November 30th, 2015

Dear Grandpa,

You died a year ago.
I don’t know if you know this, or if your present joy drowns out all earthly memories. I don’t know if you even knew one year ago today as you had trouble breathing, that you were going to die. I sure didn’t.
I don’t know if you were scared, or relieved, or if at some point you saw His face and decided to let go. I hope you had peace.

When I got mom’s phone call to pray for you – that you were having trouble breathing and had been taken to the hospital by ambulance – I didn’t know that you were already gone. You were so alive to me, and any thought of this world existing without you was so far from my mind, that I didn’t pray from a panicked place of life or death. I prayed from a place of peace that you would experience a quick recovery, I prayed for the nurses and doctors that would take care of you, and most of all, I prayed for your peace and dignity as you were in such a place of vulnerability. Chris and I sat together on the couch in our apartment as the rain muffled the city sounds, and we prayed for you.

I didn’t know that you wouldn’t need the care.
I didn’t know you were already gone.

When mom called me back, the day I had been experiencing suddenly seemed like an entirely different day, as it shifted from a cold and peaceful Sunday afternoon with Chris to the worst day of my life, a shattered pile of my heart on the cold hardwood floor of my bedroom.

“Grandpa’s gone.”
“WHAT?!”

The news was so heavy, my body couldn’t bear the weight, and I collapsed on the floor in sobs and screams of denial. It couldn’t be. You were so alive. I had just sat on your lap and dressed up in ridiculous costumes with you the weekend before as we shared a small reception in Kentucky to celebrate our recent wedding.

“NO! No no no!!!”
It’s a cruel joke. I yelled into the phone at mom. “You are kidding, you have to be! He was just fine! NO!!!”

I don’t recall all the frantic words I yelled that day, searching for some reasoning that would pull this news into a place of reality, a place of understanding. I only recall the feeling of my heart being crushed, or squeezed so much that it was hard to breathe, hard to think, hard to do anything but scream and cry in a heap on the floor.

The man that you watched me fall in love with, exchange vows with, and walk down the aisle with into a promising future scooped me up and sat me on his lap as he let the pressure of my breaking heart release into heaving sobs. I soaked his shirt in tears. He held me on that cold, hardwood floor and let me cry until my head pounded and my tears were all used up.

I think you knew he would.
You knew when you said what would be your last words to him, “Hold on to your treasures,” that he would.
He did.
And he has, Grandpa.

Over 8 years ago, as Grandma was dying, she asked you if you were coming, too.
“I’ll be there soon,” you said.
“15 minutes?” she asked.
We all chuckled and you told her that you would join her in heaven after seeing me get married and have my first child. This made me feel so special.

I know you didn’t really know when your time would be.
You just wanted to comfort her, and you had a lot more of my life you wanted to see and be a part of.

And that you did.

In the years since she died, you saw me graduate from college. You watched me walk across that big ole’ stage, and then walked me arm in arm to the car when the ceremony was over. You were so proud.
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A couple years later, you saw me finish my master’s degree and start my first job as an occupational therapist, and we celebrated again.
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We spent birthdays and special occasions and even many random evenings together at Texas Roadhouse on Richmond Road and remembered Grandma as I ordered the Rotisserie Chicken like you two used to share, and real (instead of cinnamon) butter like she always ordered for her rolls.
(I still do this.)
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You were there on the day I was baptized. I wore Grandma’s necklace.
This is amazing to me… because I remember being at your baptism many years ago.

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You never had much money, but you financially supported me anyway as I began to travel the world in an attempt to make a difference in the lives of those forgotten. Orphans, widows, the poor, the disabled.
You saved every support letter I wrote. You saved every update.

You beamed with pride when I told you I was moving to Haiti to begin a therapy clinic for children with special needs. You prayed for me every night.
Mom printed my blogs so you could read them and you saved them all in a folder that now sits on my desk.

When I moved back to the States, my heart still wrenched from my experiences, you told me you prayed every night for the Haitian baby I had cared for and fallen in love with, and my eyes were opened to how big your heart truly was.

And then… 7 ½ years after your beloved wife of 50 years had passed away… you were there for my wedding.
Our perfect October wedding. And I am so thankful you were.

While I regret I didn’t take more pictures with you, or sit in your lap longer, or dance with you, I know you soaked up all our happiness, and it comforted your heart. It comforted mine to know you were there… to share our joy. To see the great things God has done in my life… because you were there years ago when my heart was broken by those who didn’t keep their promises.

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Just a month later, you were able to join us again as we traveled to Kentucky to celebrate with our family and friends in the area. That was a great day.
We laughed as Chris and I cut the cake and I exclaimed, “It’s a girl” as a joke.
I sat in your lap as always and just enjoyed the comfort of you holding me.
You let me dress you up in whatever dress-up clothes and props I chose, and we posed for silly photos together.
I love your smile in those photos.
I didn’t know they would be our last.

