Family Story Month: Sarah's Story
Hi, my name is Sarah. I live in the Wisconsin house with my husband and four daughters. We qualify to live here because of my grandfather’s service overseas. He was a Corporal in the Army, and he served in the Korean War. His name was Neil Edward Crandall, and he was a great man.
I didn’t know that he had served as a soldier until the last week of his life. He was rushed to the VA hospital in Ann Arbor, MI, because of heart problems. I went with my family to the hospital to see him, thinking he may die before we even arrived. Now, my Grandfather had eight children, including two sets of twins, and many, many grandchildren and great-grandchildren. When we arrived, my little family of four was just one of many that had rushed to the hospital to see him. We got very little time to have any meaningful talk, and I left the hospital, wondering if I ever would again.
On the way home, and all through the night, I did something that I had not ever done. I prayed to God, asking for something very specific. I just wanted time to spend with my Grandfather before he left this world. I wanted to have a real talk with him and be able to say goodbye in some meaningful way. I went to the VA Hospital two days later, and the place was deserted. Where there were once people everywhere, veterans seeking care, loved ones, nurses, doctors, there was complete silence. I made it to my Grandfather’s room and found him alone.
My Grandpa Neil loved politics; it was the one thing we really bonded over, and he could talk for hours about
it. So, once I got settled in with him, I brought up Ted Cruz, thinking he would love to talk about the most recent Republican to announce running for office. He had nothing to say about it; he simply was no longer interested. So, instead, I asked him about his life. We talked about him meeting my Grandma Bonnie, marrying her on his coffee break, having eight children, being a telephone man in his work. And then we made our way to his service.
He was most animated when talking about his service. We talked for four hours with no lull in the conversation. He talked about the other men he served with, he talked about his duties, about the greenery all around him, how he had seen nothing like it at home in Michigan. He had a particular job while in Korea, he was tasked to go over enemy lines at night and mark large x's on the ground where bombs should be dropped the next day. He said the most terrifying part was not crossing into enemy territory; it was when he would come across men from the other side doing the same. He never confronted them, just noticed them, and hoped they hadn’t marked anywhere near where he was stationed.
While our conversation found its way to an end, he told me that the most important thing I could do in life was, to be honest. He said it was the only thing that mattered. He was sent home the next day to consider a heart surgery that doctors didn’t believe he could live through. My last two memories with him were this conversation and a few days later, when he played with my two oldest daughters in his home, allowing them to play with his medical equipment and climb all over him. I had never seen him so sweet and gentle with children before, especially girls. To me, it seemed he had always favored the boys. He died the next day on April 5th, 2015.
On the day of his funeral, I found out that I was pregnant. I just knew it would be a boy, and I would name him Neil. I knew this baby had a connection to my grief and his love and light. Instead, she was a girl that we named Margaret, and she is fierce and funny like him There have been times while living here that I have felt less than or undeserving. I am not a veteran; neither is my husband. But, when I think of my Grandfather, who spent his last days imparting wisdom and showing love in the kindest of ways, I know that he would be overjoyed to know that his service allowed my family a second chance at life.