When Grandpa Is in Heaven: How to Celebrate Those We’ve Lost


This post is part 1 of 4 in the series Grandparents: Celebrating a Legacy of Love.

This week will be the third year we celebrate my dad’s birthday without him. Papa’s Heavenly Birthday, we call it.

When Grandpa Is in Heaven: How to Celebrate Those We've Lost

My oldest boys were just five and two when my dad passed away. Thankfully, up until his last day, he was a very present person in their lives. Grieving is as hard and complicated a process for a child as it is for an adult. It has always been a top priority of our family to talk about, cry about, and joke about my dad. We want to remember him. We want to celebrate him. Even though my boys were very young, they talk about him a lot. My hope is that my younger two children, even though they never got to meet him, will talk about him, too. I hope they know their Papa through our stories of him. In my opinion, that is the best way we can honor a great man, a caring father, and a proud Papa.

Here are some of the things we do to celebrate our Grandpa in Heaven:

1. Make cupcakes.

On his birthday, we make (or buy) cupcakes and share our favorite memory of Papa. It’s very simple, but the cupcakes help the kids realize that it’s a special day. Even after all this time has passed, it’s nice to take a break from the day-to-day chaos and think of him.

2. Invest in a memorial.

My dad loved the golf course. His buddies created a beautiful memorial at Veenker Memorial Golf Course in Ames. Each time we visit, we stick a golf tee in the dirt to let Papa know we were there. I love that Dad is still a part of a place and people that meant so much to him.

When Grandpa Is in Heaven: How to Celebrate Those We've Lost3. An event or a special cause.

My dad was a track coach. He saw sport as a way for kids to get a college degree when they may not have otherwise had the opportunity. For our family, this is a legacy we want to continue. Therefore, we established the Coach Steve Lynn Foundation and hold the Coach Lynn Memorial Run annually in September.

When Grandpa Is in Heaven: How to Celebrate Those We've Lost
The Coach Lynn Memorial Run is this Sunday in Ames.

4. Jewelry. Tattoos, even.

I wear a necklace with my dad’s engraved handwriting on it in those moments I just want him a little closer to me. If I were brave enough, I think it’d be a really cool tattoo.

When Grandpa Is in Heaven: How to Celebrate Those We've Lost
My mom had this necklace made at Ames Silversmithing

5. Small moments.

While driving the other day, my oldest piped up from the backseat, “Remember when you got rear-ended and Papa came and got us?” I know that sounds like a silly thing to celebrate, but it stood out to me because it was entirely my son’s memory. It took me a minute to recall the time my son referenced (there were many times my dad had to rescue me!), and when I did, I looked in the rear view mirror to see that my son had gone back to playing whatever imaginary game he and his brother were doing before he spoke up.

I love those moments where Papa just pops into our day. In his profession, my dad had a lot of people who admired him and cared for him. We’ve been blessed to be a part of Hall of Fames and special ceremonies and events since he has passed, but sometimes, lots of times, it’s those small moments of a memory that can make me smile, cry, or often times both.

We miss our Papa a lot, but just because he is gone it doesn’t mean his impact has left. He is forever one of the most special people in our lives. Happy Birthday, Dad!

What are some big and little ways you remember and celebrate a grandparent who has passed away?

Coming up in our Grandparents: Celebrating a Legacy of Love series:

  • The Grandma Journey: An Interview with My Mom
  • Living with the Grandparents
  • Interview with the Grandparents

Grandparents: Celebrating a Legacy of Love


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