But I am thankful.

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You were right when you told Grandma you’d be hanging around long enough to see me get married. You died just six weeks afterward.
I think you had peace to know I’d be taken care of.
And I have been.
Grandpa, Chris is so good to me.

But Grandpa, you missed the second part – you’re not here for the birth of my first child.

There is a place in my heart that your love and life alone filled, but Grandpa, my life has been so blessed in the year since you’ve been gone. I want to say that you’ve missed it, but the truth is I know you haven’t. You may not physically be here, but you’re so perfected in heaven, so at rest, that you’re not missing a thing. And I don’t desire for you to be here instead of there, because that would be robbing you of the single greatest prize in our existence as spiritual beings – being in the presence of Jesus.

I’m
the one missing it.

Until my day though, I’m going to keep loving Him and allowing Him to love me, grateful for the days I have and the adventures He still has for me, even though you’re not here to share them with me.

One of those adventures has been buying and renovating this house we’re living in now. I know you’d love it. We’ve talked about you as we’ve worked on it, and wondered what you’d say about the 100-year-old craftsmanship and the hardwood floors we discovered under carpet in every room. This house was built before you were even born! It’s amazing and gorgeous and we never thought we could own a home like this. I know you’d be proud of it and the work we’ve done so far. Mom reminds us that you used to say that a job worth doing is a job worth doing right! Your words echo in this house.

We waited and prayed for nearly 9 months until we got the news we’d been waiting for… our greatest adventure yet. Little did I know, what I had exclaimed at our party with you that day over a year ago would come true.
“It’s a girl!”

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I told you last year that Charlotte – which means freedom – was my favorite name, and if we had a girl, we’d call her Charley. You smiled and said that’s what you used to call your sister.

Grandpa… I’M GOING TO BE A MOMMY!

I know you’d be so proud of me.
I know you would love this little girl so much. So much that it would probably cause my heart to explode as I watched you with her.
I try to imagine her face all the time… and while I wait for her to grow big enough to make her entrance into the world and into my arms, I imagine myself holding her.
I imagine you holding her like you held me so many times.

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I know she would have loved you.
Who wouldn’t?

Grandpa – being pregnant is amazing. I absolutely love it. Now that I can feel Charlotte kicking and moving around, it’s even more magical. It’s real! There’s really a little person growing and moving around inside me. What a miracle.
God’s design is so good and so amazing and so perfect.
I know you, more than any of us here, know that very well now.
IMAG4216I miss you so much.

It seems like the earth itself has felt the absence of your presence for this entire year; it’s not quite as peaceful as it was when your gentle soul walked upon it. There are many less prayers being spoken now that your earthly voice has been quieted. There are two less hands for me to hold – rough, knobby hands that worked to build a life and a legacy. There is one less lap for me to sit on. There are two less eyes looking into mine, telling me you love me so much, two less lips kissing my cheek, and one less soft but stubbly cheek grazing mine.

You may not know that you died, or have any memory of it.
You may not recall your last breath, or your last words, or even the foods you ate for your last Thanksgiving meal just moments before you died.
But you know.
You know so much glory.

You have seen the face of God.
You have walked in perfection.
You know, more than any of us here, what is true.
You have no doubts.
You SEE HIM.

And Grandpa, I am so happy for you.

I’m crying today as I remember these moments in time and relive the pain of losing you… but I am happy for you. I am happy for us. We had so many amazing times together, countless memories that I didn’t even begin to detail in this letter to you. You always made me feel so special.
You always made me feel so loved.

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You radiated Christ. You really did.
And I felt His love through you.
It’s most likely this that I miss the most, as there are few people in life that love us with this kind of unconditional, non-judgmental love. I miss your love.
Thank you for the way that you loved me.

I pray now that those that knew you and were touched by your life will remember that kind of love you had for them, and see that it was Jesus in you that caused such a special love. I pray also that some of those same people will see it in me, and experience His love in the way that I love them.
I pray this love will cause them to fall in love with Jesus like you did. Like I did.
The alternative is a closed and cold heart. There is no other life except one with Him!

Thank you, Grandpa, for being a man in my life that modeled this kind of love.

It’s the greatest legacy one could ever leave.

I know it’s not something we can get by striving, only by the supernatural changing of our hearts through Jesus. Only by surrender.
Thank you for surrendering your life to Him so that He could live through you.
I am sure that when you met Him, He told you, “Good job.”

You may have died… but now you live forever.

I miss you so much.
Can’t wait to see you.

All my love,
Elizabeth
(aka “Lizardbreath” – thanks for that one, by the way.)

P.S. We just cut and brought home our Christmas tree last night – I am looking forward to decorating it using some ornaments that belonged to you and Grandma.

Pic for Eliz

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