This week I found out about the passing of my maternal grandfather, Gérard Vanizette. He was the oldest of my four grandparents. I must assume it was a peaceful passing in his care centre, and I've been glad to hear that he hasn't been lacking in visits from family members.
As I won't be able to attend his funeral, I thought it somewhat appropriate to commemorate his life and legacy with this blog post. It will likely be short and not as well thought out as it could be--written in the language of a 21-year-old on an iPad in an apartment in Belgium--but it will have to do.
I'd like to mention just a few of the best and most significant choices that my Grandpa Vanizette throughout his life.
The first was to marry my grandmother, Gisèle Amblard. I'm not sure what the marriage culture was like in France half a century ago, but right now it seems to be as avoided in France as it is sought after in BYU-Idaho. For two typical French people, not yet members of the Church, to marry and raise two children in the faithful keeping of those vows is a very significant thing. That choice affected generations for the better.
I've elected to depart from chronological order to be able to save the best for last. So the second choice I'd like to mention is the choice that the Vanizette couple made to take their young family and move halfway across the world to Calgary, Canada. It goes without saying that I'm grateful that they made this choice. Although I'm proud of my French heritage, I'm happy that I got to grow up in the true north...and moreover, that choice allowed my mother, just 13 years old at the time, to later meet my father and repeat the decision that Gérard and Gisèle had made years earlier.
The last and most impactful choice my grandfather made happened some years before the one above. One day, he chose to listen to two young men as they passed through his chocolate store in France. He chose to invite them over and listen to what they had to say (despite initial protests, I'm told, by his entourage). These young men were missionaries, representatives of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Grandpa Vanizette accepted the most readily the message of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ--the kingdom of God on the earth. The rest of his family followed. All of his direct descendants have stayed active in the Church, with both of his daughters marrying in the temple, three missions served (with at least one more on the way) among his grandchildren, as well as five of his grandchildren (so far) marrying in the temple. At the time of his death he had two great-grandsons who were just beginning a life filled with the blessings of living the gospel.
I remain infinitely grateful for the choice my grandparents made to accept the restored gospel in France, despite all oppositions that came with being a pioneer of the small--but slowly growing--kingdom of God in that country. It must not have been easy to leave their Catholic traditions and enter into that new life. I'm thankful that they kept the faith and put their priorities where they needed to be:
"Seek ye first the kingdom of God." I'm grateful that my grandfather was able to remain true to his testimony until the end of his mortal life, and set the example for his descendants to follow.
I'm also grateful to two unknown missionaries--likely in their 60s or 70s by now--who brought this light to my family. I strive to emulate their example, though I don't feel as valiant as they must have been.
It's humbling to be in their place, to try to find and teach families about the same thing that has helped my family and me so much.
So despite the inevitable passing from mortal life, and the inevitable emotional pain that comes to the loved ones who remain here, I can say this with faith: Thanks to the Saviour and what He's done for us all, and thanks to the people that brought His gospel to my life, I can know that this isn't the end for Grandpa Vanizette or for any of us.
It's up to us now to follow this example that has been set for us by staying true to what we know to be true, and helping others do the same.
Alors je te remercie, Grandpa Vanizette, de ton exemple de bons choix, de foi et de persévérance. Puisqu'on connaît le plan éternel de Dieu, on peut se dire à bientôt. Nous t'aimons tous.
Elder Jordan Stanford