Fourteen-year-old Larissa Heatley, Dallas Willard’s only granddaughter, delivered a personal tribute at his memorial service. She is sharing her message with us today, giving us a sweet, intimate glimpse into their relationship.
I’m Larissa, Dallas Willard’s granddaughter, and he used to say I was a grand-daughter. But granddaughters only exist with grandfathers, and he was the best grandfather of them all. He always knew what to say, no matter what the issue was. He always knew what to do to make me feel better. Even if we were just playing games.
He would play the silliest games with me. There was one game—that wasn’t really even a game—that I made up, and he played it every time I asked. What we did was go down their driveway a little and sit on this big rock and it was large enough that when I sat on it, my legs would hang over the edge and just swing back and forth. And Grandpa would stand next to me.
The game was simply finding rocks and throwing them down the hill, seeing who could throw them the farthest. That was never really the main focus while we were down there, though; the main focus was whatever we were talking about…until I wanted to talk about something else. I was young, so I don’t remember what we would talk about; but I remember the way that we would talk. We would talk in any way that we wanted to, but he would talk in such a loving, calming way. He always talked like that.
I always wanted that voice to teach me at USC. And I’ve been thinking about that a lot lately and how that isn’t going to happen. But I realized while I was thinking about it, that he had already been teaching me more than I could ever have learned in school. He taught me how to learn and observe things without him saying anything. He taught me the importance of thinking, and the importance of taking time to choose your words. He taught me the importance of the little things.
The little things that he did were my favorite. And so were the big things. Everything he did was so loving and kind and unconditional. He had unconditional love for everyone that he met. That was another thing he taught me: Love everyone. I need to work on that one a little more. He had that one perfect, though.
All the little things he did added up every day, one by one, and showed how much he cared about you. Some of the little things he did for me really showed how much he cared, now that I look back on it. When he was in his study writing or typing on his computer, I would always try to sneak up and scare him. He would always act surprised to make me happy. That’s love.
And he also used to wave us off as we drove away. Now, some people will wave their family off for a little while, but he had a long driveway and he would wave goodbye to me from behind the white picket fence until we couldn’t see each other anymore. He would do it every time, without fail. It became our way of saying “I love you, and see you soon” without having to say anything.
“I love you, and see you soon” was the last thing I said to him. I will still see him soon in heaven. He told me in the hospital that if he passed, it wouldn’t be long until we resumed our life together.
The years to come without Grandpa will seem like nothing compared to the eternity that we will be spending together with the Lord, but it’s already been too long without him here. It’s been too long since I’ve held his strong, gentle, big, loving hands. It’s been too long since I’ve had a hug from my magnificent, strong, larger-than-life, teddy-bear-like, #1 Grandpa. It’s been too long since I got wisdom from the smartest guy I know.
I will always remember one sentence that really summed up everything he stood for and everything I need to do. He might not have meant it as anything, but I kept thinking about it. He said it to me in the hospital, just before his last surgery. We were all walking out of the room and he called me back just for a moment so we were the only two in the room, and he said, “Give ‘em Heaven.”
At the time I’m pretty sure he just meant it as a joke, or maybe he didn’t. He had a way of saying things that would be meaningless to him, but if you kept thinking about them, they would become so meaningful that you’d never forget them. So anyway, “Give ‘em Heaven.”
Image by Becky Heatley. Used with permission. Post by Larissa Heatley.