Thursday night I (Kari)had to face the moment that I had been dreading since I first grasped the concept of death, my beloved Pappaw died. My heart has been absolutely broken, because of familial concern of the potential flu risk for me and Z, we had to miss the funeral. So, I’ve spent the past 24 hours dealing with grief on my own and in my own way. I’ve read things that Pappaw gave me, I’ve made a special playlist about him, I’ve looked at pictures and of course I’ve cried. I was so upset that I had some really strong contractions on Thursday and on Friday, I’m feeling better today and our little pixie has kept dancing in my belly. While I would still give my left arm for ten minutes to truly say goodbye to Pappaw, I feel more peaceful. After all, isn’t the beautiful benefit of being a follower of Christ and loving other followers that we know we’ll see them again? While I’d much rather be eating ice cream and playing Jeopardy (we used calculators to make it a true home version and count the dollars) right now than have him in Heaven, that’s selfish. For the first time in probably 50 something years my Pappaw isn’t in pain. His beautiful, brave spirit kept his terribly broken body alive for a long time. As someone who deals with their own chronic illness, I have learned to find great peace in the big pictures of Heaven (no death, no sickness) and now find that petty uncertainties of Heaven (what will I wear? Will there still be fried chicken?) don’t bother me like they used to. I also that I know because of the hope I have in Jesus, I won’t hurt anymore either! So I can only imagine how relieved from the painful trappings of his body he’s had for so long. It makes me think of that beautiful Brad Paisley song “When I Get Where I’m Going”
I’m gonna walk with my grand daddy
And he’ll match me step for step
And I’ll tell him how I missed him
Every minute since he left
Then I’ll hug his neck
Yeah when I get where I’m going
There’ll be only happy tears
I will shed the sins and struggles
I have carried all these years
And I’ll leave my heart wide open
I will love and have no fear
Yeah when I get where I’m going
Don’t cry for me down here
Well, I’m afraid that I’m still crying a little. But, I know that God understands that, after all, even Jesus wept for his friend Lazarus. I have felt real peace and joy as I’m spent time praying, listening and singing to some of Pappaw’s favorite hymns. Let me share how my “funeral” activities have helped me and the neat things it’s helped me think of or remember.
My Pappaw loved to read, he made the best homemade cards and bookmarks and he wrote the best letters too. I’m glad that I have so many letters saved and they still encourage me. Plus, I routinely use his bookmarks that he made when I was in high school, because they are my favorites. I treasure all the time we spent discussing books and reading together. Yesterday, G and I came across a beautiful book that talked about how God gives us the ability to have memories of those we love so part of them stays with us even are gone. If that isn’t a beautiful little thing that Pappaw sowed into my life long ago that brought me comfort today?! Isn’t God, awesome?
My Pappaw loved music. He’s the reason I love gospel music, which helped being one of the ways that I was never really able to fully run away from God, even when I tried. He’s the reason I love Glenn Miller. I have so many memories of Pappaw singing to me whether it was one of our favorites “Memphis, Tennessee” or one of many hymns and gospel songs. I love that he gave me such a love of music. He was choir leader at church and sang in quartets too. I loved it when he would listen to Glenn Miller because the trombonist in him couldn’t resist playing along into the air. I see roots of the love for music in G too. He loves to conduct and “lead the singing” like Pappaw and he too plays a mean air trombone, especially for a two-year-old.
My Pappaw was so handsome. My son has his beautiful blue eyes and I even thanked him at Christmas several years ago by learning to play the guitar and “giving me his eyes” in a song. His twinkly, can’t keep a secret because they twinkle so much eyes are alive in pictures and even more alive in my mind. I love looking at pictures and thinking of all our happy memories- birthdays, Christmases and even just playing board games.
The best thing that my Pappaw did for me was to share his faith, open and often. He even gave us our beloved family Bible, one that had been well-loved by him, after RJ and I were baptized. I got it out last night and it smelled like him. Don’t you love that about books? Keep your digital books, this Bible smells like my Pappaw and part of him was here with me last night when I read some of Genesis to G last night. He never stopped praying for me. He never hesitated to pray with me and always tried to answer my questions, even the crazy ones, about God. One of the best things he ever told me helped me deal with so much of my anxiety.
