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Sunday, April 2, 2017

Grandaddy's Memorial Service

I was touched to hear the stories shared at Grandaddy's memorial service a few weeks ago. From some of my mother's cousins to the manager of their trailer park to my own sweet family -- each story was a tiny picture of the impact he had on those who crossed his path. 

Brian, the kids and I had come up with quite a list of things he "always" said. Some were funny, some old-fashioned, some were just distinctly "Grandaddy."  After many humorous and personal stories, I was the last to speak and closed with the two or three things he asked us over and over. I hope you are encouraged as you read:

He asked so many times over the years, “Why on earth did you and Brian take me in?”  

I answered him dozens of ways. I figured since he kept asking, he didn’t really get it. At first, I couldn’t honestly say it was because I loved him, because truthfully, I didn’t really know him.  Of course, we’d visited over the years -- he lived in a different state and my birthmother died when I was young, severely weakening that family tie. But we didn't visit terribly often and not long enough to truly know one another. So I might say, “You’d help me if I needed it, wouldn’t you?” And he’d be satisfied for a while. Then, not too many days or weeks later, he’d ask something along the same lines again.  By the end of those 12 years, my answer could honestly be “because I love you.” 

I got to know him and I loved him.  

I learned that even though he barely finished 11th grade, he was very, very smart.  I learned that we both enjoyed Southern cooking and fresh cotton candy.  I learned that he could fix just about anything. That he was comically-frugal when it came to spending money on himself and surprisingly generous when it came to the family.  He told some really wild tales of what his life was like before he met Grandmother. Many can’t be repeated in mixed company. And he told some precious stories that explained his love and devotion to her. I got to know my own mother in a way that I never had before. 

He adored the kids.  One time I needed get something done, but Ava was hungry, so I plopped her in his lap and gave him a bottle. He laughed and cried at the same time when he said he’d never even done that for his own child. I learned that after my mother died, he went through a spell of about six weeks not being able to speak.  Actual laryngitis brought on by his unspeakable heartache. I watched him read to my children when they were little and I watched him patiently listen to them read when they were just learning. When they were learning how to ride bikes with no training wheels, you can hear his voice cheering with the rest of us on the video. I learned that he was always game for an adventure — we went on road trips; we went camping and walking; we roasted hot dogs out back and marshmallows in the fireplace. He even let us set up the Wii game in his room so he could watch the kids play and he even bowled with us a time or two. 

Now, I’m not saying everything was always moonbeams and rainbows.  Anytime, you share a house with someone, there’s bound to be conflict and troubled spots and we had our share. In fact, some things were very, very hard. But if there were times he ever thought he stepped out of bounds or hurt my feelings, he would apologize through tears the next day. These are things you do for people you love. You go through the troubled spots, apologize when you need to and move on to the next adventure together.

So by the end of 12 years, I could genuinely say, "Because we love you. We want you to feel loved and be well cared for and have joy in your final days. That’s why you are here. We love you." And then sometimes, when we’d leave or even just to say goodnight and “I love you,” he’d look up and say, “You do?” Like he didn’t fully believe me. I think maybe losing his parents at such a young age left him longing for constant reassurance of love.

As Brian said mentioned in his remarks, Grandaddy became a Jesus follower in his mid-90s. and along the same lines, over the years, he would ask about the love and forgiveness of Jesus. If he asked us this once, he asked a dozen times, “Does the Bible really say we’re forgiven of ALL our sins?”  

"Yes, Grandaddy. Once and for all. Forever. Forgiven forever.  God loves you that much. Nothing you’ve done can make Him love you less." It was really hard for him to believe.

At the end of Romans, the Apostle Paul asks, "Can anything separate us from Christ’s love? Does it mean He no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or are hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or are threatened with death? No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is our through Christ, who loves us."

It's a great reminder that no matter how people might fail us, God's love never will.

Some of the words to the last song Darrell’s going to sing are about being revived again - asking for our hearts to be filled with love.  We ask those things so that we can show love to any and all who are put around us. Even when it’s hard and even when they need a lot of convincing.

Whether we’re 3 or 103, one of the main things we desire in this world is to know that we are loved. To truly believe we are loved. Well, Grandaddy was loved and he always will be. And I hope that where he is, he’ll never doubt it again.