(For this final post, please play this song and listen to it while you read.)
Abide with me; fast falls the eventide;
the darkness deepens; Lord, with me abide.
When other helpers fail and comforts flee,
Help of the helpless, O abide with me.
The last time my Grandpa saw my sister-in-law, as they were hugging good-bye, Grandpa said, “Maureen, will you play the piano at my funeral?” (And maybe I’m tired this morning, but just typing that out makes me cry.) She, of course, said that she would. Later that week Grandpa sat down with his four kids, told them how much he loved them and how proud he was of them and then said, “Well, I think it’s time we plan my funeral.” The two hymns he’d chosen were, “I Stand Amazed in the Presence” and “Abide with Me“. Abide with Me was one of the hymns that was sung at the Remembrance Day Service in Prince Albert on Wednesday — the service where my grandfather’s name was spoken as one of the veterans who’d passed away this year. My mom said when she heard the words again to that hymn in that service she realized why Grandpa had picked it, because they were so fitting for what he was going through.
Swift to its close ebbs out life’s little day;
earth’s joys grow dim; its glories pass away;
change and decay in all around I see;
O thou who changest not, abide with me.
I continue to be so grateful for the way Grandpa passed away. I am grateful that we had enough warning so he could have time with his children. (They all came to Prince Albert and stayed with him for the last three days of his life). But I’m also glad that he did not suffer long. I know it was not easy. I remember asking mom almost every day that last week if Grandpa was in any pain. She didn’t think so; he never complained of being in pain. The only indication of any pain was when Grandpa asked my mom about whether getting a tracheotomy may be an option. When I think about that it makes me realize the physical battle Grandpa was going through, how difficult it was becoming to breath and especially swallow. However, by the time he mentioned that to my mom, he would only have one more day to be at home.
I need thy presence every passing hour.
What but thy grace can foil the tempter’s power?
Who, like thyself, my guide and stay can be?
Through cloud and sunshine, Lord, abide with me.
He went by ambulance to the hospital in the morning of August 5th after being up a lot in the night having difficulty breathing. He was responsive and telling my mom and his brothers what was going on, but my uncle noted that as soon as the ambulance attendants arrived and he was in their care, Grandpa kind of let go. It was like he’d been holding on, staying strong for so long, and finally he knew that he could let go now. By the time I got to the hospital at around 9am, Grandpa was still opening his eyes, nodding his head a bit, but really only said a few more words. I remember being alone with him in his little curtained corner of the emergency room while mom and her brothers were talking to the doctors. I was talking to him and singing in his ear quietly. For some reason I kept singing the old hymn, “When he cometh, when he cometh to make up his jewels, all the jewels precious jewels, his loved and his own. Like the stars of the morning, their bright crowns adorning. They shall shine in their beauty, bright gems for his crown.” Grandpa was at the point where he was starting to slip away and sometimes he would get “agitated” — he would get fidgety and lift his arms up in the air. I would try to calm him, gently set his arms down, and sing to him some more. I recited the 23rd Psalm to him “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures…” His arms went up quite a bit when I was reciting that. I realized that, in the stress of the moment, I missed at least half of the Psalm. And I kind of wondered if Grandpa got a bit more agitated then because of his granddaughter’s extremely poor memory of scripture. : )
I fear no foe, with thee at hand to bless;
ills have no weight, and tears not bitterness.
Where is death’s sting? Where, grave, thy victory?
I triumph still, if thou abide with me.
I am still so thankful and amazed that Grandpa went to that hospital and just laid down in peace. It didn’t feel like there was any tension or anything that needed to be resolved. He just laid down and let go. It must take a great faith to do that. “How marvelous, how wonderful, and my song shall ever be, how marvelous, how wonderful is my Saviour’s love for me”. That is the chorus to the other song he picked for his funeral. And I remember thinking, “How? How does he know that? How can he be so confident that that is the final song he wants sung over his earthly remains?” But the fact that he did have that confidence gives me great hope. When it’s all said and done and you’ve seen war and oppression, you’ve cared for people in their best and worst moments, you’ve gone from birth to death and have seen the fourth generation of your family born, and you know that the song of “Jesus loves me” which you’ve sung all your life is just beginning as you take your final breath… well, it’s no wonder he was able to lay down in peace, with these words in his heart:
Hold thou thy cross before my closing eyes;
shine through the gloom and point me to the skies.
Heaven’s morning breaks, and earth’s vain shadows flee;
in life, in death, O Lord, abide with me.