My 97-year-old Grandfather passed away this last week. It marks the end of an era, a passing of a generation. My parents are now the "old" ones.
It is good though. I have cried tears of joy, relief, praise, and nostalgia, but never sadness or regret. He went the way we all wish to go....in his sleep after a full, long, blessed life.
His life wasn't perfect. His life didn't go always as he planned, but he lived in the fullness of knowing he was loved by God. He experienced God's grace and sovereignty for 97 earth years, and he passed it on to us.
If you know the stories, and we all do since he was a master storyteller, you'll see numerous God-sightings. Two great tragedies in his life were contracting polio as a young man and losing his only son long before expected. He could have chosen to be bitter, he could have chosen to cut off a relationship with God....stopped trusting, but he didn't.
He modeled this for us, his children and grandchildren. It was very typical to end a visit with him in prayer. He was an old-time Quaker, so when he prayed the thee's and thou's came out, but it was with such personal love it didn't seem overly reverent, but a mark of intimacy with his savior.
He also modeled committed love to his wife of 73 years. In the last few years the dementia won out in my grandmother's mind. She wasn't the person he married, but he didn't see that. He still saw the wife he pursued and loved.
He even requested a double bed for their health center room. He just didn't feel close to her and he wanted to hold her and snuggle her and rub her back. (The nurses could never fulfill this wish. His desire was so sweet.)
He lived these last few years motivated by a need to take care of his wife, his loving duty. He made sure she got to meals, got dressed, got back into bed when she wandered in the middle of the night... He told her she was beautiful after she'd get her hair cut and washed. Visitors might only see an aging woman, he saw his life partner. To me this is a huge God-sighting.
We weren't always sure she knew he was dying. (Not totally sure she knows now.) About a month ago he started to show obvious signs of making a turn toward heaven. One evening a night nurse walked in their unit and saw her near him, holding his hand and saying, "You're going to leave me soon, aren't you."
He was really only bad this last week. He mostly slept on Sunday and Monday. On Tuesday he gave it one more look around. He left his room, ate two meals....like he was checking it all out and realizing he was really done living here.
He'd wake up and say, "I was sure I was in heaven. Am I really still here?"
What a good thing, to know heaven for sure....having total confidence in your passing. I had wanted to ask my grandparents if heaven seemed more real as you got older, and I think I now know that it does....not when you get older, but when you get closer.
He died in his sleep with his daughter, her husband, and his wife singing hymns together. He left this life with singing, and I'm positive he entered the next hearing a magnificent choir....rejoicing that he was finally made perfect and finally home.
As the hours and days pass I keep thinking, "Wow, he's been there now 48 hours. Or, it has been four days now." It actually seems more real to me now too. Maybe that is how it works. Heaven seems more real, the more people you know who are there waiting for you.
This is with my youngest who was born in Feb. of 2009. He was eager to see and hold all his great grandchildren. When I saw him recently with just my growing baby, my grandpa laughed and played with his toes, said that was all he needed to see to get better. I can still hear the happy in his voice.
This is a picture of our middle boy. My grandpa actually drove over to our house; this was when we lived in the same town as them.
This is when I was only outnumbered by two little boys. We always had a Christmas with them. My grandpa always made the boys something in his wood shop. One year he bought them NASCAR cars. He always wanted to give them things to remember him by. He would even try to play catch with them when we'd visit. When we went up the day after he died, my oldest asked where Great Grandpa Richey was. (I had already explained to him that he'd died.) I showed him the empty bed and the empty chair. I hope my oldest has a few memories of his great grandpa. I have one faint one of my great grandma who was close to 100.