Just over a week ago, on the evening of the 26th of July, we were driving through Westbank, and Enderby, and Armstrong, British Columbia — just a few of the places my grandparents pastored. It was strange to think of my grandparents being there at the stage of life Marc and I are at/approaching — raising a family and serving the church. Passing through on that day was even more significant because it was one year ago that evening that my granny had the massive stroke that would lead to her death eleven days later. My heart still flutters a bit when I think of those days, those very intense days of saying good-bye. It was a horrible, exhausting, uncertain time, but a beautiful time as well.
Then, with just two days left on our holiday, on the 28th — what would have been my grandparent’s 68th wedding anniversary — I got a call from my mom saying that they finally had results in on my grandpa: he has a massive cancerous tumour on his lungs. There’s nothing the doctors can do. Grandpa was already losing weight and becoming very weak before we’d left three weeks earlier, and by the time they had the results he was always using a walker and beginning to have trouble eating.
It felt like last summer all over again.
You see, last summer my granny had her stroke the day after we got home from our vacation. But this summer, as we were driving into town late in the night, I knew what was coming. Pretty soon I would be back at our house, just two blocks away from where grandpa was, slowly losing his life. And then in a few short weeks our home would no longer be ours and we would be moving almost 1,000 kilometres away. Everything was changing. It was so very hard to drive into the city that night and to think of what we would face and lose in the days ahead.
I went to see my grandpa the next day. I put my head in his lap, he put his arms around me, and we cried together. He said, “I can’t be around forever”. And I know it’s true, but I thought, “Why not?! I want you with me forever!” Losing granny was one thing, but to lose grandpa — my last living grandparent — it all seems so final. That generation is gone. And the rest of us move up in the order of things, one step closer to going ourselves.
Something in me knows that it’s all okay — that it’s going to be okay. And there is something nice about being able to see your family and have your moments to say what needs to be said. But it’s still so very hard. I am just so grateful for the many moments my kids got with granny and grandpa:
Still, there was the moment a few nights ago when I said to Marc, with tears streaming down my face, “So, do you believe in God and heaven and all that?” (Yeah, and we’re the ones off to seminary in a month…) And he said, “I think so… But I know grandpa does.” I just wonder what it’s like to be at the moment when you face your life’s end, what it feels like, and if the doubts fade away. It all seems so scary to me, when I stop and think about it. But then I heard tonight that grandpa wants this hymn sung at his funeral, “I stand amazed in the presence of Jesus the Nazarene, and wonder how he could love me, a sinner condemned unclean. How marvelous, how wonderful, and my song shall ever be. How marvelous, how wonderful, is my Saviour’s love for me.”
Why does thinking about that make me cry so much? About grandpa being in the presence of the One whom he served all his life and who redeemed him and made him whole again? I know there is peace and comfort in that. But it’s a funny, kind of heart-breaking, peace. Because he’s not going to be here much longer. Because I can’t physically hold onto all of our memories and our love. Because it has to end, even though it doesn’t really.
So here I sit. Another August. Saying good-bye, again, to one of the most important people in my life. I’m so proud of my grandpa. For his quietness and his strength, his love and acceptance, for pushing me in his wheelbarrow and teaching me how to “snap” snapdragons and to play Flinch and Snap. For being adventurous and not afraid to take risks and have fun even into his 90s. I’ve learned so much from him, and I have a feeling I will learn even more from him as I remember him in the years to come.
And I will cherish the days that I have left with him. And when the moment comes to say good-bye and put him in the ground, I’ll be comforted to know that the love continues and I will always be the little girl who loved him so very much.
I love you, Grandpa. Grace and peace be with you in the days ahead. I know you’ll be swinging again soon.