To Bumpa: My Grandfather for 42+ Years


I’m having a really hard week, guys. Yesterday was a very sad day for me.

I found out my grandfather passed away on Thursday, peacefully and at the ripe old age of 95. He was a week shy of his 96th birthday. He passed peacefully and suddenly in his sleep after a second bout of pneumonia this year.

I was blessed to have my grandfather for 42+ years. I suppose not many granddaughters can claim that.

Everyone has called him Bumpa since my sister and I were maybe 4 or 5 years old. Cody was just a baby then, and Shauna couldn’t say Grandpa, but she could say Bumpa. He liked that name and it stuck. He said he was the one and only Bumpa – and he was. There was NO ONE else like him.
Christmas 2009

The last time I saw Bumpa was last summer when he was with his two kids (my mom Sandi and my uncle Steve) and all four granddaughters.

We are still thinking about how to handle his funeral; whether I am strong enough to make the trip to Canada or not, and how much it will set me back health-wise. My docs here in Taiwan have been worried about me flying anywhere since February 2017. We have been waiting for the green light from them for what seems like forever.

Bumpa with his Granddaughters - July 2016

With his granddaughters. A rare photo for him with all four of us together.

For the past 14 years that I’ve been coming home from Asia, Bumpa has always told me he might not see me ever again and that he loves me, and then of course, he’s still there the following year when I come home.

I didn’t make it home this summer and if I had, I would’ve seen my sister get married and I would’ve seen my grandfather for the last time. I know he knew I loved him. I am so grateful I saw him last year.

He is the fourth close family member to pass away in my family during my last 11 years in Taiwan. This past year, I limited my activity strictly in order to get home this summer, but I couldn’t do it. I wasn’t strong enough to fly or handle all the visits that happen when you go home after being away for a year.

The thought of not being there with my family hurts my heart badly right now. I’m writing this memorial post instead and the tears are flowing freely today knowing that I can’t be with them to offer my love and support to my mom, who likely needs it more than anyone right now.

Christmas 2008

Christmas 2009 when Grandma Louise and my brother Cody were still with us. This was our last family photo all together.

My Bumpa was something else.

1. We called him Bumpa because my sister couldn’t say grandpa. He introduced us to the Boogie Man who he kept in his bronze keepsake box at his house. (It was a wood box, I believe, but I don’t ever remember them having a fireplace in their home.) Every time we went to visit him, my sister and I would crowd around that silly box trying to work up the nerve to open it.

As soon as we put our fingers on it, he’d roar out, “BOOOOOGGGIIIIIIIIIEMANNNNNNNN! The BOOGIEMAN is coming to get you, girls!” We would run shrieking to hide from the Boogie Man with my mom or dad.

 2. He loved rum and fully believed that a little was exactly the right medicine to shut us up when we were kids. (After the shrieking about the Boogie Man, he would often give us a little taste and say it was the best remedy for putting us to sleep.)

My dad’s mom fed us beer to get us to sleep. Apparently this was a ‘thing’ with their generation.

3. He introduced us to Ompah and Lake Palmerston where we would swim and fish to our hearts content. For a while there, the three Marshall kids would rap, “My name is Bumpa and I’m from Ompah, and if you don’t like me, I’ll just have to stomp ya” (Ompah stomp referral).

That summer, he asked us to sing it over and over again just for him and then he’d stomp his foot down like he was stomping a bug and we’d all shriek and laugh our heads off.
Christmas 2013

Another Christmas together. This was in 2014. It was my last Christmas with him. My health gets worse every time I go home during the winter.

John and I decided that year that 2015 would be my last Christmas/winter visit to Canada.

4. He loved fishing. He seemed happiest on the lake fishing and cutting over water ski lines on purpose. He used to say he would never do that on purpose, but I am positive he’d cut those water ski lines in front of our cottage at Lake Palmerston if the kids across the bay were being too loud.

5. He was crotchety and could be mean, but he could also be incredibly sweet. He loved to argue, but he could be really funny sometimes. He put my mom through hell. He never admitted when she was right and she would be upset by it, but to be honest, he never thought anyone was right, so it wasn’t just her.

He was always right, even when WE all knew he was very very wrong.

6. If you’d like to know who I got my musical abilities from, it was my grandfather. He was a fantastic singer who could rumble as low as they go. He had a fantastic baritone voice that went sweetly with my mother’s soprano voice, although they didn’t sing often together.

