7 Years ago today, God planned for me to experience one of the most tender, though-provoking, happy, sad, and glorious experience. An experience that has so profoundly impacted Doug and me, one we will refer to often through out our lives and glean wisdom from for the rest of our lives.
SOOOO What Was It?
The death of my grandfather- better know to my family is the term I coined for him as a small child-Crappa! Very few people have the PRIVILEDGE of sharing with all their relatives the daily and nightly care of their grandpa. But we did just that! The night before he died,- in fact just as I’m typing this- 7 years ago- Doug and I were laying on the floor on a make shift palette next to my grandma and grandpa’s bed, to help in case there was the need. But of course, we were fairly sure he had already slipped into a coma. But by the next late afternoon, we knew he was going to pass at any moment. And in that last moment, I got to sit on his bed and watch him breath his final breath. And after the coroner came, I again got to stand in a circle around that body bag and sing to him in a large family choir of "It is Well With My Soul!"
I never thought seeing death would be so peaceful, so at times joyful, so amazing. You see, for weeks, we had been gathering the extended family and camping out in every bed, corner, closet and couch at my parents’ house all playing a part and taking a shift in Grandpa’s care. It seems so the way God would want a family to take care of its elderly. Seriously, after all my grandfather had done for all of us, after he had spent his whole life investing and loving us, It seemed like caring for him was our only desire or method to return that love to him!
My Grandpa- man, oh man, I loved him! And I knew he loved me. He was a constant influence in my life, and his memory and the wisdom he left for me will be with me forever! You see Grandpa was just a nifty guy. He was energetic, helpful, committed, humorous, tender, and prayerful! I’d hear talk about how God had really turned his life around and he’d become a new man. I didn’t know Grandpa before He gave his life to God. But he did always tell me that anything good in him was the work of God in him! He spent individual time with me, whether I was a toddler, an elementary student or engaged to be married. He always was reminding me of God’s work in my life, challenged me to obey, and stressed the important of prayer.
As a little girl, my memories of him were waking up early in the morning and hearing grandma and grandpa pray. And PRAY. They faithfully prayed for everyone they knew, tons of missionaries, and for all of us grandchildren to surrender our lives to Christ and find a godly spouse. He and I would go out for ‘sweet rolls’ together. We’d walk to McDonald’s for pancakes in the morning. He was a runner. And after retiring, he was always painting people’s houses. And Grandpa would always introduce himself to each and every Joe Schmo passing by and usually – get them laughing, find a common friend between them, and start talking about Jesus! Grandpa taught me to play Rook. He was always encouraging me (usually with a funny pinch) to be thankful for my parents and to treat them with respect.
One of the coolest things about grandpa is that he was part of a pair! Part of grandpa was grandma, and you should have seen the two of them together. They could pray twice as long together! They could sing louder together! They could clean twice as fast! They could team up better to encourage, love and be servants! Their marriage was such an example of dedication, working together, and marriage. And it was so amazing to watch, from a front row seat, how their marriage played out during the cancer and his death.
Grandpa practically comatose, the two of them would cuddle in bed together. The two of them were the least afraid of all of us! They knew they were going to see each other again. Grandpa was joyfully anticipating Heaven. And Grandma peacefully trusted that God would be her comfort, companion, and refuge while she’d be without grandpa and waiting for her chance for Heaven!
All through growing up, Grandma and Grandpa lived off and on with us throughout the summer season. My junior and senior year of high school and through some college, he and grandma were living with us for several months and my sibling were all off at college. So I spent my nights with mom, dad, Grandma, and Grandpa. And I loved it!
That last week that Doug and I were living with mom and dad in order to help care for grandpa, I had some tender moments with him. Moments that will always stay wrapped up in that special glorious red velvet I use before I tuck them away in that pocket way back into that extra warm, soft part of my heart!
You see, he was really excited that I was pregnant with Audrey. Although, he was sad that he would never meet her, he was so excited that we were excited. And he was so thrilled that God had given us a baby after he had prayed so diligently for just that! And he’d whisper in my ear about how great Doug was and how much he loved Doug. He wanted me to know that he’d prayed for me to find a godly man and Doug totally was the answer to his prayers. He wanted me to know that he loved Doug as if he were his own blood grandson. One night I cuddled with him in his bed and he noticed a little grimace on my face. When he asked me what was wrong and I told him it was a headache, he says ‘Oh, I’m so sorry. I’ve never had one headache in my whole life, and I can’t imagine how painful it must be." Golly, I’ve never had cancer ravage my body and be slipping out of consciousness, but tell someone I want to sympathize with your pain the best way I can. And one night, cuddling with him in the dim light, I quietly sang "I Can Only Imagine" to him. Weak, totally eaten by painful cancer, thin, and frail, Grandpa smiles, and say "Ohhhhh, it’ll be so great, I can hardly wait to see Heaven, Rebecca. Thank you!"
So, life has gone on and the years tick by letting that pain fade. But I still love Grandpa. And I love keeping his memories alive! Especially to Audrey, who never got to meet the man that prayed for her so hard!