A new command I give you: LOVE ONE ANOTHER. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you love one another (John 13:34, 35–NIV).

Does Grandpa know Jesus?


Grandpa Fritz loved babies. Here he is holding days-old me in Sept. 1969.

It was an earnest question from a little girl’s heart. After all, even from a young age, it was my desire that everyone in my family know Him, and what ever would Heaven be like without Grandpa?

Grandpa Frederick “Fritz” Simonson was born August 20, 1912 in Stanton Township, a blink-of-an-eye copper mining area along Lake Superior in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. Truly Simon’s son, his parents were Simon and Mary, and they had, besides Grandpa, nine other children in their brood, though three died in infancy.

Both my dear Grandpas, working together!

It wasn’t that Grandpa didn’t seem “Christian” enough, if there really even is such a thing. It’s just that, unlike my dad’s father, Grandpa Frank, who belonged to a unique, Amish-like church denomination called the German Baptist, didn’t own a television, or listen to the radio, Grandpa Fritz was Lutheran, sometimes swore, and drank beer. To this little girl, that deemed him potentially lost, and I needed to know that he, too, knew and loved Jesus.

Unbeknownst to me, Grandma Helga overheard my conversation with Mama–when I asked her Does Grandpa know Jesus?–and she shared my concern with him. He, desiring to put my mind to rest, wrote the following and gave it to me less than twenty-four hours later.

I picked this up in ‘Portals of Prayer’ in the U.S. Marine Hospital, Detroit, in 1956. This has given me strength each day since.

“My Prayer–Divine and Gracious Savior, I beseech Thee to take full possession of my heart and life, let me know that each moment of the day, Thou art with me, protecting me with Thine grace and persevering me with Thine love. Help me to overcome the discouragements and disappointments that come in to my days and ease my pain. Take all bitterness and selfishness from my heart and let me live trustingly one day at a time as I lean on Thee and give me a hopeful outlook for the future. Let my patience increase as I ponder upon Thy mercies, divine and gracious Savior.”

Amen. Grandpa Simonson

His penmanship was impeccable

What a treasure. Not only did the words he’d written offer my worried heart relief, but it secured in my little girl mind the knowledge that Grandpa not only knew and loved Jesus, but he looked to him as his Savior and Lord.

The older version of that little girl knows more, believes whole-heartedly that–indeed!–Jesus answered each and every part of Grandpa’s prayer.

God had His protecting hand upon Grandpa when he was involved in an automobile accident, when he crawled miles in the snow to find help. The other passenger, the driver, sadly perished.

God preserved Grandpa through radiation treatments for cystic acne that later led to thyroid cancer which nearly took his life.

Battling cancer meant having to turn over a coveted job as the captain of the Ranger III–a National Park Service vessel that carried passengers to and from Isle Royale, a tourists’ spot for naturalists in Michigan’s Lake Superior. It also meant letting go of the dream for a full-time residence on a rural plot with a fixer-upper home that Grandpa loved just outside Hancock, Michigan and remain, instead, in Detroit where Grandpa was employed with Ford Motor Company. Such brought great discouragement and disappointment–the death of his dreams–and could have led to bitterness and selfishness, but for God’s great mercy and love.

Grandpa Fritz holding me (red bibs) on far left with his brothers-in-law and their grandkids at the Heikkinen Estate, our family farm in Toivola, MI

Thus, Grandpa learned to lean on and trust God more fully–one day at a time. With Jesus, his Savior, he was given, despite all circumstances, a hopeful outlook for his future, as well as for the future of his family.

And patience?

Grandpa was the one who took my sister and me swimming and berry picking and bike riding and sledding when we’d visit them from Ohio. He taught me how to drive when I wasn’t yet sixteen–kindly telling me to “Apply the brake. Now. Now. NOW!” but never with a raised voice, and always–always–with love.

Yes. I’d say Jesus answered Grandpa’s prayer for patience.

More than that, God’s love in and through Grandpa Fritz spilled out and over onto me in more ways than I can count. His love for wildflowers and wildlife (his constant companion, his binoculars). His love for dogs and cats. For Christmas and coffee. For the Heikkinen Farm (his wife’s family estate). For the Great Lakes, for Copper Country, as well as for visits south, both to see us in Ohio and, in their later years, to their winter home in Ocala, Florida.

His love for family. Yes, his love for Jesus.

Just like Grandpa Frank’s blessing–offered around the dining table, his brood all drawn near–Grandpa Fritz, too, offered blessing that spanned the many miles that often separated his family members. Though he rarely prayed aloud, something I honestly never heard him do, his life was a prayer–as we picked blueberries or splashed in Misery Bay or picked bouquets of black-eyed Susans and daisies in the Heikkinen Farm pastures.

My life is all the richer because of the bounty of Grandpa Fritz’s blessing-

… as I ponder upon Thy mercies, divine and gracious Savior. Amen.

When, many years ago now, the boys and I visited Grandpa’s grave in Toivola’s tiny cemetery, Ian bent low to the ground just over his plot. With hands pressed firmly around his mouth, he called out in earnest, perhaps truly believing he could hear, “Hello down there.”

And I corrected him. “No, Ian. Grandpa’s not ‘down’ there. He’s up in Heaven, and one day you’ll get to see him again.”

“Really?” a five-year old Ian inquired. “How do you know?”

And my reply?

“Because he told me.”

Thank you, dear Grandpa, for your blessing which has offered blessing upon blessing. I am eternally grateful for the faith you lived, the way you loved. 

Until we meet again…

Grandpa Fritz graduated to Heaven on 2/3/03 at the age of 90.