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…”