Recently, I read a post a lady shared about a road trip with her 90 year old father and it caused me to reflect on my own Grandfather, Nephi Anderson, who was 93 when he passed away just over 2 years ago.

He is a true inspiration to me and someone I will always look up to throughout my life. Hopefully some of what I share will be of inspiration and benefit for you.

Nephi Anderson age 18 as a soldier in World War II

Although he was a soldier in World War II, and part of the Greatest Generation, what he did after the War was even more impressive. He served a mission, married my Grandmother, started a small family business (dairy farm) in Southern Idaho, and successfully raised 8 amazing children (my 4 beautiful aunts, my wonderful father, and 3 excellent uncles), who went on to raise many amazing children (38 total), who are my siblings, and cousins (who are in turn, raising awesome families now).

I was blessed to have been raised next door to my Grandparents and work on the farm together alongside my Dad and Grandpa Anderson and I got to know my Grandpa very well as daily we would work together. He would often take time to teach me how to ride horses and we’d take rides together as well in the mountains behind our home in Southern Idaho.

One of the greatest honors of my life was when he approached me as he was planning his funeral and asked if I’d be the concluding speaker. It was an overwhelming thing for me, but I prayed often and took mental notes over the years about what I felt prompted to say. By the time his funeral actually came, I felt that Heaven had helped me prepare my thoughts.

Over the years, I’ve been very blessed to have had experiences with our Father in Heaven blessing me and lifting me up, answering prayers, and guiding me. But not many experiences compare to the spirit I felt as I was giving Grandpas talk.

Since some of our friends and family didn’t get a chance to experience the sacred experiences we all felt and shared at Grandpa’s funeral, I’ve included the talk below, which can also be found on his profile at online.

Walking like Grandpa: Talk Given at Grandpa’s Funeral

Hello friends and family. I’m grandpa’s oldest grandchild and as such, he would often call me his “firstborn in the wilderness”, referencing a verse from the Book of Mormon. On behalf of our family, I want to thank you all for being here. We love you all so much and I know Grandpa does too.

I grew up next door to Grandpa and would often come over to “help” him on the farm as a young boy. Being a farmer took a toll on his knees and by the time I was around 4-5 years old, and he was 60, his knees were already starting to give out on him.

One day, I was following him as he was walking on the farm. He turned around and caught me hobbling back and forth like he did with his bad knees. He asked me “why are you walking like that, my boy?” and I said “I’m walking like you Grandpa, but wouldn’t it be easier if you borrowed Elmer Andreason’s (the neighbor) cane?”

Today I’ve felt impressed to share the a few of the many ways throughout my life that I’ve been trying to walk in the footsteps of my Grandpa.

Being a Friend

Often, I would be with Grandpa as we would be driving around, checking on the fields and crops and he would get a thought about one of his fellow farmers and say out loud “I wonder how old “so-and-so” is doing..” He would then finish what we were doing and we would go over to visit that person. That person always left feeling better because Grandpa had a way of lifting people up and building up their confidence.

There are too many time to discuss how he did this for me personally, but I’ll share one example from when I was in high school. I was struggling early in high school with my self confidence and also from not having friends and Grandpa seemed to take notice of this and took me under his wing. Often, after school, he would spend time with me and teach me how to ride horses.

We would sometimes take horse trips up into the mountains behind our house. On those trips, the world seemed to slow down and we were just friends riding together on the trail. He would tell me stories about his adventures of his youth growing up in the desert on a ranch and of the fun he would have with his brother, Don Jr. he would always ride in front of me and I would watch carefully how he positioned himself on the horse, and how he would hold his body and put his arm on his leg. He would often smell in the smells of nature and talk about the “wonderful beauties of nature” that God has provided us.

On one of these trips, we were laying down next to a mountain lake (Independence Lakes) and we were eating our egg salad sandwiches. During this time, I looked over at Grandpa and thought about all the time we had been spending together and great conversations we’d had on the trail, and I said to him “Grandpa, I wish you were 14 years old too so we could hang out at school too. I think we’d be best friends.”

He was very touched by that and he said something to the effect of “My boy, I’m a little too old for high school now, but we can still be good friends now”.

I felt it in his actions and his words that he truly was my best friend.

