My Granddaddy went to be with Jesus a few hours ago. There was an obituary that was written that speaks of all the amazing ways my Granddaddy served this nation, including as a Special Forces officer in the army, defending freedom in the Korean and Vietnam wars and as an attorney serving as a public defender, championing justice. And also how he joined the High Pointers Club in his 70s, traveling to the highest point of 36 of our 50 states before he turned 80.
To me, this picture is Granddaddy. A man full of joy, looking slightly like Santa Claus, with a contagious laugh, thoughtful, intelligent, a servant, loving, and somewhat quiet. My Granddaddy.
I wrote Granddaddy a letter last week for his birthday, and thought I'd include some of those highlights to share his spirit with others.
1. The summer I turned 13, Granddaddy took my brother and me on a white water rafting trip in Idaho. For four-five days, we traveled down the Salmon and Snake rivers (with a guide of course), camped on beaches along the river, and enjoyed nature. He subsequently took all of my other cousins in following years. Granddaddy loved spending time with his grandchildren and this will always be a trip I will treasure and remember fondly.
2. The summer I got my driver's license, Granddaddy decided I needed to have further instructions on parking, so every morning we were there that week, he took me to the University of Arkansas (they lived in Fayetteville) to practice in a parking lot. One day he told me I was better at driving backwards than forwards. :) I like to credit part of my ticket-less driving record to those practices.
3. Times at my grandparents' house was always filled with playing games, especially if my cousins were also there. Hearts was the card game of choice, and then we'd drag out a host of different other games from Triominoes to Monopoly. I remember one time my brother, Adam, cousins Mat and Jon, Granddaddy, and I were playing Monopoly, but the kids teamed up (I was with Mat and Adam with Jon). Mat and I have always been rule followers where as Adam and Jon...not so much. They were cheating (I don't even remember how) and when Mat and I realized, we told Granddaddy. He responded that we should have been paying attention and noticed sooner. Oh Granddaddy. :)
4. Granddaddy HATED gummy worms. And yet, I loved them. One of my favorite things to do was give him gummy worms because he made the best face (that's actually what the above picture is of). I will forever remember that face and the belly laugh that accompanied the smile.
5. Every year for my birthday, Mammy and Granddaddy would call and sing. Except halfway through, Granddaddy would bow out because he liked to listen to Mammy sing.
6. I'll remember the creak of his old rocking chair, the pristine organization of his desk in which everything sat at perfect right angles, how he would make me breakfast every morning when I visited complete with a banana (which he cut open for me) and grape juice, and so much more that I could write volumes.
Last night at shoreline we sang the song Forever Reign and I completely lost it. Big ugly cry. This song always instigates emotion as it reminds me of Brazil, but last night, I was also just grieving over so many hard things in my life and the lives of friends and one of my college girls. It reminds me that there are hard things, wicked things, but also joyful things that occur in this life. And even so, my heart will sing, no other name...Jesus.
On my way home, I switched to another favorite, Constant. As I listened and reminded myself of Jesus' faithfulness, love, perfection, etc, etc, I realized I have been looking for heaven on earth; for myself and others. And I remembered yet again, it will not come. There will be trials, persecution, and challenges until God takes me or Jesus returns.
As I continued to ponder this when I got home, I began to pray for God to take Granddaddy to heaven. For Him to give me boldness to share the Truth of heaven more freely and frequently, and for my life, no matter what I'm doing, to sing praises to His name.
Granddaddy is whole. He's with Jesus. And not because of the good things he's done, but because he's recognized that he is unable to achieve heaven through any good works. Only by accepting Jesus' free gift of grace is he in heaven. For that assurance, I will mourn and grieve him leaving this earth, but I will rejoice that I know he is whole. His strength was failing, and now he'll sing Jesus' praises forevermore.
And on that day when my strength is failing
The end draws near and my time has come
Still my soul will sing Your praise unending
Ten thousand years and then forevermore
Thank you, God, for my Granddaddy. For using him to teach me so many things, for the joy he has brought into my life, but more than anything, please use him to draw me closer to you and, with greater boldness and zeal for heaven, share your Truth with those you've placed in my life. Thank you for the gift of life and the gift of death when both are walked with you.
Come quickly, Jesus, come quickly.