It was January, 1994. Jeff and I had been married for half a year. Six WHOLE months. We had just celebrated Christmas and were now boarding a series of flights that would eventually land us in Kenya. Africa. The Dark Continent. I had no idea what I was getting into.
I only knew, very clearly, that standing in that airport waiting area, hugging my family and our supporters was very easily the most difficult moment of my life.
It was Granddaddy's tears that undid me. I knew Mom and Dad would cry. And Mamma. But Granddaddy? His tears I had never seen. Not until that moment. Recalling his hug and his face on that day still shakes me to my core.
I guess we've been saying goodbye alot since then. When you practice something, over and over, it should get easier. Not so with goodbyes...
It was a simple service. We gathered in a newly renovated chapel.
The flowers were modest and beautiful. The meticulously folded American flag, stirring.
Our family filed in to the sound of hymns. My grownup cousins and brother-in law awaited us in the row with the other pall bearers.
There was not a lot of pomp. Just the expected ceremonies of a funeral service for a beloved man.
We were saying a final earthly goodbye to Granddaddy.
In this world of many words and where ambition is encouraged and applauded,
we met to honor the life of a quiet man. Steadfast. A diligent and hard worker. An honest heart. With deep integrity.
As we raise our four children, I can see glimpses of aspiring adventures on the horizon for them. But I will consider my parenting a success if I can instill in their hearts the integrity, love of family and generosity of this, the dearest of men.
Granddaddy fought in World War II. On my "show and tell" days in elementary school, he would open up the cedar chest and fish out the medals, patches and flags he had as memories of that time. He never told me much about the items. He just loaned them to me for my school because I asked him to.
My dad heard WWII stories from Granddaddy. And my husband also was regaled on one occasion with many tales. Those were rare moments, when Granddaddy opened up about the war.
Granddaddy seemed to have one goal when he returned from WWII. He wanted his family to have plenty of good things and absolutely no pain. I think war and battle had exceeded his brokenness quotient. And now that he was back in control of life again, no one would hurt on his watch.
This was exemplified when my Mom, his firstborn, entered the world. My Mamma was instructed by Granddaddy to "Never let her cry." I believe this directive was a reaction to the pain and hurt he witnessed overseas.
I also think his tears as I left for Kenya were a reaction to this pain. He knew I was headed to an underdeveloped place and that this would be hard on me. Though Granddaddy was the strong, silent type, never interfering in my life or pushing his opinion, when he saw a problem or pain, he would become incredibly, (silently) agitated until the problem was solved.
Granddaddy's desire for his family to have good in their lives, resulted in his being one of the most generous individuals I have ever known.
There may not actually be enough space on the internet to recount all the things Granddaddy gave to me and my family. It was his joy to give. And any child in his life learned quickly that he rarely said no. Thankfully, we were raised right and we didn't take advantage of this (much :-))
Jeff was amazed at this quality in Granddaddy. After our first trip to Kenya, we spent one year in Odessa preparing to move to Uganda. One day over lunch Granddaddy asked Jeff what small engine tools we might need. (Granddaddy had a lawnmower repair shop in his back yard. He could fix anything. This is a known fact.) I knew exactly where his question was going. Jeff thought Granddaddy was just making conversation.
The next day, Granddaddy called and asked Jeff to come over. He took him out to the shop and pointed to every single thing Jeff had mentioned. Granddaddy was set to rebuild and refurbish the equipment and give them to us. Jeff was shocked. We had budgeted to pay for these things. Of course, Granddaddy wouldn't hear of it.
He wanted us to have what we needed. He wanted life to be easier for us.
Being with my family for his farewell meant the world to me. Here is the reading for the funeral that my sister and I composed together.
The smell of engine oil. The feel of his hand as he held mine when we prayed before meals (I sat to his left--always.) Plain yellow cake. (Mamma said it is his favorite) Pick up trucks. Ice Cream. Repaired Barbie Dolls. Dukes of Hazard. The address file under the phone. The Lake House. Trips to Baskin Robbins. Lawn mowers. Bags of goodies from the Oil Show. Nutter Butters.
Strike it Rich, orange sherbert, bologna and cheese sandwiches without the bread, eating vienna sausages and crackers on the boat, "grandpappy's boots on", getting anything we wanted, the quick breath before "amen"....
Gentleness. Honesty. Hard work. Family.
Our love and admiration for Granddaddy are from depths that are hard to articulate. He made us feel treasured. And adored. Usually without even saying anything. Which was his gift to our world. Quiet strength. Be sure, we have all depended on it.
In this big scary world, we were always confident...there was a quiet, steadfast man on our side who really could fix anything.
We will certainly miss you here, but would never in a million years ask you back to your broken body, from the perfect one you enjoy now.
You are our hero. And just as you wanted, our lives are good. We’ll love each other well. And we’ll see you when we get there. We know your mansion will have an open door!
My parents and my uncle and aunt endured together the excruciating moments of his last breaths. His lungs were sick and he himself had decided to just let go. And even as the hope of Home fills our being with joy, the moment of earthly separation is biting and harsh.
The news of his passing brought me to immediate tears. The memories mentioned above and many others overwhelmed my thoughts and filled me with gratitude for having had Granddaddy in my life. One memory played over and over in my mind.
The phone calls.
Anytime I would talk to Granddaddy from Africa he would ask when I was coming to Texas again. When I would answer, he would reply, “I’ll be looking for you, then.” And he was. Always “looking for us” and happy to see us arrive.
I guess that's what he's doing now.
He's finally in that Perfect Place of no brokenness where generosity is unmatched in the reward our Father has for us.
And Granddaddy together with a Father that never fails and a Son who defeated this separating death...looks for us. And will joyfully welcome us Home.