For My Grandpa


Last Monday, I flew to Illinois to attend my grandpa's funeral. He was 96 and had been declining for several years, so although not unexpected, the reality and finality of death is sad. And yet, there was a peace and joy in it too, because my grandpa loved Jesus and had longed for heaven since my grandma passed away ten years ago.

There was a family service at the gravesite on a sunny and breezy Tuesday morning. The forecast predicted rain, which held off until we were having lunch at my uncle's house, and even then it was barely a sprinkle. My grandpa served our country as part of the United States Army in World War II. A flag was draped over the casket; there was a gun salute, and a member of the military played Taps.

On Monday night, the night before the funeral, aunts, uncles, cousins, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren gathered in the house my grandma and grandpa built over half a century ago. We told stories and looked at pictures, and enjoyed being together.

It was bittersweet, saying goodbye to my grandparents' house. It is a large house, with original shag carpet and a long hallway in the basement that I always remember being afraid of. I walked slowly down the curved staircase with the purple carpet, into the back sitting room where we had our Christmas gift exchanges, the porch where the "kid table" always was and the dining room, with the long table that seated the adults. The bathroom upstairs with a long sink and carpeted stairs that led up to a bathtub, and the half bathroom downstairs where my dad would sit with me when I was a toddler having a meltdown. 

The kitchen table, where I last saw my grandpa.

The last time I saw my grandpa in person was December 2019. He was by that point a little confused about who people were; he was talking slower and taking longer pauses. But he sang for us and quoted Scripture, and those two things he wasn't confused about. 

My brother and sister and I were there at the table, and he asked us, "When is the last time you shared with someone about Jesus?" My grandpa wasn't perfect, and he wasn't always easy to have a conversation with, but one thing I remember about him is that he was always talking to anyone, anywhere, about Jesus. 

"Do you know for certain where you would go if you died tonight?" he would ask the waitress at the restaurant we were eating at. "Do you know Jesus?" he would ask the lady at the checkout counter of the store. As a kid, it was embarrassing how often he talked to strangers. 

When my grandma was alive, it was not at all uncommon for her to come out of the bathroom at a hotel and tell us that she had just led someone to Jesus. "You did what?" we would say. And my grandma would have gotten the person's name and phone number and told them that she was praying for them and would follow up.

I admit that I'm not the best at talking to people about Jesus. No, scratch that. I'm pretty terrible at talking to people about Jesus. Underneath my embarrassment for how long my grandpa took to pray before our meal when we ate out or how much he talked to people he didn't know, I was also in awe of how easy he made it seem. And maybe some of that is just getting older and not caring anymore what people think (I do think that was part of it).

In honor of my grandpa, I decided that on my flights to and from Chicago I would ask the person who sat next to me on the airplane if they had a prayer request. It's not quite as bold as straight up asking them if they know Jesus, but it felt like a big step for me.

I stood in line to walk into the plane toward Chicago, psyching myself up to talk to my seat mate, and no one sat next to me! I couldn't believe it. I guess God decided he didn't have a divine appointment for me that day. I got my chance on the way home. I felt super nervous and blurted out the speech I'd practiced in my head almost as soon as the person sat down. 

His name was Benjamin, and he seemed surprised and confused (I also think he had a hard time hearing me with the sound of plane engine and the mask and the fact that I was nervous and talking fast), but he said that I could pray for success in what he was doing. I honestly have no idea what he is doing or what he meant by success, and for all I know he just said the first thing he thought of to get the crazy lady to be quiet. But I was proud of myself for doing it, even if "it" wasn't really that big.

It felt like a lot, and really it shouldn't. Just like typing this out shouldn't feel like a lot either. I don't even have to see anyone face-to-face, and still it feels scary sometimes to talk about faith.

But as I sit here, writing about my grandma and grandpa, that's what I'm left with: their passion for sharing Jesus. An uncounted number of people greeting them in heaven because of their work here on earth.

This post is for my grandpa Bernie. 
I know for an undeniable fact that he is, indeed, now at rest, and at peace.

"Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and rust destroy and thieves break in and steal, but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and rust do not destroy, and thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." - Matthew 6:19-21

Jenny Evans said...

What a sweet tribute to your grandpa! I love how his love for Jesus went so deep down to his core that no matter what he had trouble remembering later in life, he never forgot that.

AnneMarie said...

Your grandpa and grandma sound wonderful! Thank you for sharing this reflection about them-and I love the idea of asking a seatmate for any prayer intentions! That's a super cool idea, and I may steal that idea sometime :) I hope that God pours down peace and consolation on your whole family, and I will be keeping you all in my prayers!

Natalie M said...

Beautiful Amanda. I’m sorry for the loss of someone so important in your family. He sounds like a wonderful man.

Beka @ Sunshine to the Square Inch said...

Thanks for sharing about your grandpa. My grandpa was a soul winner too. He died in 1994 and people still talk about how he loved to win souls for Jesus. There is a verse in Proverbs that says "He who winneth souls is wise." Proverbs 11:30. It's encouraging to hear your grandpa's story and makes me want to be bolder about sharing Jesus too. I also think sharing your faith is like building muscles or even running. At first it is awkward and hard but the more you do it the easier it gets.

Sarah said...

This is absolutely beautiful! I used to be bolder about talking about my faith when I was in college, but as I've gotten older it has gotten harder for some reason. Part of that I'm sure is that I work at Christian university and am active in my church, and don't have many social settings that are not faith based. People like your grandpa are such an encouragement to me, both in sharing about Jesus and memorizing scripture. What a lovely tribute to him.