Answer to a prayer

Later in life, in my late 20s I was struggling with depression and having very negative thoughts about myself. I didn’t know where to turn, so I turned to God in silent prayer and plead for an answer to show me he loved me and that my life had purpose and meaning.

Within 30 seconds after saying that prayer, my Grandpa Anderson called me on my cell phone. I answered and he said with his normal cheerful voice “Well, if it isn’t my grandson, Aaron. The firstborn in the wilderness. How are you doing?”

I proceeded to tell him of the depression I was feeling and he listened and then shared some very personal moments with me of a time when he was depressed for a number of months after my grandmother Faye’s death.

As he spoke, I remembered how sad he had been back then, and I also remember how he had used that sadness to empathize with many people who were down-trodden in life as he was a Church service missionary. Sometimes I would accompany him as we would deliver food to people in very poor circumstances, and he would lift them up and truly understand how they felt.

After our conversation, I knew that God loved me and cared for me because He had answered my prayer by having my Grandpa call me and speak words of love, comfort, and encouragement.

Relationship with God

Growing up, the joke between my brother and I was to have one of us say the prayer when we spent the night at Grandpas house because his prayers were so long!

It wasn’t until I was older that I truly appreciated his prayers and felt God’s presence as he prayed.

I was in a hotel room in Washington D.C. in 2015 with Grandpa on his World War II Honor Flight.

Grandpa Anderson and I at his WWII honor flight in 2015 in Washington D.C.

He was weak, and it was hard for him to kneel down, but he made the effort to do so. Then as he prayed, he poured out his heart in gratitude for the Savior and His atonement for us.

He thanked God for our family and prayed with the sincere love of a father for each of his kids and grandkids. As he was praying, I felt the love of God sweep over me and I opened my eyes to see if the room was full of angels. The only angel I saw was my dear Grandpa, who was ministering to me without even knowing it.

My chance to minister to him

The last time I saw my Grandpa Anderson is a moment I will treasure throughout my life. It was my chance to help him in a small way and try and repay him for everything he had done for me throughout my life. It was the summer of 2019 and we were both staying at my dad’s house.

I was in the kitchen and Grandpa had retired into his bedroom. I was about to go in and watch tv with my siblings and hang out, when I felt a distinct impression to go in and check on my grandpa.

Thankfully, I followed that impression.

As I opened the door, I saw my Grandpa Anderson struggling to reach down and take his socks off. He looked up at me and with a twinkle in his eye said “My boy! Never get old!” I laughed and asked him if I could help him take his socks off.

As I took his socks off, I noticed how weathered his feet were and he mentioned how they were sore. So I started rubbing his feet and asked him if that helped him. He told me that it did.

As I continued to rub his feet, we reminisced about all of the experiences we’d had in life. Riding horses, hearing cougars up in the mountains, our trip to Washington D.C.

As we talked and I looked at his feet, I realized these were the feet I had been following after all my life and that it was a sacred moment that my Father in Heaven had given me.

We talked for an hour or so until I could tell he was very tired and I went to leave, but before I left, Grandpa looked at me in the eyes and said: “My boy, one of the greatest joys in life has been watching you grow up. I love you more than words can express. Always remember that no matter what, I will always be with you.”

I didn’t realize it at the time, but this would be the last time that I would see my Grandpa in this life. He would pass away shortly thereafter.

Death, Suffering, and Spiritual Healing

The morning I received the phone call that Grandpa had passed away, I was heart-broken. I grieved deeply and felt empty inside. Tears flowed as I remembered someone who was like a father to me and who had been there for me many times in my life when I most needed someone.

I cried to God asking for comfort. Soon after my prayer, I felt an overwhelming feeling of peace come over me and an impression and feeling of joy that is indescribable. I then received the revelation that this is was my Grandpa was experiencing and that is what I could experience along with everyone else on earth, if we do what my Grandpa did and stay faithful and endure to the end.

While Grandpa isn’t here on earth anymore, I’ve learned that trying to walk like my grandpa is doing my best to walk like the Savior. Grandpa wasn’t perfect, but he always tried to follow the Savior and I pray that we can all do the same.

I’m extremely humbled and grateful for the spiritual witnesses I’ve received throughout my life. Words can’t express how much of a blessing it is to have had the witness that Jesus heals and lifts us and frees us from death and it is through Him that I have hope and await being able to be reunited with my Grandpa Anderson again someday.