“If you can trust him with eternity and your soul, you just have to keep working on letting go and trusting Him with more and more.”
Wow. I still struggle with that. But Pappaw’s words help me down an important path of living out my faith. Not just clutching some certificate for admission to Heaven, but trying to be better all the time. Not to get things, but because I’ve been given so much and I want to share with others.
I could tell you so many more things about him. Like the summer he took me to the movies every week for a kid’s movie festival. We saw so many movies and had fun. He had my favorite gospel quartet, Gold City, write me a letter for a birthday one year. He took me to see them when I was a little girl too. We loved playing Uno and Aggravation. His favorite drink a Sprorange- part Sprite, part OJ was awesome. He did help pull of my surprise birthday once, he got me good that time, plus I got a steak house lunch too!
And just think we might not have had him at all! Pappaw’s mother, whom we call Ma, had suffered many miscarriages before Pappaw and he almost didn’t make it. Pa, saved his life when the rude doctor had given up, and think what a gift we were given because of his bravery to step in and try to save his son! I may have a legacy of infertility and pregnancy loss, but my son has made my life wonderful too, just like Pappaw made our lives wonderful.
Sometimes it’s so hard to believe I’ll never get to tell him anything or ask him anything this side of Heaven, but I’m grateful for every minute of my life that I could.
I’m never good at saying goodbye. I want one more I love you, one more hug. There’s a big part of my heart that wants to be a little girl again spending Friday night with my Buddy-Buddy watching baseball and playing Yahtzhee. I want to be able to sing along to Bill Gaither specials together. But, a part of me is ready now to face the future. I’m not seven, I’m not thirteen, I’m thirty-five-years-old and I have a two babies who look to me to love and protect them. I never understood why God made me wait so long to have babies, but now I get it. If I had lost my Pappaw and didn’t have the sticky fingers reaching for “one more book-book” and these kicks stirring within me, I couldn’t make it right now. I couldn’t. As crazy as it may sound, I’m grateful that I had to wait this long for my babies. God has blessed me doubly with their timing.
We have an even more special connection about babies. When I was born, I was very colicky and my favorite thing was to have Pappaw rock me in the recliner and sing to me. I always knew that story. But several years ago he surprised me by introducing a song at church by saying that I had been such a blessing when I was born. He was recently on disability from getting hurt at work and said he was down. He told the congregation that having me around to sing to had made things so much better. I’d always felt like a burden for being a fussy, sick baby- but God used that comfort him. He then sang the song that was our favorite from those recliner days and it was one of the most precious things I’ve ever seen. And now when I miss him the most, God saw fit to give me two little ones to help brighten up the dark parts of my soul.
I wish I could get one more hug. I’m so grateful G got to meet him and loves him so. He’s heard me praying for him so much lately that before he died he heard me say Pappaw’s name and he actually prayed for him all by himself. When I say I miss him or why Mommy is crying, Gideon always says “because we love him.” Indeed my dear son, we love him and always will.
I couldn’t live without knowing I’ll never see him again and I’m so grateful to God for the fact that I know I will. In his memory, I just ask you to consider, will I see you in Heaven too? I hope so. Are you following Jesus and do you have peace about dying? If you ever have any questions about why I know I will see my Pappaw again or why I believe in Jesus, please remember that I’m only an email away. I know it can feel very “judgy” to hear people quote the Bible and say that we’re all sinners, but I believe we are all sinners and that includes me. (Believe me it includes me, I rival Paul himself and believe I exceed at being Chief of Sinners.) But if we repent of our sins and follow Jesus we can find so much peace, comfort and security for eternity.
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. John 3:16
I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand. John 10:28
In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace Ephesians 1:7
Pappaw loved me. Pappaw loved his family. And we can have peace because we know this is only a short goodbye. But, I’m glad God understands that I’m still missing squeezing his hand and seeing his smile.