I had posted a couple of times about how my grandfather, Papa, was in the hospital and I haven’t posted since August 7th. Quite alot has happened since then. On Saturday, the 8th my aunt Tana came from Wisconsin. On Monday, my friend Erin who also lives with us came home early from a trip. I picked her up from the train station. During this time we continued to visit Papa every day in the hospital and every night, to gather around his bed, sing hymns and pray together. We sang the Doxology every night.
On Tuesday, August 10, I woke up to Gramma’s cries of “He’s gone!” and I knew that Papa had gone home. Apparently his heart just stopped while they were turning him. I was surprisingly calm. I stayed in bed for a few minutes and talked to my husband before coming out of my room to see Gramma. Tana was there since she was staying at the house. We hugged Gramma and reminded her that Papa was now fully healed with a totally new body, that he was where he was meant to be. And we sang A Mighty Fortress Is Our God. I certainly felt like I needed to be reminded that God is a mighty fortress! Gramma was worried that we didn’t know the nurses that were with him in the end, but When my uncle went to the hospital he found out that it was the nurse and assistant that we had seen there the most. Praise the Lord!
The rest of the days of that week are starting to blur together in my mind. Pastor Dennis came and talked to us that day, read some scripture and prayed with us and also gave us a couple of “grief” books. I think it was the next day he came back with an assistant pastor, Keith, who would run the celebration of his life for us so that we could start planning. Gramma chose Sunday afternoon. Papa was a founding member at our church, so we knew alot of people would want to come.
Those next few days are a blur of work and family here all the time and I couldn’t sleep half the night. I made the program which had to be at the church office by Friday morning so they could print it. I made the slideshow video to be shown at the service. I also ended up writing and submitting the newspaper obituary. It seems that they charge by line, so I was the one tasked with getting it down to a manageable length and emailing it in.
The rest of Tana’s family, her husband and three kids, arrived on Saturday so we were really all together then. Sunday came and the celebration was beautiful. I read the scripture that Gramma chose, 2 Corinthians 5:6-9; “Therefore, being always of good courage, and knowing that while we are at home in the body we are absent from the Lord– for we walk by faith, not by sight– we are of good courage, I say, and prefer rather to be absent from the body and to be at home with the Lord. Therefore we also have as our ambition, whether at home or absent, to be pleasing to Him.” I also sang a duet of Father’s Eyes with my mom. I didn’t know until recently that we had both sung this song as a solo in church before (fun fact: when my mom sang the solo Debbie Voigt played the piano for her). So it was an appropriate song for more than one reason.
We also had a grandchildrens’ tribute during which I shared. Here is what I said.
It is my privilege to be Dewain and Melva’s first grandchild. I think I was about four years old when Papa took me to see this very sanctuary being built. I know that I have been blessed more than I deserve by having gotten to see Papa almost every day of my life. Along with the great Godly example he set, I learned many practical things from him like letting all the air out of a plastic bag before closing it. I can’t imagine a grandparent being more influential. When I was growing up, Gramma watched us while my parents were at work. When I was in the fourth grade I had to do a Mission project for school, like most kids in California. I think it was Papa’s first year of retirement and he got really involved in the project. He planned it with me, provided the tools, and instructed me on sawing styrofoam. When it came to writing the report he took me to the library for research and helped me photocopy pictures out of the books. After we had glued the pictures onto the typed pages of my report, he wanted to take me to make copies of those pages again, so that the pictures would be embedded onto the page but Gramma stopped him. She said “no! they won’t believe that she did it.” “But she’s doing it!” Papa said. He was also a chaperone on my class trip to Mission San Juan Capistrano.
During high school, I started living at my grandparents’ house for proximity to the school so that I could take a zero period class. I stayed there through college and until I got married in 2008. About six months after I got married, my husband had been laid off and though we had started a business we got to a point where we couldn’t pay the rent. My grandparents had both been sick and it made sense for us to move in with them. Jerrod and I have been living with them for over a year, and I am very thankful that God caused us to live with them so that we got to be with Papa in his last year with us. I didn’t realize it at the time but now I know what a blessing it really was.
One thing that sticks out in my mind about Papa was his amazing charity, where charity means the love of God which allows us to love others. The best example of that I can think of is that he was even kind to Telemarketers. He would say to them; “Well, we just had our windows replaced a few years back so we don’t need any new ones, but thank you for calling and good luck to you.”
The video was well received. Here it is if you’d like to watch. The first song is actually from our church CD.
My dad spoke which was one of the most emotional parts for me. His own father died when he was 13, so he’d actually known his father in law longer (28 years). He started out giving his “You Are Important” speech, which is all about how important we are to those people close to us. He then talked about how he tries to remember to make people feel important because they’re someone’s son, daughter, brother, sister, etc but he’s not that good at it. Papa did that effortlessly. The open sharing was pretty amazing. We heard from a woman who said that he was there when she came to Christ, a woman who thought that Papa was a pastor when she was a little girl, and quite a few people who said they thought that they were Dewain’s favorites. I know that there are many more stories of things that Papa did for people that we don’t know about because he was so kind, caring, and humble.
We had his burial on Monday. He was cremated so we didn’t have to rush it and didn’t have a casket at the service or anything like that. We picked a garden spot at the cemetery for the ashes to be buried and we just had a little family thing. My dad spoke and read scripture, we sang a few hymns, etc. We all had dinner together that night.
Tana’s family left Tuesday morning and Gramma cried a little when they had gone. She hugged me and said she was so glad I was there. It’s weird but I haven’t cried that much since he died. I cried alot more when he was in the hospital. I think I sort of got started grieving early, but I also know it hasn’t totally sunk in yet.
Tuesday and Wednesday were our first “real” days without him. The hardest thing so far is that I can’t ask him anything. I think of questions about things in the house or whatever, and I know that normally I would ask Papa. But I can’t, so we have to muddle along and figure things out on our own. We tried to set the automatic sprinklers yesterday and I’m still not sure if it worked! I don’t like to say that he died, though I know he died in body, because Jesus conquered death and I know Papa is living with Jesus in heaven. I don’t like to say that we “lost” him, because we know where he is. I feel strongly convicted not to talk like everyone else does, partially because I’m very sensitive to the power of language, and partly because I realize that, as Christians, we don’t think of death the way everyone else does. I don’t even like to say that he’s “in a better place” because “everyone” says that not always thinking of what it means. It’s not just a better place, it’s the best place. Papa is in the best place, in the presence of God, probably in a place of high honor and he’s probably got a giant mansion that we’ll all want to visit.