Friday, April 18, 2008

Overwhelmed by blessings

Hi friends,

Tomorrow, April 19th, would have been my Grandfather’s 92nd birthday. If they celebrate birthdays in heaven, it will be his first birthday in heaven.

God has blessed us in so many ways in the last week that it is overwhelming.

First I need to back up a little bit and tell you that on Sunday morning (the last time Grandpa was visibly conscious), while we were with him, a woman in a wheelchair named Nellie arrived with her caregiver Catherine. They used to sit frequently with Grandpa in the dining room and had grown to love him. (Nellie says “He couldn’t hear well and I can’t speak well so we made a good pair.”) They’d heard that Grandpa was dying and came to pay him a last visit. Nellie held Grandpa’s hand for a while and he blew kisses to her and to the rest of us. He no longer had the coordination to get his hand to his mouth, so it was kind of hitting his chin instead, but we all knew what he was trying to do. Then Catherine said, “I think I’m supposed to sing this song.” And she started singing a really beautiful song about going to heaven. It was wonderful.

We had taken our digital camera along on Sunday and Dad was taking pictures of the facility as well as of Grandpa while he was still conscious. But somewhere between Sunday night and Monday morning, the night Dad spent there, the camera disappeared. As best as we know, we left it somewhere in Grandpa’s room in Assisted Living. When Dad came back in the morning from sleeping in Grandpa’s Independent Living room, it was gone. We looked everywhere, told the facility administrators, etc., but it did not show up. We didn’t tell anyone else, not wanting to cause suspicion to fall on an otherwise wonderful care facility. Perhaps the pictures of Grandpa dying were too sacred and God did not want us to have them? Don’t know. But it was kind of disappointing because we wanted to be able to take pictures of the funeral too. But we committed it to the Lord and kept on going, because we didn’t have time to research buying a replacement digital camera before the funeral.

On Wednesday my aunt arrived. As we were all sorting through Grandpa’s belongings trying to figure out what to do with them – oh, and hey, that has been another real blessing. There haven’t been fights over possessions or money among family members. In fact, the arguments have been just the opposite: “Don’t you want this?” “NO, I don’t have ROOM for that! J” Anyways, as I was saying, my aunt got there on Wednesday, and in the middle of all the friendly chaos my aunt said to me, “Hey, come out to my car with me.” So we went out and she said, “I brought your Mom’s birthday present along and you can stick it in your car. Also, I brought a digital camera for your whole family.” I was utterly surprised. I wasn’t sure if Dad wanted to let out about our lost camera so I went and told him. He started crying and told her the whole story. She was blessed to know that God had used her to bless us at just the right time. I can’t tell you how special this was to us. As it turns out, the new camera is much better than the old one anyways… lighter, smaller, more megapixels, better zoom!

I don’t know why God blessed us with another digital camera in a world where most people have never even owned one… but He did.

Also on Wednesday my uncle’s lifelong friend Bob Littlefield flew out to be with my uncle. It cost him $180 just for the 100 mile taxi ride (he arrived so late that no shuttles were available). But he knew this was a tough thing for my uncle to go through and wanted to go through it with him. Now that’s a friend. You don’t find too many like that.

The memorial service was at ten on Thursday, right in the very elegant auditorium in the facility. Steve Reuchel pastors a church which meets in this room each Sunday (most of its members live in the facility). Steve conducted the service, and it was great!

To set this in perspective, there were no funerals for either of my Dad’s parents. (If there’d been a funeral, practically no one would have come because they had so few friends and family left.) When mom’s mom died 5 years ago, Grandpa did not want to have a big service, so we had a small one in their mobile home park’s clubhouse.

But Grandpa’s was great. Perhaps 30-40 people came. It was touching to meet so many people whose lives Grandpa had blessed during his year in Independent Living. Mom was able to enjoy it, thanks to a door to the outside next to where she sat, which we left partly open so she could have good air. The three of us each were able to share a tribute to Grandpa (and we made it through without breaking down too badly). The gospel was presented clearly, both by us and by Steve, who did a wonderful job. (One good line by Steve: “For Christians, earth is as close to hell as they’ll ever be. But for non-Christians, earth is as close to heaven as they’ll ever be.”) There were unsaved residents and staff at the service. I can’t tell you how thrilling it was to be able to use my grandfather’s death as an opportunity to share the good news about Jesus.

And Catherine and Nellie came up at Dad’s request and Catherine sang her song again. You can watch it here: . You can see other pictures from the service here: (taken with the new camera!).

People were so nice to us and brought cards and food. The staff treated us almost like royalty.

It’s so hard to put this all into words. Maybe the service sounds kind of bland to you, but for us, it was terrific! I wish you could have been there. Bob Littlefield did record the whole thing with his digital camcorder so maybe we’ll be able to get it up on the Internet some day.

But here is the bottom line. Shortly after the funeral, the thought hit me: “Wow, if God rewarded my Grandpa’s faith with such a wonderful funeral, when my parents die, we are going to have fantastic funerals, because their zeal for the Lord has been tremendous!” And then close on the heels of that thought, “Wow! I want to live all-out for Jesus, because I’ve seen the end, and it’s worth it!”

Thank You Jesus for Your faithfulness to my Grandpa. He didn’t deserve Your love (nor do we) but we are sure grateful that “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners”. Amen!

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