Have you ever experienced a time of loss and sadness that is simultaneously also filled with deep joy? That was our family this week as we journeyed to Ohio to celebrate the life and mourn the passing of my husband’s grandfather.
Grandpa Bob was 95 when he died, and what a man! A World War 2 Navy veteran who enlisted at age 17 and saw significant action—including the Battle of Iwo Jima, the Okinawa Invasion, and Operation Crossroads for the Bikini Atoll nuclear bomb tests—he also served in the Korean Conflict on the USS Wisconsin. After his discharge, he spent his career in Ohio’s oil and gas drilling operations. He had three kids, then remarried and gained three stepkids, and at his death claimed 12 grandkids (plus spouses) and 15 great-grandkids, all who loved him dearly.
Matt and I and our four kids road-tripped from South Carolina last week for the funeral, joined by parents and a host of other cousins, aunts, and uncles, all of us surrounding Grandma Mary, his wife. At age 98, she and Grandpa Bob still lived in their house. Together, we mourned his death but celebrated his life with deep and affirming joy.
Why joy? See, in addition to being an outstanding person and family man, Grandpa Bob’s most important role was “child of God.” A Christian and active member of his local United Methodist church, one thing we all knew when Grandpa Bob passed on was that we didn’t need to wonder or worry what would become of him. We knew, because he was a follower of Jesus, that he was assured eternal life.
Yes, there were tears at his funeral. We miss him! But there was also… laughter. Giggles. Jokes. His eulogies at the service—delivered by his pastor, one of his sons, and his stepson—recounted stories about mishaps with dynamite and catching himself on fire, his love for John Wayne and gardening, and his silliness rolling around on the ground with puppy dogs or playing at Cedar Point.
“Loyal, faithful, and hardworking,” are how his pastor, Jim, described him. “Disciplined but always fair,” his son, Uncle RJ, said.
A man of stories, said everyone.
That’s how I, a latecomer blessed to marry into this family, knew him. Grandpa Bob was an outstanding storyteller. I remember how we’d visit and he’d tell about standing on the deck of his ship in WW2, or about riding horses, another of his loves.
Uncle RJ shared how he had the opportunity these last years to spend at least two mornings a week having long coffee chats with his dad, listening to old tales told and retold, sometimes the same story twice in one day. What always struck RJ was the joy with which he told those stories. That’s what I had loved, too… and, come to think of it, is what always makes an extraordinary storyteller. It’s the love of the tale.
Grandpa Bob had that. He shared that. And oh, what a legacy.
A couple of the grandkids were not able to attend the funeral, and during the service, Uncle Warren shared a special memory one of his own sons had about Grandpa Bob. During their last visit, they’d sat on the porch together talking about the future, and Grandpa Bob passed on some sage advice to him: “We are ultimately measured as men by how we react to uncontrollable things.”
Wise, wise words from a good, good man.
As Pastor Jim said at the funeral, an eternal perspective in this life keeps us in balance. As believers in Christ Jesus, we know infinitely more awaits us in heaven. The casket is not our end.
Each of us who believe can hold fast to the promises of Scripture, promises like 1 Thessalonians 4:13-14: “Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope. For we believe that Jesus died and rose again, and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him” (NIV)*.
It’s not that we do not grieve, but that we don’t grieve as others.
Our grief is rooted in hope, in joy, in promise.
We will be together again one day—thanks be to God.
Rest in peace, Grandpa Bob. We love you dearly.
Scripture taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
Get to Know Jessica Brodie
Jessica Brodie is an award-winning Christian novelist, journalist, editor, blogger, and writing coach and the recipient of the 2018 American Christian Fiction Writers Genesis Award for her novel, The Memory Garden. She is also the editor of the South Carolina United Methodist Advocate, the oldest newspaper in Methodism, and part of the team at Wholly Loved Ministries. Learn more about her fiction and read her faith blog at http://jessicabrodie.com.
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