Papaw Ralph... and hard good-byes.

He tenderly reaches for Michaels hand and let's Michael crawl up into his lap. I see his eyes soften and his lips turn up in a smile.

I see him with a cap on his head.

I see him with freckled hands that have been worked hard over the years.

I see Papaw Ralph in my mind.

He's gone home to be with Jesus.

I got the news the day before school started. Mike was out of town with work and I was home with the kids preparing for our new school year. I made the decision to not tell the kids. I didn't want to cast a shadow on their first day of school. But it cast a shadow over me. I didn't sleep well. I stumbled through my day. I waited until Mike was home so we could tell the kids together on Wednesday morning. We were packing to leave for the funeral.

The kids stayed in town and Mike, his brother, John, and I drove west. We stopped at their brother, David's home and we enjoyed the fellowship and rest of being with family. I got to see my beautiful niece Soleil and listen to her burbles and squeals. She's amazing. I got to be with my gorgeous sister-in-law and feel the comfort that comes with being a safe person. A person who is loving, kind, accepting, and strong.

Last December with Papaw Ralph
The next day we journeyed together to the funeral. And I had the privilege of being a part of this family. Of standing with them in a time of sorrow. And I admired the community that rallied around them. The songs sung. The meditations given. To hear Papaw Ralph commended and loved. Of the people who knew him, were affected by him, the people who sat with him or nursed him. And after the loving tributes and songs we gathered together to say goodbye.

We stood in the cemetery as his casket with the now bodily shell of Papaw was prepared to be lowered into the ground. But Papaw Ralph wasn't there. He's home. He's with Jesus. No more suffering. No more pain. No more sadness. I'm so thankful for the privilege of being a granddaughter in this family.

That week as we came back together as a family (the kids, Mike and I) we talked more about death and Heaven. How are hope is in Jesus Christ and what He did for us on the cross. How He led a perfect life and died the death we deserved. That He took our punishment upon Himself so that we could be called children of God.

During the week Michael cried. He was heartbroken over Papaw Ralph's passing. I held him and rubbed him with lavender oil as tears streamed down his face. I take joy in knowing that Michael loves much and I ache with him as he tries to understand loss.

When someone leaves their earthly body behind and their spirit goes to be with the Lord, I don't weep for them. They are in a better place. They have arrived. They are home. They have shed mortality and become immortal. They are in the presence of God. Their joy is complete. But it's for us left behind, that move forward with the loss of those we love, that is who the sorrow is for. That is where the grief comes from. The loss. The change. The missing of the person who was always a part and is now always "gone".

The kids and I have been praying daily for our 7 year old friend Johnny. He has a brain tumor and he  had some treatment (chemo and radiation) which has allowed him to live longer than originally expected but we know his time on earth is coming to a close.

And I cry. Not for Johnny. No! He will be with his Lord and Savior Jesus. He will be healed and restored. I weep for his Mom and Dad... for his siblings that won't be able to know their precious brother. I cry because of the brokenness and fallenness of this world.

I know Christ will make all things new. I know that there will be a new Heavens and a new Earth but we are not there yet. And sometimes life hurts. It's painful. I know death is a part of the current reality of life but it's so WRONG! I'm so thankful that Christ has conquered death... that parting is only "for a little while".

Trusting God with these hard good-byes and knowing that it's just for a little while... 

1 Corinthians 13:12 and 13 (NLT)tells us...
12Now we see things imperfectly, like puzzling reflections in a mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity. All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God now knows me completely.
13Three things will last forever—faith, hope, and love—and the greatest of these is love.
Asking God's love to cover us. For faith and hope to guide our journey until we too are on the other side....
2 Corinthians 5: 1-14 (the Message)
1-5 For instance, we know that when these bodies of ours are taken down like tents and folded away, they will be replaced by resurrection bodies in heaven—God-made, not handmade—and we’ll never have to relocate our “tents” again. Sometimes we can hardly wait to move—and so we cry out in frustration. Compared to what’s coming, living conditions around here seem like a stopover in an unfurnished shack, and we’re tired of it! We’ve been given a glimpse of the real thing, our true home, our resurrection bodies! The Spirit of God whets our appetite by giving us a taste of what’s ahead. He puts a little of heaven in our hearts so that we’ll never settle for less.
6-8 That’s why we live with such good cheer. You won’t see us drooping our heads or dragging our feet! Cramped conditions here don’t get us down. They only remind us of the spacious living conditions ahead. It’s what we trust in but don’t yet see that keeps us going. Do you suppose a few ruts in the road or rocks in the path are going to stop us? When the time comes, we’ll be plenty ready to exchange exile for homecoming.
9-10 But neither exile nor homecoming is the main thing. Cheerfully pleasing God is the main thing, and that’s what we aim to do, regardless of our conditions. Sooner or later we’ll all have to face God, regardless of our conditions. We will appear before Christ and take what’s coming to us as a result of our actions, either good or bad.
11-14 That keeps us vigilant, you can be sure. It’s no light thing to know that we’ll all one day stand in that place of Judgment. That’s why we work urgently with everyone we meet to get them ready to face God. God alone knows how well we do this, but I hope you realize how much and deeply we care. We’re not saying this to make ourselves look good to you. We just thought it would make you feel good, proud even, that we’re on your side and not just nice to your face as so many people are. If I acted crazy, I did it for God; if I acted overly serious, I did it for you. Christ’s love has moved me to such extremes. His love has the first and last word in everything we do.


Grandma said…
Excellently written thoughts and understanding of the hope that is within us, Jen. When your grandfather died, I remember all the emotions as though it were yesterday. As I sobbed to the LORD how much we loved and needed him, it was as if the LORD ministered back to me, "if you really loved him, he has everything right now". "In His presence if fullness of joy". God's meaning of love and what it seeks after caused me to pause and reflect on my "love". I realized how self-seeking it really was. Our lives our not our own, but His. The Scripture was so graphic and uplifting. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and God's goodness in understanding. So happy for you and Mike to be able to share things of the Lord with each other. A priceless gift, indeed. Love you, Grandma

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