My grandfather passed away a week ago today at the age of 99. He was an amazing man, and I've mentioned in other blogs how I hope to turn out like him. It's hard to tell all the ways that made him so great, but when I was asked to help lead the funeral service, I knew I needed to put together some thoughts. So I'm posting part of what I shared last week... my feeble attempt to do his life justice:
"Many of you were fortunate enough to know my grandfather very well, maybe as Dad or great-grandpa, or Sammy. My kids called him great-papa. However, I’m sure the words that come to your mind as you try to describe him are some of the same that come to mine, too. Sweet. Kind. Generous. Dedicated husband. Strong. Always faithful. Always there. Always loving his family and his neighbors. Thoughtful. The keeper of knowledge. Baby-whisperer or dog-whisperer. Kind. An example to follow.
However, one word I keep coming back to time and time again is selfless. Grandpa lived a selfless life of sacrifice, believing that a life well-lived is found in giving your life away for the sake of others.
Let me put it this way. How many of you here have had the experience with Grandpa of feeling like you were the most important person in the world to him? Being made to feel so completely special? Yeah, me too. I don’t remember ever hearing this story before, but Dad told me last night how there were times he would ride with Grandpa up to the airport to drop off a crate of china for delivery and how they used to stop at a little place outside
for BLTs. He found ways to communicate how important
his family was to him. Akron
He was selfless, but not often in obvious ways. Part of it was simply knowing about and caring about what was going on with people. It’s not that he just knew everything there was to know about Sebring; he cared about the people here. He was proud of his town as he told all the stories and looked through all the history books with us.
He didn’t seem to have time for accumulating much stuff; he was too busy caring about other people. When I was young, Grandma never had to get out of her chair because he always wanted to take care of things. He cared about what was going on in your life, being at David’s football games, my dad’s band concerts, his daughters lives. Caring about his grandkids, great grandkids, great-great grandkids. That’s what was behind all the ice cream and pepperoni slices and sparkling grape juice and big wheels and the 3 crisp one dollar bills in the birthday card and the driving lessons, and even the dustbuster… wanting to take care of everyone. Selflessly.
This is what made him such a great example for us as a husband. We’ve heard the stories of meeting at the tag dance, looking for a girl shorter than him to dance with (been there!), about the basketball game where he said to Grandma, “I’d ask you to marry me if I made more money.” Of course her response was, “How much do you make?” Or that they had to get married after grandpa’s birthday on April 15 because she didn’t want to marry a younger man. But I remember how much he loved her, how connected it seemed they were, how they flirted and teased (and how she’d giggle), and how he always visited her when she was at Crandall. It was meeting my grandfather that convinced my wife that I would be good marriage material.
All of this made us love to be with him. When we were young, me and my brothers would race across the yard toward the trailer, we would love for him to take us places (trips to the cemetery or Walmart or Grinders), we would listen to his stories or let him help us crawl up on Molly the horse or make believe with Yosemite Sam. We loved to share with him our sports loyalties or the hobbies we were into, to try new foods that would “put hair on our chest,” or have feats of strength when we shook his hand or hugged him. I got to share a room with him on a family cruise to
. I know we all treasure the
time we got to spend with him. Alaska
Jesus, in his most well-known teaching, the part of the book of Matthew called the Sermon on the Mount, is very interested in making followers who were more than just simply good citizens. He was trying to point them toward a transformed life that begins to resemble the life of heaven. If you don’t know anything else from this sermon of Jesus, you probably know the Lord’s prayer, where we are told to pray that God’s “kingdom come, [God’s] will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” Jesus wanted our lives on earth—here and now—to begin looking like what they will one day be in heaven.
So, in heaven, will we carry around anger and resentment? No, of coarse not. So don’t just avoid murder, Jesus says here, also don’t harbor hatred toward anyone. In heaven, will we still be lying and dishonest? No, because it wouldn’t be heaven if we were not completely truthful people. So, Jesus says, be thoroughly truthful now; let your yes be yes, and your no be no. Jesus goes on and gets more insistent. On earth, he says, you think it’s okay to only love your friends, those who love you. The life of heaven is a life that loves—and forgives—even your enemies. Anything else isn’t heaven, and anything else is less than what you were created for.
Now I share all this because I can think of very, very few people who lived their life like this, who lived in such a way so that by the time they came to the end of it could slip into eternity without a whole lot of “fixing” having to be done. Grandpa was already very forgiving, already truthful, already loving everyone regardless, he was already living this God-honoring, selfless life.
Maybe it was partly because grandpa didn’t really have an earthly father around like he needed that made him depend on his heavenly Father, but the older he got, I was amazed how Grandpa got sweeter and sweeter, more kind, more selfless.
I look at my own life and know that I am so far from living the life of heaven here on earth in so many ways, but I have a lot of hope because Grandpa—while certainly not perfect—provided such a great example of this kind of self-sacrificial love. Grandpa loved the Lord, and his life is a witness to the power and grace of God as he allowed him to form and transform him into the man of faith he had become. When I want to feel good about myself, I remember I'm his grandson and I imagine myself to be a lot like him. I hope I turn out that way.
You know, this also explains some of the sadness I continue to feel this morning—because while it’s heaven’s gain, I know we have lost a little bit of heaven here with us. He often said, “You know, I won’t be around much longer,” as a way of teasing us. We knew that he was going be right one of these days, but I’m so glad he was with us for so long."