My Grandpa knew how to make lemonade out of lemons. He never had much money but that never kept my siblings and I from wanting to go to his and grandma’s house. We learned how to tie rocks to handkerchiefs with string, throw them high into the air and imagine that they were paratroopers. We saw how some odd and end boards and some wheels could quickly be cut and attached to make a motorless go-cart. We didn’t need the motor. The hill behind Grandpa’s house worked just fine. These are just a few of the ways that Grandpa showed us how to make the most of what you’ve got to work with: a lesson easily applicable to all of life.
My Grandpa knew how to exude a positive persona that comforted and cheered those who happened to be around him. As an adult, I can look back on some of the situations I saw my grandparents in and know that it must have been horribly stressful. Yet, my Grandpa was never without a song in his heart that often came out in the form of a peppy whistle tune. In fact, my Grandpa was the janitor for Bible Baptist Church in Clarksville, Tennessee for all of my formative years. The building was fairly large, at least to a young child. But when we wanted to find him somewhere in the facilities, all we had to do was get quiet for a few moments … and listen for the whistling. (Being a janitor may seem like a menial job to some. However, as far as I was concerned, my Grandpa elevated the job.)
My Grandpa knew how to make Bible stories come alive! I remember spending many nights in my grandparent’s home. After my brother and I slipped into our pajamas and brushed our teeth, Grandpa would tell us a story. If it was about Daniel in the den of lions, I knew Grandpa’s hair was going to get messed up to resemble a lion’s mane and there would at least be one “roar” in the story somewhere. If he told us about David and Goliath, I knew I would have to duck the imaginary stone that David flung at his nemesis. I loved Bible story time with Grandpa!
As I grew older and my love for the Scriptures developed, I also outgrew the bedtime stories. But another of Grandpa’s traits continued to influence me to value God’s Word more and more. Thirty or so years later, I can still see my Grandpa sitting in his recliner in the living room with his Bible open upon his lap as he read and studied it. He did this day after day after day. And now, years later, I enjoy doing the same thing. (The only difference is that he had a physical Bible. I use an electronic Bible with a computer on my lap.)
There are so many memories and lessons I could mention but I’ll close with my final memory of him. It was in January 1991 that I received a call in Lexington, Kentucky saying that Grandpa had just suffered a massive heart attack. I made the necessary arrangements with work and college and then drove the 7 hours to the ICU unit at the hospital in Cape Girardeau, Missouri.
I had been blessed to that point never to have suffered the loss of a family member as close as Grandpa. For that reason, it seemed surreal. I loved him dearly and knew that he was not doing well but just couldn’t fathom that it was his time to go.
As his family began to gather, loved ones made their way back to the ICU in twos to spend time with him. I went back with one of my uncles and noticed that he was sedated and seemed to be only mildly coherent. I stood beside his bed and my eyes were bringing me to grips with how serious my Grandpa’s condition really was. I thought back on many of the memories I had enjoyed with this man and prayed that he would make it through this.
As I stood there beside his bed, he looked over at me and lifted his right hand toward me. I held it and he gripped my hand tightly as we gazed at each other. He began to move his mouth as if he were tring to tell me something but I couldn’t understand. He had tubes running everywhere and an oxygen mask on and so I couldn’t make out what he was trying to tell me. He let go of my hand and only moments later, held his hand up toward me again. My uncle noted that Grandpa wanted to hold my hand again and so I reached out the second time. We held hands and peered longingly into each other’s eyes for the last time. It was only a few hours later, as many of his loved ones were gathered in the ICU waiting room, that he went home to be with his Lord.
I dearly loved my Grandpa and think of him often, celebrating the wonderful memories he left behind. I am comforted in the knowledge that we will be reunited one day in the presence of the Lord for eternity. And I just wonder if when I arrive in Heaven, God will say, “Matt, your Grandpa is here. See if you can find him.” All I will have to do is stop for a moment, get quiet … and listen for the whistling.
Thanks for such a picturesque review of Dad's life. You're so right about his positive attitude and the whistling or humming as he worked.
I've heard (and I believe) that Dads are supposed to be a good earthly example of our Father in heaven. Because my Dad loved and provided, protected and guided, I trusted him.
What a great responsibility and privilege fathers have to introduce their children to a greater Father – the One Who loves them even more! I'm thankful my Dad did that for me.
What an amazing article. You brought so many memories and emotions to life. Thank you my son. I love you.
I have just reread your article on this anniversary of Daddy's death 21 years ago. That evening was a heart-wrenching experience but it was also one of the sweetest memories I have. Through tear of sorrow, yet also of great hope, we as a family sang Daddy into the presence of the Heavenly Father. “When my life's work is ended and I cross the chilly tide, and the bright and glorious morning I shall see. I will know my Redeemer when I reach the other side, for his smile will be the first to welcome me. I shall know him, I shall know Him, as redeemed by his side I shall stand. I shall know Him, I shall know Him, by the prints of the nails in His hands.” That song never meant more to me than it did that evening. Thank you for the precious tribute to a man who touched our lives so deeply.