Remembering Granddad Robbins

While I was visiting Travis and Traci in Florida last weekend, I took the opportunity to visit Granddad Robbins' grave site at the Florida National Cemetery in Bushnell, Florida. When I arrived at the entrance to the cemetery, I was struck by the fact that, although I've been back to Florida several times since we fled the place in 1992, I never gave much thought to going back to see the site where Granddad's body was laid to rest more than 21 years ago.

Upon driving up to the entrance of the cemetery, the scene took my mind back to when we first paid a visit to the place for Granddad's funeral. I remembered riding on a charter bus with a bunch of our relatives. I remembered wondering why we were taking Granddad so far from his home to bury him. As a thirteen-year-old, it seemed like we were driving forever from Ocala to get to the burial plot. When I asked about it, someone told me that Granddad was being buried in a military cemetery as a means of honoring someone who served our country in the US Navy.

The cemetery is laid out in sections. Each grave site is numbered. Granddad lives in Section 110, Site 720. This is a picture of the graves in the front of Granddad's section.
When I got out of my car and walked over to the section where Granddad is buried, I felt like I was going to his funeral again. As I wandered through the headstones looking for Granddad's, I found myself getting nervous and even a little bit embarrassed that it had taken me more than 21 years to return to the grave site of someone I'd spent so much time with as a kid and whose influence defined so much of my life. I wandered through the headstones trying to figure out where site 720 might be located. After a few minutes of looking, I found Granddad's burial plot towards the back of the section. Here's some video footage. You can hear the loud sound of the bugs, and it quickly brings back the feeling of being in Florida again.

You can see from Granddad's headstone that he was an ADC in the US Navy, and that he served during World War II and the Korean War. I'm not sure what exactly an ADC is, but I'll do some research and find out.

The cross at the top of the headstone with the banner on the left side is the symbol for the Methodist Church.
Here are some of Granddad's neighbors at the cemetary. Most of the headstones have the block style cross. Granddad's Methodist headstone is somewhat unique among all the others there.
Granddad's grave site doesn't have a row of graves in front of it. The other burial plots make a kind of apex coming down from the left and right sides to the five or six grave sites that include Granddad's in the middle. From what I could tell, it looks like there are no plans to bury any other military veterans in section 110.

I called Dad while I was at the grave site to ask him about some details I wasn't sure of regarding Granddad's life. We talked about the significance of Granddad being buried there at a military cemetery. Dad mentioned that in that place Granddad will be resurrected when the time comes. It reminded me of Ezekiel's vision in the valley of dry bones:

Ezekiel 37
1 The hand of the Lord was upon me, and carried me out in the spirit of the Lord, and set me down in the midst of the valley which was full of bones,
2 And caused me to pass by them round about: and, behold, there were very many in the open valley; and, lo, they were very dry.
3 And he said unto me, Son of man, can these bones live? And I answered, O Lord God, thou knowest.
4 Again he said unto me, Prophesy upon these bones, and say unto them, O ye dry bones, hear the word of the Lord.
5 Thus saith the Lord God unto these bones; Behold, I will cause breath to enter into you, and ye shall live:
6 And I will lay sinews upon you, and will bring up flesh upon you, and cover you with skin, and put breath in you, and ye shall live; and ye shall know that I am the Lord.
7 So I prophesied as I was commanded: and as I prophesied, there was a noise, and behold a shaking, and the bones came together, bone to his bone.
8 And when I beheld, lo, the sinews and the flesh came up upon them, and the skin covered them above: but there was no breath in them.
9 Then said he unto me, Prophesy unto the wind, prophesy, son of man, and say to the wind, Thus saith the Lord God; Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe upon these slain, that they may live.
10 So I prophesied as he commanded me, and the breath came into them, and they lived, and stood up upon their feet, an exceeding great army.

Of the many memories that came back to me one stands out in particular. I remember being woken up by Dad early in the morning. I think it was around 4am. Dad gathered a group of half asleep kids, probably most of whom thought the house must have been on fire or some other emergency. After gathering everyone into the family room, Dad surprised us all with the announcement that our energetic, seemingly healthy Granddad, one of our biggest fans and best friends had passed away because of a heart attack that most likely came as a result of a near-drowning accident he'd had years earlier while mowing the grass next to one of the lakes at The Grove. After absorbing the initial shock of the news and among a group of crying family members, we knelt in the family room while Dad asked God to comfort our family, to sustain Grandma Robbins, and to help us understand why we had to deal with the loss of our only remaining blood-related grandfather. [Grandpa Henline still counts though.]

While I was standing there at Granddad's grave, I calculated that he would likely be 89 years old now had he been able to reach his heart medicine in time or if some other factor(s) would have been different. I thought about my kids, and I contemplated that Granddad would be pretty impressed to see how much Spencer likes sports and how intelligent Maylee is. I figured he'd be honored to share his first name with a handsome little boy named Stephen George Robbins. While I was pondering what role Granddad would have in his extended family were he alive today, this scripture came to mind from Doctrine and Covenants 128:17-18:

17) ...Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord: And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse...
18) ...the earth will be smitten with a curse unless there is a welding link of some kind or other between the fathers and the children, upon some subject or other—and behold what is that subject? It is the baptism for the dead. For we without them cannot be made perfect; neither can they without us be made perfect.

After listening to the Education Week talk from Brent Topp (Mom emailed it to everyone a couple weeks ago) about the sometimes not-so-expansive divide between the spirit world and our mortal existence, I wondered if it would be worth trying to tell Granddad at his burial plot the things I would have said to him 21 years earlier had I known it was his time to go. I thought about telling him thanks for the big bucket of bubble gum he bought for me to use during my baseball tournament in Cape Coral, which was held within weeks after his death. I thought about telling him how exciting it was to have him take us to McDonald's for breakfast on Saturday mornings, and how I've continued that tradition with my kids. I wondered if I should apologize for sometimes making his life complicated by harassing Darron and Ryan during our summer visits to Ocala, by wrecking the go-cart almost every time I drove it, by following Robby out to the lake to go fishing instead of taking a nap when we were supposed to, and dozens of other transgressions. As it turns out, the only thing I could get out was a whispered, "I miss you, Granddad!"

My visit to Granddad's grave was not originally planned as part of the trip. I thought of the idea after talking to Travis about where Granddad was buried and checking to see how far it was from Orlando. Having left Travis' house in Cairo later in the morning than I should have, I was debating on the drive south whether I should risk missing my flight by going out of the way to Bushnell, where the cemetery is located. I called Lisa just before I got to the Florida Turnpike (which goes to Orlando) to ask her to check Google Maps to see whether I had enough time to visit Granddad's grave. I'm glad I took the chance. It was a good experience, and I recommend it to whoever can make it.