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Friday, February 1, 2013

True Blessings

The following is much different than the things I usually post. 
I've written and posted it in loving memory of one of the most amazing people I've ever known.
 My Grandpa.

 July of 2011 found me scrambling to finish all the last minute details for our church’s Vacation Bible School.  I had one day that was particularly hectic. It involved several errands, the first of which was getting a check in the bank so I could afford the others. I was the VBS director and had been up late the night before working on decorations. So with too little sleep I got all three of my kids in the car and headed out.

Being very tired I headed to the wrong end of town to make some purchases when I realized I need to go to the bank first. Irritated with myself I turned the car around and headed back. Then my kids started their favorite backseat sport – fighting with each other.

I turned the radio on to one of our local Christian stations hoping to drown out a bit of their noise and find something peaceful. The announcer was sharing the story about how a song had been written. The singer’s husband had been diagnosed with a brain tumor and how through the struggle she had found a way to see God’s blessings. I was amazed at this story and this singer’s faith. I was also amazed that as the announcer shared this story the backseat of my car had fallen absolutely silent. I quickly adjusted the rearview mirror to make sure they were all ok.

They were just sitting there calmly and quietly. This was the first in a series of miracles God blessed me with. (For those of you who may not believe this to be miracles just take a road trip with three kids. They don’t just stop mid fight to listen to someone “talk” on the radio.) The song hadn’t even started and yet there they were as if they were just as enthralled in what was being said as I was.

I put my mirror back and was surprised to hear that the song was one of my favorites – “Blessings” by Laura Story. I found it incredible that this beautiful song was written at what had to have been one of the lowest parts of this singer’s life. It gave me hope. I knew that if this singer could find blessings during that hardship in her life I could certainly get through my errands and the upcoming week of VBS.

VBS came and went with many happy memories as well as some difficult moments for me, but whenever I began to feel discouraged I would turn on the radio and this song would be playing. It happened at least three times that week.

Months went by and life went on but the power of this song and how God used it in my life was still unfolding.

The previous year my grandfather had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. We were blessed in that the doctor’s found it early and we had many more months with grandpa than most people are given with such a diagnosis. We were able to go on our family’s annual huckleberry picking trip one last time with him and we spent a wonderful Thanksgiving together.

As Christmas approached I looked forward to us all being together around my grandma’s tree, opening presents and causing a rowdy ruckus as we always do. At the same time I knew that this could very well be my last Christmas with my grandpa so as we traveled the hour to their house I decided to make a stop and purchase a gift for him (we had only bought presents for the kids). 

I called my sister, a nurse, to get her advice on what to bring him and she suggested nuts which were one of his favorite treats and would also be healthy for him. I ran into the grocery store and got two cans and a bag to wrap them in.

My sister had warned me that grandpa had taken a turn for the worse but I was in no way prepared for what I found. My grandpa had recently gone on hospice and was heavily medicated. He couldn't talk to me and couldn't even really open his eyes. He wasn't able to open his gift.

As we drove home later that night my heart broke as I realized that this may have been the last time I would see him. At home I called my mother-in-law, another nurse, to ask her what I could expect. She lovingly explained the process to me of what happens when someone on hospice dies of cancer and also added that sometimes they rally and he may wake up again. I had little hope but prayed. I hadn't said my goodbyes. I wasn't ready to let him go.

In the next few weeks my grandfather did rally. My sister took her week of vacation and spent it caring for grandpa. He was able to come off most of his pain medication. He opened and enjoyed his gift and we were able to have some much needed conversations.  Some were easier, like asking him about the finances and dates that certain events took place. Then there were the hard conversations – the goodbyes.

I wanted my grandpa to know how much I loved him and how much he had taught me over the years - mostly by example. He was a strong spiritual leader in my life. Every single day, as long as he was physically able, he knelt by his bed every morning and night for prayer. He could quote the bible and other religious books like no one I knew and whenever I had a question he could tell me where to look, but always left the conclusions up to me. He was amazing.

On one of my trips over to see him I was feeling especially sad and hopeless. I turned on the radio and prayed. I told God that I would really like to hear “Blessings” today. As several songs played I felt more and more discouraged. Then just a few miles from Grandpa and Grandma’s house the song came on. It was playing as I parked the car. I was able to take a few minutes to sit, listen, and cry and through it I knew that God was there with me, that He loved me, and loved my grandpa.

During one of these visits in his final weeks I was able to sit and talk with my grandpa, just me and him. He could see that I was hurting. He offered me comfort even though it was him I was losing. This gave me the chance to tell him the things I needed to say. I told him that I was going to miss him, but that I knew it wasn't the end and that I would see him again one day in heaven. And with absolute conviction he nodded and said, “That’s right.” I got to hug him and tell him that I loved him. I was able to say my goodbye.

Soon after grandpa was back on the heavy pain medications and we weren't able to communicate anymore. Then one evening I received that terrible call to tell me that my grandpa had passed away. I got in the car with my oldest daughter and headed over to be with my grandma and other family members. As we left I turned on the radio. “Blessings” was playing and it was at the part telling us “…the pain reminds this heart… that this is not our home.” It was exactly the comfort I needed.

The pain I feel, that we all feel, when we lose someone is a reminder that God created us for something better. My grandpa knew that this world is not our home.  I am looking forward to seeing him again someday soon in the home being prepared for us.

On what would have been my grandpa’s birthday I wanted to do something in remembrance of him. I decided to try a little gardening (he was an excellent gardener). I headed to the store and bought some plants and tools. On the way home I thought it would be really nice to hear “Blessings” so I decided to bring my radio outside. I didn’t really expect to hear it, but I should have known to expect more of my God who clearly loves me. As soon as I got my plants, tools, and radio set up and ready the very next song was “Blessings.”

It is now just a few days away from being a year since we lost Grandpa. The past year has been so painful. It was hard losing my grandpa and on top of that there have been many other hardships. Through it all though I have the assurance that God is with me. Even though I don’t fully understand the path I am on right now, I know that I’m not walking it alone. I know that He’s near during the sleepless nights. I know that through my tears He is healing me. I know that through the raindrops He is finding ways to bless me.

My Grandparents on their 
wedding day.
They celebrated 61 anniversaries!


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