Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Remembering Grandpa

"I miss that old guy."
-Grandpa's best friend

Sometimes grief robs me of words. I'm full of sorrow, and yet the ability to articulate that sorrow completely escapes me. It's not a constant sort of despair that I feel, but an intense sadness that will hit me at certain moments causing the tears to flow.

In his last days, Grandpa's only reservation about leaving Earth was his concern for the well-being of the family. "I just want to make sure that you will be okay," he kept repeating with labored breaths from his nursing home bed, as the oxygen machine nearby chugged along. "We're going to be okay, Grandpa," I would reply, even though tears were falling on my face. I held his hand. "Don't worry. We'll be okay."

I know that we all are going to be okay, but in the meantime, it's been tough. My major frustration is not being able to talk to Grandpa anymore. Talking with him was the best. "God, I just want to talk to Grandpa!" is a frequent prayer of late, even though I know praying these words will not magically bring Grandpa back in his bodily form like some sort fairy godmother. And yet, while he was alive, Grandpa was like a fairy godmother to me, always willing to listen and to love. Gosh, I miss him!

Mourning is an ache and a longing for that which I can't have. I just wish that I could simply hear his voice saying, "How's things?" as he was wont to do. I wish that I could correspond with him in letters, even... tie up an envelope to a string hanging from the sky that will be lifted into the heavenly realms for Grandpa to open up and then reply to in his methodical, slightly rightward leaning script. I wish that in my dreams I could go to a cafe that's halfway between heaven and earth, so I can have coffee with Grandpa. Oh, what I would give for just 10 minutes of conversation with him!

God has promised provision for those who grieve: to "bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair" (Isaiah 61:3). I eagerly await the fulfillment of these promises in my life as I experience all of the discomfort, ups and downs that come with loss. I know that it's a matter of "fix[ing] [my] eyes on Jesus Christ, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God" (Hebrews 12:2). In enduring this temporary pain of grief, I look forward to the day when I will be joyfully reunited with my dear Grandpa in heaven, when I can tell him everything and he won't ever go away.

"I want nothing but the best for you," he managed to say on that Friday night at Kline Galland. He needn't have verbalized it because he spoke this over all of us granddaughters with every act of love, service and sacrifice he did while he was with us on earth. I know that Grandpa would have laid down his very life for us (1 John 3:16b) if need be. And in many ways, he did.

Shirt reads: "Lifetime Achievement in Grandfathering"

I miss you, old guy. Can't wait to see you again someday.

Friday, September 26, 2014


I wanted to call you today
And maybe just sit and watch the game.
I wanna tell you about the books I'm reading
And pray with you.
Maybe if I open the door to your room
You'll be there waiting for me.
But all I see is your white leather armchair
And hate that you're not in it anymore.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Dumbledore can't live forever.

In July 2005 three of my friends and I camped out on the floor of our local Barnes & Noble for the midnight release of the novel Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. When the clock struck 12:00AM, we got our copies of the book, my mom drove me home, I sat down on the couch, opened the book and did not move from that place until I'd finished it. Thankfully my friends and I were not one of the many disappointed fans who (like us) had waited hours in line in anticipation for The Half-Blood Prince, only to have a mean-spirited spoilsport run by them screaming "Dumbledore dies!" before they'd even gotten their hands on a copy!

I remember that many Harry Potter fans were distraught that Dumbledore did, in fact, die in The Half-Blood Prince, because the headmaster was a loved and respected character, and especially dear to the protagonist, Harry Potter. However, J.K. Rowling issued a statement more or less deeming Dumbledore's death as necessary, because in the absence of his go-to mentors (Sirius Black and Albus Dumbledore), Harry would have to learn to stand on his own.

I am currently in the process of losing my own Dumbledore, my grandpa Don. I've had a really special, dear connection to my grandpa since about high school when, seemingly out of the blue, he called me one summer to see if I'd be interested in doing Bible study with him once a week. Together we worked through the book of Matthew using questions he'd copy for me out of his study Bible. At first it was kind of awkward since up until that time me and my grandpa weren't especially "close." Yet I grew to love the one-on-one time with him and treasured hearing his thoughts and reflections on the ways God had been faithful to him in his life.

Grandpa seemed to really "get" me and became my go-to person in the event of crisis. I think because he shared so openly with me about his past pain and anguish, I felt safe telling him about mine. One year I asked my Grandpa to coffee to get his advice about a big decision regarding a romantic relationship. His younger brother, Ty, was visiting from San Mateo, CA, and remarked, "Gee, I wish my grandkids asked me out for coffee!" as we walked out the door.

I'd like to think that I "got" Grandpa pretty well, too. "You're able to put my thoughts into words," he said to me several times, when he would be stumbling to articulate his struggles with faith and doubt. Grandpa liked to grapple with hard questions (Who is Jesus? Are other religions valid? Why did Jesus have to die on the cross?). It was fun to talk to him about theological and political issues because he was never one to put-down your ideas or opinions, just dialogue about them so that everyone participating in the conversation might arrive a little closer to the truth by the end of it, including himself.

Grandpa had a brilliant mind. He was very sensitive to others and reached out when he could tell that people were in the midst of great turmoil. I remember that during one of the darkest seasons of my life he called me on the phone. "How are you doing?" he stated simply, and I began to sob because I knew that he really did want to know. He said, "You know, your grandma and I love you very much, and I think God does, too."

Lately Grandpa's mounting health issues have sapped him of his brilliant mind and sensitive heart. He has trouble staying awake, can't carry on a continuous conversation and sometimes says deluded or irrational things. I pray to God wondering how much of Grandpa is still in there, in that frail body.

I can't just sit with him and shoot the breeze about global politics, his past work at Boeing and the great unanswered cosmic questions of our time anymore. It's simply not an option. My grandpa is still alive but a huge part of who he was to me (sage, counselor and guide) has been lost.

How do I move forward when someone so important in my life has vacated that position? How do I pray for someone whose mind is clearly not all there anymore? And where is all of this headed?

Mostly, when I think about my grandpa as he is today I just get pretty sad. My whole family is grieving. I don't presume to claim that I've unlocked all the mysteries of life and death and mourning. I'm right in the thick of it, so I don't have easy answers to vacuum up the pain of losing who my grandpa once was to me.

I don't know what I'm doing. I don't know how to lose a best friend like this. I'm mostly feeling and praying my way along, trusting God to lead me and comfort me through this season of grief.

Dumbledore can't live forever.