I knew it was coming, but that doesn’t necessarily make it any easier. It was just a matter of time, but it’s a time you never want to arrive.
He turned 91 just this past September. He’d had several episodes of going in and out of the hospital, but he always came back out – sometimes not quite the same as he went in.
I have been extremely blessed with something I know a lot of my friends and acquaintances haven’t had – until last week, all four of my grandparents were still living. It is something really special for someone to know their grandparent(s) into adulthood. Many people only have vague memories of their grandparents while they were children, or visited so infrequently they never really got to know them. Often, the memories aren’t really memories so much as they are memories given/created by others via conversations and stories, pictures, or maybe a video. So, I am keenly aware of how lucky I have been.
I am struggling with what to write as memories come rushing back to flood my mind, and my eyes, with happiness and joy.
I guess I don’t really need to say much about those.
I just need a place to express remembrance and appreciation for a man who loved his wife (their 69th wedding anniversary was the day before his passing) and his children. For raising my dad in a loving home. For raising his family in a home of Christian faith and passing that legacy on to the rest of his family. For working hard, at two jobs (a fruit orchard and a factory) and teaching his family the value of hard work. For having a wry sense of humor and a mischievous smile. For all the time spent camping, and fishing, and playing cards, and laughing. For all the stories of life on the farm. For going back to the family farm in South Dakota and telling us about his younger life in a sod house on the prairie. For the story of outrunning and catching a jack rabbit in the orchard. For the times of sharing meals. For the quiet times sitting on the patio, sharing conversation, a sunset, a cool breeze, and sometimes even a beer. For the garden goodies he grew every year. For his mealtime prayer that never changed and I will forever hear in my head, “God is great and God is good and we thank Him for this food.”
Now, he is home in Heaven with his Savior. He is in His presence, praising the One who gave him life. He is whole again.
I am sure he is now fishing, gardening and farming, playing cards, talking with his parents and the son he lost to cancer while a toddler. He is hanging out and laughing with the siblings that have gone on before him. He is, no doubt, preparing a place for those who will come after him as well – because that is the type of person he was.
Saying goodbye to Gramps is, after all, not really a goodbye. It’s just a “see you later.” Cliche, I know, but I believe it really is the truth. I know that one day we will sit together again and do the things we enjoyed here on Earth, because we have been given and accepted a promise.
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. – John 3:16
I hope you have that knowledge too. The knowledge and assurance that death is not the end for a loved one, or for yourself. That one day you will be reunited, because it sure takes the sting out of death.
Am I still sad? Yes, of course. Not because I have no hope, but because of the missed opportunities I could have had with him or the opportunities my own kids will miss too. But, with the sadness comes rejoicing as well. How can I not be happy for him as he continues to live, living in triumph over death? There is still a funeral and memorial to come, but for now this will do. Goodbye is so hard to say, and yet…
“Welcome to Heaven, Harold! You are going to be missed down there because you were really loved. But don’t you worry, your family knows where you are and they are celebrating too. We have lots of time and I’ll show you around in a bit. But first, how about I show you a thing or two at canasta…”
No, this isn’t going to be a debate about the worldview between Christmas, where mounds of presents are under the tree, and Easter, where mounds of candy and eggs can be found in a basket. Obviously, in most cases, the “ME” culture says, “Christmas is better because I get stuff and I can get candy any day of the year.”
This post is simply a statement of faith…Easter is better than Christmas.
Why? Well, there are reasons why Christmas is necessary. It is, after all, the celebration of the birth of Christ. This is an important event in the life of Christians everywhere because we recognize that without a birth there can be no death. Death is just as important as birth in this case.
The death of Christ, some would argue, was more important than the birth. He had to be a sacrificed. He had to be found guilty for all my sins, your sins, and everyone else’s sins. He certainly didn’t deserve it and he certainly didn’t have to do it. He displayed no greater love by accepting death, a sacrifice of life so that others might live.
But the cross is not where the story ends. If it were the end, there would be no hope. No hope because death would have won and then Jesus would only have been a martyr and nothing more. However there is so much more! Easter is better than Christmas because there is life in His death. The story doesn’t end with death but only begins, again, with life. An empty tomb is the story of Easter…the resurrection of Christ and victory over death. Because He died, I live. There can be no greater sacrifice and no greater victory! In Him I am free from death, and you could be too.
Mark 16:1-8 New International Version (NIV)
Jesus Has Risen
16 When the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices so that they might go to anoint Jesus’ body. 2 Very early on the first day of the week, just after sunrise, they were on their way to the tomb 3 and they asked each other, “Who will roll the stone away from the entrance of the tomb?”
4 But when they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had been rolled away. 5 As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man dressed in a white robe sitting on the right side, and they were alarmed.
6 “Don’t be alarmed,” he said. “You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified. He has risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid him.7 But go, tell his disciples and Peter, ‘He is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.’”
8 Trembling and bewildered, the women went out and fled from the tomb. They said nothing to anyone, because they were afraid.
Easter is better than Christmas. Period.
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If you have questions about this post, or would like to know more about how you too can have hope through faith in a risen Savior, let me know.