A week ago, I received a text in the night that my Grandpa had slipped away from this world. It’s been a bittersweet week saying goodbye… a little bitter, mostly sweet. He was quite tired of living in a body that had more problems than he could keep up with. I’d say 89 isn’t too shabby.
My Grandpa only had an 8th Grade education, but the wisdom of what he taught me far exceeded his reading level.
My Grandpa taught me to love my family. Just a few months ago
Grandpa convinced my Mom and Aunt to drive him up to my house (they
turned a four hour drive into seven). They loaded up a mountain of
oxygen tanks, a breathing machine, and a walker. He was so excited to
walk into my house and my kids could hardly leave him alone. All in one
day, he made it to Kate’s soccer game, then drove to William’s football
game. He cheered his guts out and we beamed that he had made it. When
we got home that afternoon, we let him rest, the oxygen lines running
like railroad tracks all over the house.
electricity mysteriously went out. Seriously. At first, it was an
adventure, but as the hours went on and the dark started to come, we
began to get a little worried. It didn’t come back on for the entire
night. We put Grandpa to bed in William’s room and I set the alarm
every two hours, hoping the oxygen would stretch since we couldn’t
recharge the tanks. I had to keep a candle lit in the bathroom for his
frequent trips to the bathroom. I spent the night praying that he
wouldn’t die in William’s bed since his various machines couldn’t be
In the morning, I looked at my Mom and
Aunt– none of us had slept and we were all three exhausted. But
Grandpa? He was pretty tired, but still raring to go. Mom had to gently break
it to him that they had to leave early since we’d had to make a serious dent in the extra oxygen. I
mean, I’m certainly not a nurse, but breathing is kind of important.
It was the last of many, many, many visits from Grandpa and Grandma. When I think of all the places and all the ways they made it a priority to visit us in between our trips home, it makes me feel so loved.
My Grandpa taught me to be generous. I have a little collection of silver dollars. They all have a piece of white medical tape on them, with my name and the year written on it. I remember Grandpa dressing up in a Santa costume that Grandma had made, along with a beard that was made of quilt batting and elastic. Every Christmas they would come up with some kind of creative way to give us a little envelope with $20 in it and I thought it was the best thing ever. One year it was taped inside a little plastic horn, and inevitably, they would pretend that one of the in-law’s envelopes was empty and would laugh like it was the funniest thing in the world. Even this Christmas, when he was so sick, he took joy in handing us those little familiar envelopes. He loved to give and he taught me the joy in giving to others.
But most importantly, my Grandpa taught me about longing for Jesus. Just a few days before he died, when we still thought that he might pull through, he looked at my mom and said, “I can just see my welcoming line in heaven. I can see Jesus waiting for me… and behind Him is Gracie (that was my Grandma) and then Annie. I just can’t wait to see them.” His words have echoed in my brain many times since Mom relayed them to me. When we face death, whether our own or someone we love, we long for heaven and for those we know who have gone before us. We miss them and rightly so. Heaven becomes so much more vivid to us when we can picture the faces of those we’ve loved so deeply. But Grandpa had a sacred longing for Jesus, not just for those he had known in life, and that is so profound to me. When I think of the promise of heaven and all that it holds for me, I don’t want to gloss over what Jesus has done for me by limiting my longing of heaven to just those I have lost here on earth. Someday in heaven, we will be in the fullness of Jesus. Together with our welcoming line, we will sing “He is worthy to receive power and riches and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and blessing!” (Revelation 5:11-12). We will look to Jesus, our desires for Him fully satisfied, and it will be far beyond our wildest dreams.
I love the legacy that my Grandpa leaves: to love others, to live generously, to long for Jesus. He may not have thought he was a smart man, but his actions and the way he ordered his life proved otherwise. I miss him dearly already, but I am so glad to know his deepest desire has come true. He is home.
P.S. That picture is one of my dearest treasures: My Grandparents with Annie, just two months before she died.