In August 2002, Sterling’s father, Ulysses Sterling (aka US or Uke or Mr. G or Grandpa Great), came to live with us after a close call with death. At the time, Grandpa’s condition was such that we felt we would be lucky if he lived until Christmas. During the first weeks of his stay, he would talk about people from the other side coming to visit him during the night.
One morning Grandpa told Sterling that “they” were going to come and get him the next Wednesday and take him to heaven. Much of what he said while he lived with us didn’t make much sense, but Grandpa was so convinced of this particular event that we wondered if he really would be escorted to heaven that next Wednesday.
Well, that Wednesday (and many more Wednesdays) came and went until yesterday—Monday, March 30, 2009—when Grandpa passed away peacefully at home with Sterling by his side.
Sterling and his dad have been nearly inseparable during these past six and a half years. In fact, Sterling sometimes referred to his dad as his shadow because he went almost everywhere with him. While Sterling mostly tended to his dad’s needs, once in a while he would go on a horse ride or a family vacation or a business trip with me, but he always felt a twinge of guilt when he left his dad for any length of time.
Grandpa was known for his constant service in the community. It’s obvious Sterling learned about service from his wonderful father and, in turn, loved and served his father with a kindness, a gentleness, and a loving patience I have never seen before. I will forever honor Grandpa for living a life of service and for teaching his son to serve with a selfless heart. We will all miss Grandpa Gardner, especially Sterling. Sterling’s life will be void of his “shadow,” but now he’ll have more time to serve others—just like his father.
As we reminisce about a great man who lived 95 great years, I can only imagine his joyful reunion with family who went on before him, especially his sweetheart, Hortense, and Sterling’s sister Alice. It may be a moment of sadness for those of us left behind, but we know it’s a happy moment for the man we honor today and who we will see again someday.