My son, Luke, gave the eulogy at Dad’s memorial service on 1.2.14. The words (included below) were written in a collaborative effort by the family, but Luke delivered them with grace, confidence, and humor. This is a tough thing to pull off. I’m a proud dad.
On behalf of the family, I would like to sincerely thank you for being here today to honor my grandpa.
Now, to start with, I need to explain something about what we — the grandkids — call Don Ridlehoover. The oldest set of grandchildren settled on the sensible, dignified “Grandpa.” Years later the next set arrived and was hindered by Daniel, my cousin’s, inability to pronounce “Grandpa.” The closest he could come up with was “Pawcaw” – and it stuck. Other variations along the road to Pawcaw were CahCah and Coleslaw.
So, I know it’s weird, but some of us call him “Grandpa” and the rest call him “Pawcaw.”
I’m here today to communicate some important things that Don Ridlehoover’s family, and perhaps Don himself, would want you to know.
Don lived a full life. He was a firefighter, deacon, mentor, fisherman, carpenter, devoted father, husband, and grandfather. He was a prankster as well. His antics are legendary. In fact, my Grandpa made such an impression during his career that the verb “Ridlehoovering” survives to this day. I’ll spare you the details of exactly what that is, but you might ask one of the firefighters here today.
It wasn’t until after Grandpa retired that we started hearing the stories of things he did as a firefighter. He just never spoke much of it during his career. The fires he fought, the lives he saved, the lives that were lost, the things he saw, the people he experienced. We never heard him complain about work or belittle his fellow firefighters in any way. Sure, he had stories of ridiculous pranks and childish behavior, but it was all positive and in good fun. And maybe a little insane.
When he was diagnosed with leukemia in February, we spent many days hanging out with him in his hospital room. During those days of his initial treatment, he received lots of visits from firefighter buddies he knew from his working days. We began to hear stories and get glimpses into the relationships these men had with one another. It’s a brotherhood. They were a family. Looking out for one another, annoying one another, but always ready to fight for each other. I think this paints such a clear picture of my Grandpa. His life and relationships inside the fire station are true of everything he did outside of the fire station.
If you went with Grandpa on a mission trip or spent any time with him at all, you know his love for Dr. Pepper. In fact, in one of his final lucid moments in the hospital, Grandpa asked, “What’s a guy gotta do to get just this much Dr. Pepper?”
Grandpa loved big; he loved people like he loved Dr. Pepper. It seems evident from the messages and remarks from people who have known him, that he loved like Christ. Within our family, we have always known how he loved. But to hear it from so many others only solidifies what we knew to be true. He threw himself into everything he did with his whole heart. There was never a job too big for him to attempt. He was always willing to help out.
At one point, Grandpa wondered if he had missed God’s call on his life, that maybe he was supposed to have been a missionary. We can’t say whether he missed it or not, but we do know that it sure seemed to work out in the end. He has served so many throughout his life, pouring over them the love of Christ without even having to open his mouth.
My Grandpa loved Colorado. In searching through photos of his life, it’s interesting to note just how many were taken there. But we also noticed a trend in those photos. There are many that show Grandpa gazing up to the mountains, or at a waterfall, or searching for elk. Don Ridlehoover lived a simple, hard-working life, but he never lost sight of where he was going. Grandpa heard echoes of another world, and he was ready to go there. It’s like he was living in two worlds at once.
Grandpa wasn’t a man full of angst and doubt, although those things are popular today. He lived a life of simple faith. Certainty wasn’t a bad word to him. He was sure that God was able to heal him at any moment, but he was also certain of God’s sovereignty. Grandpa knew it wasn’t up to him.
He rarely complained. Even in the darkest days of his illness, you would hardly hear a complaint. He might grumble from time to time about the lack of punctuality within the medical community, but there was so very much more he could have been upset about. He never bemoaned leukemia or raged on about “why him.” He had a disease…and he was going to fight it with everything he had. He always held firm to the belief that it was all in God’s hands…and that was okay with him. Instead of obsessing on Why, Grandpa focused on Who.
Grandpa didn’t waste time; he was a doer, a man of action. He took the words of Jesus seriously, and he used his skills to serve others. But Grandpa knew that all his good works weren’t a means to an end. He served from a grateful heart, not out of obligation. He was fully aware that grace was a free gift from God — that he couldn’t earn it. Amazing Grace, indeed. Grandpa knew the power of God to change a heart. He saw it in his own life, and in his family, and in the people he served. He would want you to know about that power and grace too.
He loved his family. Grandpa’s dad died when he was 10, so he really didn’t have a father role model growing up. But somehow he knew. Somehow he figured out how to be a Godly father. And if Grandpa could speak today, he would tell you that it’s not about him. It’s all about Jesus. The Creator of the Universe, Father God Himself was his role model. Just ask his kids — and especially their spouses — what kind of father Don Ridlehoover was. When you marry into this family, you get adopted as a daughter or son. It’s just that simple.
So, what we want you to know today is this:
Remember the example of my Grandpa. Don’t waste your life. Serve your church. Follow the King. Get out into the world to change lives. Love your family using God’s grace as your example – unreserved, unconditional, unrelenting. But remember that when you belong to Jesus, you are a citizen of another kingdom. Keep your eyes open, looking up.
Remember the words of 2 Corinthians 4:16-18.
“So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.”