My beloved grandpa Howard died last Saturday.
There are a lot of things to write about when it comes to death. The helplessness of watching a loved one in pain. The gruesome process of dying. (It's ugly and not at all beautiful, like Walt Whitman tried to make us believe.) The fact that few care when a grandparent dies (because he's older, and he's lived, and all of us have experienced the death of a grandparent already so get over it.)
I looked up to grandpa more than anyone else I have ever known. But as I looked up to him - he encouraged me to look further up, to Jesus. There was no one who had spent five minutes with grandpa who didn't hear about his Christian faith. I know there are probably quite a few people reading this blog who don't believe in God at all, and this post might make you feel uncomfortable. But I can't talk about my grandpa without talking about the God who made him the man he was.
His faith in a all-powerful and loving Creator and Redeemer made him a joyful, selfless and grateful human being. He had been forgiven much and he loved much, and he showed that love to some of the most rejected and downtrodden people in this world. On a weekly basis he visited with prisoners, terminally ill, the fatherless, the widow, the lonely, the rejected, the mentally disabled. No one was a stranger to him. He brought his many friends to our family gatherings and welcomed them to his home. He showed genuine love to his wife of 58 years even when his marriage had disappointments, and he didn't feel like being loving. Sacrificial love defined his life.
My grandpa was a man of prayer who woke up before 5am every single day to pray for all those that God had given to him for ministry. His family members, his church family, co-workers, and the countless people he would meet on the highways and biways. I can remember that even as a little girl sleeping over at my grandparents, I would sneak downstairs in the early morning hours to see my grandpa poring over the bible, and praying. He told me every time he saw me. "You are loved and you are prayed for - every single day".
The reason my grandpa could be the extraordinary man that he was - a man who was well-loved and well-respected, who showed up with a smile to help, who gave what little he had away, who told everyone he met "you are a blessing" (and meant it!) - was because of the extraordinary God who loved him first.
So, in this time of grief, I am sad only for us who will miss him. Because he is in his heavenly home, rejoicing.