the random ramblings, musings, & ponderings of a jesus freak

Friday, July 3, 2009

48 hours

Yesterday our family was told that we would have 48 hours left with my grandpa. My mom held his hand as he lay frail, shriveled, and unresponsive in a bed at a North Carolina nursing home. But then in the dark, early hours of this morning, Grandpa went home to be with Jesus. Our family is now left with 48 hours to plan his memorial service.

Death and grieving have become an all too familiar part of life these past few months. I find myself dealing with Grandpa's death in a way that I don't fully comprehend. The tears stopped flowing this morning as I lay in my husband's arms, but the memories of Grandpa are coursing like a strong and steady current through my mind. I spent the majority of the first half of the day searching in vain for a particular photo of Grandpa smiling and looking full of life and charm. I'm happy that the photo is etched in my mind, but right now I want it in my hand!

My favorite memory of my grandfather took place about a year and a half ago. In fact, I already wrote a blog about it (Ready to Fly). At the tail end of a mountain road trip, some friends and I visited my grandfather at his North Carolina home. There was something special about that day.
It was the most tender experience I have ever shared with my grandfather. Somehow, he was gentle and fragile to me for the first time in my life that day. He let me just hold his hand and stroke his arm as I sat at his feet. His eyes teared up just looking at me. I don't know how clearly his 89-year-old eyes could see me as I sat there, but I know that those eyes had a depth and sincerity that were more real to me than anything else in the world at that moment as he told me again and again that he loved me.

Then Gramps said something that I wasn't at all expecting to hear. Gripping
my hand, he turned to me and said "I'm ready to fly, honey..." and my heart almost stopped beating in my chest. "I'm ready to go home." Those words pierced me with their gravity and I couldn't stop the tears from instantly welling up in my eyes no matter how hard I tried to fight them. Would this be the last time I would ever sit at my grandpa's feet? Would this be the last time I held and kissed his hand? Would this be the last time I heard him repeat the jokes I've been hearing him tell over and over again for the last twenty-plus years?

I stifled a sob and replied, "Okay, Grandpa." He squeezed my hand again and said, "When I get to heaven...I'm going to be a lot younger. Like 80...or maybe Jesus!" And I had to laugh! "Grandpa," I corrected with a smile, "Jesus was only 33 when He went back to heaven...not 60!" Gramps looked at me with a slight look of surprise and said, "Well honey, I'm old. I can't remember these things!" And we laughed together at his innocent mistake.

That memory and hundreds of others are at the forefront of my thoughts today. Paul Nemec wasn't just some 90-year-old man that died today. He was, to me, the spiritual head of our entire family. He started out as "Little Paulie," a poor kid playing football and getting into trouble on the streets of Chicago, and grew into a man of strength and integrity with a wealth of knowledge and wisdom who worked hard to share the Truth of the Gospel with as many people as he could get to listen to him. He leaves behind a beautiful legacy in the form of a family who shares that same faith in Christ that was so central and essential to his life.

Tonight I wish I could sit there at Grandpa's feet and hold his soft, fragile hands just one more time. Or I wish that I could sit at his kitchen table while he cooked up a perfect, Chicago-style hot dog just for me! I want to see again that twinkle that would appear in his eyes when he knew he had just said something that he really shouldn't have. I want to smell the stinky scent of the cigars he used to smoke, in spite of all of our protests. I want to hear his big band music playing loudly from the back bedroom. I want to hear his joke about buying chairs for the standing army just one more time.

I know Gramps is with Jesus now and that the twinkle is there in his eyes as he greets the many men and women whose lives he touched and poured the love of Christ into. His broken hip is healed now and I'm sure he's ballroom dancing with Granny, his first love. And I know that one day I'll see my grandpa again.

More than anything else, I know that Jesus is happy to have "Little Paulie" at home with Him at last.

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