God always knows what he’s doing.
I felt safe enough to start going back to church a few weeks ago, right in the middle of a sermon series on the fruit of the Spirit. But this particular week, Pastor Bob felt led to preach on a difficult topic instead – death.
I don’t like to talk about death. It’s not an easy thing to discuss, and I couldn’t believe my first in-person sermon in eight months was literally all about it.
We’re not singing in church right now due to COVID, but Sue Ann still plays beautiful music on the organ and piano and the words of the hymn are displayed on the screen.
That week the final hymn of the morning was “It Is Well With My Soul.” Pastor Bob asked us to read the words and really take them in.
I’m sitting there thinking, “Are you kidding me? I would have skipped church today had I known this song was going to be part of the service.”
You see, my Nana chose that song for us to sing at her funeral. Fourteen years ago she planned her own service and made that song a part of it. And I’ve never been able sing it or hear it since without being overcome with emotion.
Fast forward to Sunday, November 22nd – two weeks later – I was driving solo to church, heated seat on and Christmas music blasting. Jimmy was hunting so I had the drive to myself. “O Holy Night” by Mariah Carey comes on. I hear “fall on your knees, oh hear the angel voices” and start crying.
Why am I crying? Why am I so emotional? And who cries to Mariah Carey? I try to brush it off but my mind immediately wanders to my family. Is everyone okay? Specifically, is Granddad okay?
I was a little emotional at church too, but I ended up having a wonderful and productive day.
But that evening, I got a text from my mother. Granddad was not okay. In fact, he had been conscious but unresponsive all day, had not eaten anything, and had no acknowledgment of anyone.
He went by ambulance to the hospital where he was placed on a ventilator. But my Granddad has wonderful, strong, supportive children who chose to follow his living will directives. I can’t imagine being in their place.
We were told he had anywhere from a few hours to a few days to live. He spent a week in that state – somewhat ready to let go but something still holding him back. We knew for a week what the outcome was going to be, but it didn’t make the end result any easier.
However, I’m at peace knowing as he was resting those final days, he was comfortable. There’s something really special about a parent getting to have all three children by their side on their last days on earth.
My Granddad deserved that because he was such a special person. My first memories of him take me back to sitting on his lap in the recliner, dunking donut sticks in his coffee. I remember the numerous trips to the bowling alley. He had such talent and I’ve never seen a bowling ball move down the lane faster than his.
My Granddad forced me to get over my fear of dogs. He always believed dog was a man’s best friend. He loved buying new cars and would show up at the house in a different one every couple months – my favorite being the candy apple red Mustang.
You could always count on him to be down for a Stewarts hot dog or ice cream, even though his favorite meal was chicken livers cooked by my Nana. Holidays were always very special with my Nana and Granddad. He always sat back, taking it all in and watching everyone.
But more than anything, my Granddad loved unconditionally. I’ll always remember him smiling, him laughing and shaking his head. I’ll always remember his big hugs.
Sometimes I get a twinge of jealousy when I see posts of elderly grandparents. Sometimes I even get jealous when a person dies just from old age. All of my grandparents have been taken from me, some at a young age, in terrible ways.
What I wouldn’t give for my grandparents to have lived until their nineties and die of natural causes. Instead, I witnessed the crippling diseases of cancer and dementia take away their minds and bodies.
But as I sit here, teary-eyed and pouting over something out of my control, I think about their souls and I’m reminded of what I was taught that first Sunday back to church.
We aren’t promised a long earthly life. What we are promised is eternal life. Our journey here on earth is only to get us to a better place.
While that doesn’t always take the pain away, I find comfort in it. I know my Granddad fulfilled his earthly purpose and it was time for him to continue on. I know it is well with his soul, with my Nana’s soul, with my Mimi’s soul, with Pawpaw Bob’s soul. And it is well with my soul because of the hope and peace that is ours in the midst of grief.
While we’ll miss him dearly, I know there are others up there in Heaven rejoicing in finally being reunited with him.
And Granddad, next time I hear thunder, just know you better have bowled a strike!