It's not too often that I have a week that goes by without thinking of my Grandpop. After his death, he filled most of my thoughts throughout my day. I often wondered if I would ever be able to forget that weak, feeble man who lay in that bed. I wondered if I would forget the frail shadow of the man who stood as a giant in my life for years. I wondered if I would ever forget the sound of his last breath.
Pop passed away in October 2007 as we sat by his bed and sang hymns with him. He was an incredible husband, father, grandfather, and great-grandfather.
As we sat by his bed, singing together, we watched him as he tried to sing with us. His mouth was just moving so slightly. But in my mind, I could hear his strong voice ringing in the heavens.
We prayed with him and read the Bible to him. He could have preached sermons out of that Bible, but he just lay listening to God's word. (In that Bible, he had marked every time he read through a scripture. There were marks all the way through to show that he had read it four times, with five and six times on some chapters/books. Amazing. Even more...this Bible was copywrited 1976. So this isn't even the Bible he began reading after he became a Christian at 30 years old. It's one that he got very late in life.)
We were singing "Old Rugged Cross", one of his favorites, as he took his last breaths. He died peacefully and quickly.
As we sang that hymn with him, I realized for the first time in my life that he had truly lived a life to glorify God. And he not only lived it, he shared it. Now Pop wasn't the kind of man you'd find on the street with a "Christian" witnessing tract in his hand. He was the kind of man that brought you into his garage to work on something to make your house better, your car drive easier, or your wife happier! He shared Christ by loving Him outloud all the time. Every neighbor that came to the funeral (particularly the ones I never met before) continued to talk about how they met Pop in his garage! They talked about how he encouraged them and showed them who God really was. There were several neighbors who started following Christ because God allowed them to see how Pop had been so real with them. He probably never officially invited them to church. He just loved on God and became an aroma of Christ to others.
It was later that I realized how sweet that "The Old Rugged Cross" was the last song my Pop's earthly ears would ever hear. He had come to a moment that he would "lay his trophies down" and "exchange them for a crown". His trophies...He 96 years old and was married for almost 62 years. He left behind his wife, 3 children, 8 grandchildren, and 16 great-grandchildren. He had lived life as a cowboy, army official, carpenter, mechanic, and so much more. He He was the most gentle and loving man! But as big as those trophies were, they compared nothing to that crown...to that thrown room...to that moment with Christ our Lord. The trophies and accomplishments of this world, as Paul stated, are RUBBISH in comparison to Christ.
As I sat with him before he died, I got to tell him that we wouldn't mourn his loss. We couldn't mourn because the life he lived could only end in rejoicing. He showed us how to glorify God in his life, and we will continue to glorify God in his death. As I said it, I know he could hear every word. He couldn't say anything, but just nodded. He knew that he was at the threshold of new life.
What a joy and privilege it was to be his granddaughter. As a little girl, I always knew he was special. But as I have matured, I began to understand how he led this family to the foot of the cross. He fervently prayed for each of us and daily praised God for the life he was given. I am thankful for the legacy he has left us.
I haven't forgotten the frail figure he became in his last days, but I am more able to remember the other things too. I remember his stories. I remember his laugh. I remember his smile. I remember his song. I remember him.
And some days, I see someone at WalMart or on a tractor, that has some sort of feature that he had and I remember him again.
Last week would have been his 99th birthday. He was born in 1911. We really don't have a record of his birth, so we always celebrated it on September 1. Labor Day was ALWAYS Pop's birthday celebration!
Happy Birthday Pop! :)
The Old Rugged Cross
On a hill far away stood an old rugged cross
The emblem of suff'ring and shame
And I love that old cross where the dearest and best
For a world of lost sinners was slain
So I'll cherish the old rugged cross
Till my trophies at last I lay down
I will cling to the old rugged cross
And exchange it some day for a crown.