He also played the trumpet, and I always enjoyed entering his home and listening to him belt away to his favorite records. He said singing helped him blow off steam. I hope my mom reads this and remembers to tell me who his favorite musicians because I have no doubt he was listening to music and rumbling away right up to the end.

7. He liked lobster and would often show up at our house with a fresh catch and we’d have a feast. He also made Christmas dinners a lot of fun. Sometimes he’d bring his silly tartan hat and wear it to make us laugh, but more often than not, we’d use our Christmas crackers and he’d ALWAYS insist that everyone wear their paper crown at the dinner table.

8. I was the first grandchild to travel to Florida by myself at age 14 to spend a few weeks with him and my grandmother at the beach. (I was also the flaky artsy kid he was worried about, but I proved him wrong wrong wrong, and he happily admitted it.) Every time I saw him, he asked me about John and wanted to know if we were financially stable. It was his way of putting his own mind at ease because he had a hard life. He didn’t want us go through what he went through.

9. Bumpa has been blind for many years, and he was crippled at a young age from scoliosis and polio, so his health has never been good, but he never stopped fighting. If you notice his body shape, he is actually a bit of a hunchback from polio. He had it when he was 14 or 15, and if you remember the treatments for polio way back then, I can tell you that he did all of it.

Maybe that is where he got his fighting spirit from. He just never gave up.

That man was fearless. He’d plunge ahead out of the car, completely blind, with his oxygen tank wrapped around his feet and we’d all scramble to get to him before he fell. He was that sure of himself.

He very rarely fell too. He just instinctively knew. I think I may have gotten by sense of confidence (overconfidence?) from him. If we said he shouldn’t do something, he’s surely go ahead and do it anyways.


With his daughter (my mom) Sandi at his favorite hamburger pub.
With his daughter Sandi and his two granddaughtersMy sister, Bumpa, my Mom and me.

I’m telling you, he can’t see a goddamn thing in these two photos. 

10. There are so many things I could tell you about him that would make you laugh, but I’m not laughing right now. I’m just really, really sad. I know he is at peace now. I just wish I had had the chance to tell him one more time how much I loved him. I know my sister and my mom made sure he knew that before he passed.

This is how I want to remember him as it appears I will not be able to fly home for his funeral. We are still hoping something decent comes up and that I might be able to pull this trip off, but with the way my health has been this summer, I’m not sure it’s good for me to go. So this is what I am thinking of instead and I hope my family knows that I am there in spirit with him.

His 93rd birthday, when he travelled all the way from Kanata to Perth to see my sister’s new home. I’ll be honest, he couldn’t see much in this photo here, but you’d never know it.

Rest in peace, Bumpa. You will never be forgotten.


Bumpa's 93rd (2014)

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Post Author: Carrie Kellenberger

I'm a chronically ill Canadian who has been living in Asia since 2003. I moved from China to Taiwan in 2006. I'm an experienced businesswoman and have worked in many leadership positions in Asia. In addition to my own work, I've been writing professionally about Asia, travel and health advocacy since 2007, providing regular content to publishing companies and travel publications in Asia and North America. I started writing about my health journey in 2009 after being diagnosed with Ankylosing Spondylitis. In 2014, I was diagnosed with Fibromyalgia and ME/CFS, which came with other massive health issues. These diagnoses were the start of my journey as a health advocate and patient leader. Since then, My Several Worlds has been recognized worldwide as a top site for AS, fibromyalgia, and chronic illness by WEGO Health and Healthline.

4 thoughts on “To Bumpa: My Grandfather for 42+ Years


    (September 9, 2017 - 2:41 pm)

    Well now I’m balling my eyes out. This is so beautifuly written. Makes the reader feel like they actually spent time with him. I pray you can make it home..

      Carrie Kellenberger

      (September 25, 2017 - 4:43 pm)

      I know. It’s sad. I didn’t make it home, but they all know I am with them in spirit. My grandfather would not have wanted me to risk my health to do that, and he knows how much I love him.

    Alana C.

    (December 18, 2017 - 10:10 am)

    I am so sorry, my grandfather passed away last year because of a spider bite, it was so sudden. Sending my love, xo.

    Katie Clark

    (January 19, 2021 - 11:16 pm)

    So hard to lose those we love, but even harder being away and not able to go home to family. During the Pandemic, many have faced this. It’s been so difficult seeing this. My uncle (like my father) died alone in a care facility. But we did gather, safely, to share memories. However, I’ll hold in my heart the times we were together and the fact that we let each other know that we loved each other deeply. That is what is important, not the distance. I keep him alive in me by learning to play his ukulele:)

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