Death is a strange thing. It causes even the surest of men to break, and to contemplate things typically pushed aside.
It’s counterintuitive to realize that through my encounters with dying loved ones over the past few years (including a personal near-death experience), it’s in my grief that I’ve actually grown to experience more hope, peace, and joy than ever before. That’s the power and grace of God.
That’s what I want to share today… moments when I saw God’s power and grace shining through as my incredible Grandpa went through the dying process. Things that, to me, were undeniably God showing His infinite love.
It was the power of God in our weakness that gave my family strength to bring Grandpa home for his final days. The hospice agency tried to discourage it at first, but out of love and respect for Grandpa’s wishes, the family moved ahead with the plans. It was the grace of God (and the willingness of family) that made it possible for us to care for him with very little assistance from outsiders.
It was the grace of God’s timing that allowed my Aunt Sue to be retired and able to come up from Florida, my Uncle to take family leave to stay by his side each night, my Mom and cousins to have more flexibility in their schedule to be there more (including Mom’s nights by his side), and my sister and me to be able to come up from Charleston to help.
It was grace that got Grandpa’s sweet 95-year-old sister Helen (who is normally too anxious to leave her house) over to say goodbye while he was still able to interact some.
I saw the gracious beauty of family love, as we all took turns caring for and showing our love to Grandpa. When the power went out on Saturday night, it was the grace of God that kept us warm and supplied enough oxygen to keep Grandpa on it until the power resumed. On nights when Grandpa cried out or writhed in pain, my Uncle Kerry would hold his hand and say, “I’m right here, Dad,” reminding me of God’s presence even in our worst times. It was a heartbreaking yet beautiful sight of Father and son.
It was grace that gave us medicine, a cat that never left his side, and our presence to comfort him. It was grace that showed his body changing so his loved ones could prepare for and be present in his journey home. It was grace that gave me opportunities to love my Grandpa through practical care in his final days, and to minister to my family in various ways as we sat together.
It was the power and grace of God responding to our cries for help that allowed him to get some rest after a terrible time of what seemed like hours of coughing and not being able to catch his breath (medicine was just not helping!).
After telling Grandpa he can go with Jesus whenever he’s ready, it was the power and grace of God that revealed to me the day and time that Grandpa would be going home.
One night as I stayed with Grandpa, the clearest thing I heard from him that night was a conversation with George.
[Is he dreaming or getting a visitation from the other side?]
He finishes the conversation. All in a happy tone.
“Yeah, I’ll be there in a couple days.”
I asked mom and her siblings the next day who George is. They had no idea.
That night, my cousin, sister, and I were snooping around the house like we used to, reminiscing over our childhood memories there. We stumbled upon a pile of photos. We decided to bring them down since we’d been going through photos together. One of them was a black and white photo of a young man, with “George” written on the back.
We still have no idea who exactly George is, but Grandpa went home when he told George he’d be there.
Friday morning, we heard from the hospice nurse that he probably had about a day left. That afternoon I heard the song “Cinderella” by Steven Curtis Chapman, which is about a Father/daughter relationship. This was my father-daughter dance at my wedding reception, so I started to get emotional. Then I thought of my own Mom saying goodbye to her father, which is around when I heard the lyrics:
I don’t want to miss even one song
‘Cause all too soon the clock will strike midnight
And she’ll be gone
The Holy Spirit revealed to me that I’m not just getting emotional, but that this was a message from the Lord that Grandpa would be leaving us around midnight.
We watched for the traditional signs, but nothing really seemed obvious all night that he was in his last few hours. Many in the family figured he’d pass sometime the next day. But I couldn’t get that message out of my head, so I texted my sister.
(Of course doubt crept in: What if I’m wrong? Maybe it’s tomorrow! …so I was nervous to say it out loud to other people. But the Lord has been reminding me over and over again lately that I belong to God, so I know Jesus’ voice, so I hear him when he speaks! [See John 10.] I’m trying to walk in confidence about that.)
Our last cousin (Erika) to come was due in that night from Florida. Ohhh was I praying hard that she’d make it in time!
It was a couple minutes before midnight that I noticed my cousin Emilee (who was holding Grandpa’s hand) looked up at her husband Craig to signal something. I noticed the time and so casually walked over to give Grandpa a kiss and stroke his head a little. His breathing suddenly changed to be shallower.
That’s exactly when Erika walked in!
We walked her right over and all stood by his bedside.
Through heavy sobs, Erika said her goodbyes to Grandpa. Peacefully, he took his last breath.
Grace. Power. Beautiful love of God to allow that moment.
That night, the wind chimes on his porch sounded as though angels were playing them… a beautiful peaceful sound to remember the honor and gift of walking Grandpa home.
An image came to mind of Grandpa, with enthusiasm, laughing and saying “We did it! Nice job sweetie!” with a big smile on his face.
I can only imagine the beautiful sights he saw for the first time, the joy he felt, and the overwhelming love from the Father he experienced as Jesus said, “Well done, my good and faithful one.”