One year ago today, my Grandpop went home to God.
My mom asked me if I would like to say something at his funeral, but I couldn’t think of what I would say. Now that I’ve had some time, I have just a few words – a couple of things I wish I’d said.
Grandpop was always focused on others and put them ahead of himself. When we spent time together, which was often, he was always focused on me, on telling me how proud of me he was and on asking me questions about my life. I don’t think I ever put enough effort into learning about him.
That’s not to say I didn’t know anything about his earlier life – he had lots of stories and I remember many of them well. Stories about surviving the depression. Stories about being in the Navy during the Second World War – being on a ship during storms, about rescuing and caring for a little Japanese girl they found in the water. Stories about meeting and marrying my grandmother and raising my mom and my uncle. Stories about reading to the kids at the library, and taking kids in the neighborhood to church. You see, he was a living example of what it really means to be an American Christian.
He spoke in a sentimental yet strong way about the value of a loving family, of children and of education. I can remember the sound of his voice singing hymns. He adored watching me play volleyball or hearing me play piano, no matter how badly, and used to record my brother and me singing on cassette tapes. I listened to these tapes after my brother passed away.
Now I have a DVD of Grandpop and the rest of the family set to the tune of “It Is Well with My Soul,” his favorite hymn. Around the time of his death, I played that hymn over and over on his old piano which is at my house, until I know my family was sick of it, but they didn’t complain. And my son loves to watch the DVD. It is so sweet to be able to see and hear our loved ones after they pass on, even if we know we have to let them go.
It is such a strange thing to let go. I couldn’t think of what to say when I saw him for the last time either. How do you say goodbye?
My grandpop was quite sick for a while, and it was hard to watch him suffer. The day he died there was a snow storm and I was there at his house with my one month old baby, and my boy and my husband. My parents and Uncle and the hospice nurse were there too. She told me I should say goodbye and they left me alone with Grandpop.
And do you know, I couldn’t think of a thing to say. You see I’m much better at writing than actually speaking, especially when I’m emotional, and especially when the other person can’t speak back.
So I just held his hand and told him that it was snowing and started singing Silent Night, because that was one of the songs I can remember singing with him. He was quiet and still, but they said he could hear us. I started crying when I got to the “sleep in heavenly peace” part. I didn’t want him to go, but I wanted him to be in heavenly peace. And I knew he already knew all the important things – that I loved him, that I would miss him, that he was the best Grandpop a person could have.
But I still wish I could have managed to put those things into words. I would have said, Grandpop, I know you don’t feel good and I’m so sorry you’re in pain. I know not too long from now you’ll be in a place where there’s no more pain, and you will fellowship with the One who will somehow make it all worthwhile, and it will be beyond beautiful. You taught me that and it is well with my soul. I love you.
He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away. Revelations 21:4