Upon entering the hospital room, I quickly realize that all my life, I’ve unknowingly sheltered my heart from death. While I have mourned for loved ones in the past, and offered my sympathies to their family members at a funeral, I have never watched death creep closer and closer to someone I hold so dear. I was unprepared for how difficult it would be.
To me, he was Grandpa. Joyful, intelligent, and always wanting to tell a story to anyone who would listed. Anyone who knew Grandpa knows how much he loved to talk. Sheer honesty would admit that the younger me didn’t appreciate his chattiness, often chuckling when I’d hear the same story again and again. The older me, somehow made a bit wiser by each of life’s chapters thus far, learned to treasure these stories.
I’ll forever cling tightly to an evening last year, when I sat with Grandpa and Grandma around their kitchen island, thumbing through Grandma’s treasured recipes and Grandpa’s cherished family photographs. His wrinkled hands gingerly touched each photo, a testament to his love and honor of family. How I wish I’d have appreciated these stories long before my adult years. And so I drank it in that evening, watching Grandpa’s heart fill with family pride as each story would unfold.
My memories of Grandpa could fill these pages, each one now a bit more special than they were the day before. But I’m finding that I could also fill many pages with regret. Regret for time not spent with Grandpa. Regret for the times I chose something trivial or insignificant over time spent with him.
The time I spent by his hospital bedside over the past two days is time I will not quickly forget. Family members overflowed the tiny waiting area, taking turns sitting by Grandpa’s side. Never have I seen such immense love for family, and never will I forget the comradery we all shared.
As I held Grandpa’s hand, wrinkled with age and bruised deep purple from his fall, I reminisced of all his hands had accomplished over his lifetime. The hand I now held and comforted was the same hand that once held and comforted me. His hand felt cold, so several times I tucked it under his blanket, only to feel him bringing it back up to search for a hand to hold. What an honor to be a part of the comfort he needed in his last hours. Little did he know how much his need for a hand to hold would grip by heart, both now and forever.
After a night of restless tossing and turning, I returned to the hospital to find Grandpa much worse than when I’d left the night before. Medically speaking, he had no chance of recovery. And while I believed with all my heart that God could perform a miracle and heal Grandpa, I also knew that it was simply his time to go. To go Home, where a host of angels awaited his arrival. Where he would walk streets of gold, uninhibited by the cane and walker he had grown dependent upon. Where he would meet Jesus face to face. Our first prayers were ones for healing; they now became prayers for expedience. Praying fervently that his pain would cease, and that God would take him Home quickly, peacefully.
Surrounding his bedside after his final breaths, twenty-plus family members mourned him leaving the earth, yet rejoiced about his arrival to his new home. His forever home. And it occurred to me how special it is that we know where he is. 2 Corinthians 5:8 tells us that to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord…for those who know Jesus as their Savior and have accepted His free gift of salvation. And Grandpa, having accepted that free gift, is now present with his Savior. Forever.
We have long laughed about Grandpa’s annual holiday joke…one he’d tell with gusto at every family holiday gathering. He’d say, “You know, there’s really only two kinds of pie that I like to eat.” We’d dutifully ask, “What kinds, Grandpa?” (even though we already knew the answer to the joke told countless times) Grandpa would smile and say, “Hot pie and cold pie.” 🙂
I’m quite certain that Grandpa is currently enjoying all of the hot pie and cold pie he could ever want, at a banquet table in Heaven filled with eternal fellowship. And I’m pretty sure he’s enjoying a cup of black coffee alongside his pie. Grandpa, would you save a seat for me next to you at the table? It might be a while, and I hope it is, but I’ll join you there someday. We’ll sip our coffee, eat our pie, and I’ll listen to your stories with the newfound appreciation I learned from you. So take it all in, Grandpa. Write down your stories, eat your pie, and I’ll see you someday. What a day that will be! I love you, Grandpa. Always have, always will. Maybe even now more than ever. Thank you. For everything.