A Granddaughter’s Memories of Her Grandpa

James Christian Roth.

To some, his was a name well-known in Mennonite circles.
To some, he was the friendly owner of a little secondhand store in Woodburn.
To some, he was a dedicated pastor and a wise mentor.
To some, he was a well-beloved missionary and brother in Christ.
To some, he was a faithful friend.
To many, he was a kind and gentle man, one who took time for others, one who gave selflessly, one who was wise and understanding. A man who knew and loved God.

But to me, he was my grandpa. And I miss him.

When I think of my grandpa, I don't think so much of the things that he was. I think of the things that he did.

I think of family outing upon family outing, of hikes and picnics and waterfalls. I think of trips to the coast, sometimes with the whole family, sometimes with just us four youngest grandchildren.

I think of meals at Grandpa and Grandma's house for Christmas and Thanksgiving and many times between. I think of Grandpa reading "The Bear Story" afterward. I think of how it always made us laugh, and I wish I could hear it again. I wish Eric could hear it. I wish he could have known my grandpa when he was well. I remember one time after we were married when we took supper to Grandpa and Grandma, and by then Grandpa didn't usually have a lot to say, but Eric started asking him questions about long-ago days, and Grandpa talked and talked. That was so special to me, and I wish now that we would have done it more often.

I think of Grandpa's books, of his rock and shell collections. I think of playing Carem and Jenga with him. I think of a simple life, of singing, of finding joy in small things.

I think of picnics and croquet in Grandpa and Grandma's backyard. We would all congregate there . . . us and Tia and Karina and Grandpa's . . . and later on, the same mix with Tio and in-laws and great-grandchildren added in. I think of Grandpa's house, and I think of family.Our family has a hole now. It's a hole that's been there ever since Grandpa got sick, but it's more final now. We all loved him, and we all miss him. But he's in heaven now, and he's with Jesus, and I know he wants to see us all there.

I think of him now, and I wonder if he's singing, and I wish I could hear his voice again. I think of the many ways in which his life was well-spent and well-lived, and I think of how he brought God glory, and I wonder how big the crown was that he cast before Jesus' feet. And as I think of him, I thank God for letting us have our grandpa for as long as we did. We were so blessed.

We are so blessed.

There's so many pictures I could post, and as usual I'll probably get carried away, but pictures carry memories, and though they open up sadness, they also help alleviate it . . .

~   ~   ~

Grandpa and Grandma were very much a team. They worked together, laughed together, and showed us what a godly, happy marriage was like. Only two (and then four) people got the privilege of calling Grandpa "Dad." 🙂And then there were those of us who called him "Grandpa."

Family was important to Grandpa. His calling was to both his family and his church, but I don't think he neglected one in favor of the other. He and Grandma showed us how "to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly" with our God. Grandpa baptized most of us grandchildren, and though he wasn't able to officiate at all of our weddings, he and Grandma were still there in the background, watching as their children and grandchildren followed in their steps.Grandpa and Grandma spent a lot of time with us. Sometimes it was just an evening in their backyard . . .Sometimes it was a meal together . . . Sometimes it was a well-planned family outing . . . Grandpa loved to hike and go to the beach. Grandpa took time for the little things, be it little people, a random game of horseshoes, counting rings on a tree stump, or bringing out his binoculars to show us something.Grandpa taught us a lot, not so much by words as by actions, and even though he's gone now, we can still follow in his steps as he followed in Christ's.

So goodbye for now, Grandpa . . . I love to think of you well and whole again.


Memories are precious, and if you have any of my grandpa that you'd like to share, please do so. I'd love to hear them.


5 thoughts on “A Granddaughter’s Memories of Her Grandpa

  1. Ruth-Ann Brubaker

    He was at the meeting when I met the EP board the first time. Kindly, quiet, welcoming. Johanna told me he had the spirit of a Daddy about the congregation. I have great respect for James. Thank you for sharing the photos and memories. I remember him speaking at Missions Conference when I was in Ore. I am very moved that he baptized you all. It is most true what you write that he taught us to do good, love mercy, and walk humbly.

  2. Beka

    My love and prayers are with you, Chayli, during this time. I wish I could have been there for the funeral....it's so frustrating to be so close to coming home, yet not quite there! I smiled when you mentioned the Bear story. I think I heard your Grandpa read it maybe twice? after different suppers the youth put on...He read that story so well!

  3. Dora

    I do remember dictionary! And laughing a lot while playing it. 🙂 I also remember playing with Grandpa's marbles. And him coming to school and cracking a thunder egg with us and giving each of us a little box of special rocks. Or the all school devotions (I don't remember what it was about but I assume rocks) that afterwards he gave us all some fake rocks to eat. Those chocolate kind. I really liked that devotions. So so many memories and more memories than a little blog post can hold but you did well, Chayli. We miss Grandpa and can't wait to see him again.

  4. Vivian

    I'm not even going to try to be the least bit comprehensive in sharing thoughts or memories, but I'll leave a few words. Bro James, as we called him, (even though there were other Jameses at church, there was only one "Brother James"), was for me someone who was always there, a constant pillar as I grew up. He baptized us both, and married us. We wanted him to preach at our wedding too, and he hesitated to do all that, but unselfishly consented.
    Your pictures of hikes and outings bring up faded memories of Sonoran desert picnics when the Roths and Masts were like one little family. It was probably your grandparents that made it so. Ask Mother sometime to see an old photo album.
    I still have a poem he wrote for me for my birthday the first year we were in Mexico. I turned 6. The poem ends with the words "your other grandpa, James." I don't think I ever thought of him as quite a "grandpa" (he was too young), but he was always someone special. Most of my interaction with him after Mexico days was in a church rather than family context, but I think those early days of family time shaped the way I saw him. One memorable exception was a trip to Mexico with your grandparents in 2001 I think it was. Besides visiting Santa Maria, we took a trip to Obregon and I got to meet some of their old friends and acquaintances.
    Thank you for this post. It is good to remember and shed tears. I think he's enjoying visiting with many friends and fellow laborers, and adding his distinct singing voice to the heavenly chorus. Maybe he's been on a few hikes with the King, too.


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