Everything we needed to know we learned from Grandpa in Michigan


Our family shapes us and molds us. Their fingerprints are on the very fabric of our souls. George Campbell Brotherton was a leader in his family, his church, the community, a successful businessman, but to me and 15 others, he was Grandpa. Three years ago today, he passed away after succumbing to a brain tumor. Today as I stand in northern Michigan a place rich with family memories I want to share him with you.

Michigan was a place that held many precious memories for Grandpa. From family vacations with his own parents when he was boy to his honeymoon with Grandma, loading up the station wagon and camper, taking his children, then grandchildren and great-grandchildren on Michigan adventures, celebrating his 50th wedding anniversary with his wife and children…what Michigan meant to him was magical, indescribable. With grandpa we have camped, boated, and biked our way across most of the state. This legacy is one that he has passed on and now even his great-grandchildren have come to know and love. And so it was, on Saturday night, three years ago, as we neared the cabin in Michigan, that we received the news that Grandpa was gone. His chains of illness no longer bound him. He had been set free and he was home with his Lord, and Savior. Walking into the cabin that night I was surrounded by reminders him, his voice in my head, and his things just as he had left them, blissfully unaware the year before.

Grandpa taught us, his family and his friends so many things. The following are some of those lessons.

Everything we needed to know we learned from Grandpa in Michigan.
Family matters.
Nothing made Grandpa happier than having his family around him.

Share everything.
His cabin in Michigan served as a vacation spot for many families and he loved being able to share this spot. He felt it a privilege to be able share this place.

Appreciate the finer things in life…like a good meal.

Work hard and play hard.
Grandpa was a hard worker and a perfectionist. Growing up with very little he understood early in life the value of a hard days labor and made sure each of us understood that as well. He also understood the importance of rest and took time to enjoy the fruits of his labor, be it boating, camping, or relaxing on the back porch of the cabin.

Take risks.
It was only last year (now an unbelievable four years ago,) at 79 years old that Grandpa was in a kayak battling the Sturgeon River and playing tour guide.

Everything in life is a competition, mealtime is no exception. And along those lines, always pick the fastest go-kart and show no mercy.

Plan ahead, as in dinner.

If its worth doing, its worth doing well.
Grandpa spent countless hours sanding the back porch of the cabin and then applied at least 7 coats of sealant. If one if good, 7 is better.

Take good care of your stuff.

Ivory soap floats.
You will never feel as refreshed or sleep as well as you do after a night swim in Lake Michigan and Grandpa always remembered the soap.

Enjoy a good laugh, even if it’s at yourself.
Try as hard as he might Grandpa wasn’t always the smoothest. Once he welcomed a new cabin visitor to his “humble commode” and on New Year’s Eve just as the ball was beginning to drop he decided to change the channel and find better reception. Needless to say, the group huddled around the tv missed the entire thing. He always enjoyed a laugh afterwards though. Grandpa was also the victim of a practical joke or two. As easy as he was to rile up it was often difficult to pass on the opportunity to stir things up. Whether it was a spoon with fake melted ice cream left on his prized piano or a geo-cache with the cache actually hidden by his barn, he was always a good sport about being on the receiving end of a joke or two.

Finally, the greatest lesson is this. Be strong in your beliefs and don’t apologize for them. Grandpa’s faith was fiery and he shared it with anyone, any chance he got. You never know when something you have shared will make an impact on someone. It may be years later but it’s important to plant a seed. It’s okay to be afraid but hold fast to your faith. Know that God’s hand is in everything and when the waves of life come crashing down, we may not understand why but we know that God is in control and He has a purpose and a plan.

A remarkable man, a remarkable legacy…

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