay. You have been blessed to have had that opportunity to get to know your grandparents better during your stay with them and helping them throughout the following year.
    Elizabeth has been a tremendous blessing in your lives, hasn't she? She will learn of her great-grandfather through yours and Peter's example of hospitality which you learned in your own home. I have always admired you all for your caring ways toward one another. Bless you through this sad time that doesn't make you sad but strenthens your testimony of where we've been and where we are going from here.

    phyllis k, ohio
    june 29, 2008