20 My confident hope is that I will in no way be ashamed but that with complete boldness, even now as always, Christ will be exalted in my body, whether I live or die. 21 For to me, living is Christ and dying is gain. 22 Now if I am to go on living in the body, this will mean productive work for me, yet I don’t know which I prefer: 23 I feel torn between the two, because I have a desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far. - Philippians 1:20-23
What a strange day. This is the first time I have lost a grandparent when I remember. My Pa died when I was 3 years old, and while I think I might remember a little from all of that, today is the first day of my life that I've lost a grandparent I can remember. A great man. A godly man. A man of great integrity. A man who led his family biblically. A man whose word you didn't question. My grandpa. As we drove home to FL yesterday, a million scriptures were running through my head. Some Grandpa had talked about, himself, and some that just fit the situation. I was praying I'd make it in time to just see Grandpa alive one more time.
I was able to see him twice yesterday. He was unresponsive, but since they say the mind is the last thing to go, I really think he could hear what we were saying as we talked. As we prepared to leave last night from the nursing home, I leaned down to tell him goodbye for the night. I was talking to him about a conversation he and Landon and I had in the hospital last August when it looked as though he might not make it. We talked about how living is Christ and dying is gain. Being conflicted between the two. This was what he thought about his life - living his life with a purpose while he was here on earth, knowing that Father had a specific job and purpose for his life only, to use him in specific ways. I must have told him I loved him 20 times yesterday. Sometimes I wasn't sure what else to say but I just wanted to say something to him.
I have a million memories over many years. My most solid memory that I have thought of the most often during the last year was from times I would stay with my grandparents when my mom and dad were out of town. I can remember crawling out of my bed at their house in the mornings and walking down the hall to the living room and kitchen. Grandpa would always, without fail, be sitting at the kitchen table. I could smell his aftershave, and he would be drinking coffee and reading his Bible and devotion books. Sometimes Grandma would be still sitting with him reading her Bible and sometimes she'd already be up from the table cooking us flat eggs for breakfast. He would see me coming and say (in his special Grandpa voice), "Hello, Sweetie." It was that voice that was deep from just waking up. I have always felt such complete security in their love and support for me.
Over the years I have talked to Grandpa (and Grandma, too) about a million things. I remember them coming to spend the night with Steph and me at our apartment in Gainesville. That was really special. I remember them coming up to the townhouse in Woodstock so that Grandpa could come to the men's conference. I am so sorry he was never able to come to Bethabra. I know he was proud of how Landon followed God's call, and he would have loved to hear him preach there. I talked to them about our decision to surrender to the ministry and when we had been through some significant marriage struggles. He was a good listener. He was good at pulling truth out of the Bible and applying it to life.
And he loved his family. He and grandma wrote each other love notes in their Christmas stockings every single year at Christmas. They put money in our stockings, but love notes in each other's stockings. 65 years of growing together. My goodness. If you listened for just a second to him, you'd hear him talk about how good God had been to our family and how much he loved his wife, his sons, and all of us. He was a tight hugger. He gave a really good hug. The kind where you could barely breathe and it was a good kind of barely breathe :)
One of my favorite things was to hold his hand. He was a tight hand holder. Serious business.
I was looking at his Bible this morning. So much Scripture marked in the Bible. It's hard to tell what might of been his very favorite verse because so much is marked. Some of the pages are so worn they are about to fall out.
This is a little Bible he carried everywhere with him. Seriously? Look at how it's falling apart.
This was back in the spring. God was so gracious to give me so many conversations with him this past year. Even a week and two days ago, I had a wonderful conversation with him about challenges in our lives and what we felt like God was teaching us. He said God was teaching him that it was okay not to be so independent.
Special doesn't even begin to cut it. To say that I love him doesn't even scratch the surface. While I was driving alone from the funeral home to he and Grandma's house this afternoon, I was talking to him, if he could hear me in heaven. I was telling him, "I know we just left the funeral home and are making arrangements, but it feels like when I get to your house in a minute, you will be there. Of course you will be there, where else would you be?" It's like even though I understand he is not here on earth anymore, it seems surreal, and impossible. I don't know how people live without the hope of Christ and heaven. I desperately cling to that because I know this life is not the end. Reminds me of that song,
"All I know is I'm not home yet
This is not where I belong
Take this world and give me Jesus
This is not where I belong".
I know just like he had family waiting for him, he will be waiting for all of us up there. I can't wait to see him again. I don't know why God chose such a good family for me. All I can say is thank you, Father. I love you FOREVER, Grandpa!
35 Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will trouble, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? 36 As it is written, “For your sake we encounter death all day long; we were considered as sheep to be slaughtered.” 37 No, in all these things we have complete victory through him who loved us! 38 For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor heavenly rulers, nor things that are present, nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in creation will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. - Romans 8:35-39