Grandpa’s Girl

By Robert Kirwan


It was a hot Saturday afternoon when I stopped at the Valley East Cemetery to update pictures for my web site at After taking a few photos, I noticed three young girls sitting in front of a headstone. My curiosity got the best of me so I went over and asked them what they were doing. Little did I know that I was about to experience one of the most touching ten minutes of my life.

Emly (spelled without an i) McKibbon, the young 12 year old girl on the far left in the photo, was the first to speak. “We’re visiting my Grandpa,” she said as she pointed to the monument on which was engraved, John McKibbon 1936 – 1993. Fifty-seven years old, I thought to myself. “Me and my step-sisters come here often to fix the flowers and talk to him.”

Sonni, the oldest of the three at 13, sitting in the middle, added, “Sometimes we just come here and sit. It is pretty quiet and there are not usually too many people around so it is peaceful.”

Rebecca, 12, sitting on the right, said, “Sometimes we walk around and pick up papers and pop cans that people leave around too. It is sad that some people leave the place in a mess, but we don’t mind cleaning it up”

“I didn’t know my Grandpa,” said Emly in a quiet voice. “He died when I was seven months old. But my mom said that he always wanted to be around me and went wherever my mom took me.” I spoke to her mother, Colleen, and she confirmed that Emly was indeed, Grandpa’s Girl. “He was a wonderful father,” she commented, “and he sure loved his granddaughter.”

During the conversation with the girls I kept having visions of my own granddaughter who just turned 12 months old on July 3. I thought about Grandpa John, a man who was only two years older than myself. I know how I feel about my little Hailee. I know how I feel when she stretches out her arms for me to hold her and how I feel when people say that she is Grandpa’s girl. I looked at Emly and told her, “Your Grandpa knew you, Emly. For those seven months he knew you and he knew you loved him and that’s what is important.” It was about thirty degrees outside that day, but there were shivers going up and down my body as we spoke. I could sense that there was someone else out there with us that afternoon.

I found out during our conversation that one day last year these three young girls brought large bundles of hand-picked flowers and put a flower on each headstone in the cemetery. They looked so much at ease sitting on the grass, visiting Grandpa John. Even though Sonni and Rebecca came into the family long after John’s death, they still spoke about him as if they knew him.

As I pulled out of the cemetery and headed along Gravel Drive , I noted that my allergies must have been bothering me, because my eyes were a bit watery and my nose was running. It was hard to drive for a couple of minutes. I knew that the next time I held Hailee in my arms I was going to squeeze her a bit more tightly and hold her for a little longer than usual.

I don’t think I ever met John, but I feel I know him. He would be extremely proud of his granddaughter. And I know he’s resting in peace knowing that Emly is still Grandpa’s Girl.


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