Not Goodbye... See you Later

I've put this blog off all week thinking I would reach a point that I could set my emotions aside and not cry while doing it. I don't think that's going to happen so today I write this with tears streaming down my face.... tears of joy and sadness... peace and grief.
For as long as I can remember my Pa has been on my team (with the exception of card playing). He was not only my grandpa but a friend, a coach, and really a father. He was the man who had been in my life the longest, the one who taught me how to through a softball, set a volleyball, take all the points in SetBack, and cheer for the Yankees. He taught me to try hard and never settle for a B, take care of my sister even when she fights with me, love Salmon Cakes and Reese Cups, and NEVER run through the house. He taught me to love your history and your community, appreciate your abilities, be a Republican, and give the best bear hugs in the world.
I could try to tell you the hours I've spent with this man and it wouldn't scratch the surface. If you've read my blog or my facebook or know me at all you know my family is very close... they're what made it so hard to pack my bags and move to Delaware.... my grandparents in particular. See I stayed with my granparents before I was old enough to go to school. Once I was in school I got on and off the bus there and spent my summer days there. I saw my Ma & Pa at least 4 days out of the week and most times more. Once I went to college my family moved in with my grandparents to help out with Pa. I came home almost every weekend to see my family and stay plugged into my church... but the bulk of my time was spent sitting at the card table with my Ma & Pa and mom, sister, cousing (whoever we could get to play with us). The highlight of my summer break was getting to hang out with them everyday. I never left the house or went to bed without kissing him on the cheek. It became our greeting. We were close.
When the opportunity opened for me to move to Delaware, my grandparents were the hardest to talk about it with. My Grams would cry every time it came up (she's where I get my crying from ha). But my Pa would plead with me to change my mind. The day befor I left he told me he was trying to make it hard on me because I was making it hard on him. That was October and when I returned home for Christmas he offered me practically anything to stay and not come back. It was hard to tell him no but I knew where Jesus wanted me and I knew deep down he was proud (Grams would tell me of him bragging about it to visitors). He would say that people needed Jesus just the same in Honaker as they did in Delaware... and he made a good point, him being my biggest concern....
Flashback: I think I was around 12 or 13 and I had just been saved about a year. We had been at my grandparents for the evening and the reality hit me that my grandparents weren't saved. My grandma had been raised in church and stopped going in her 20s and my Pa had read the Bible 3 times through but had no relationship with Christ. Knowing this drove me crazy. My Grams was easy to share the Gospel with; we talked about it all the time. But Pa was hard... he really didn't want to hear it.
I remember the first time I shared the Gospel with him. I was at my first Powerlife and I was 14. The sermon that night had been on the realities of Hell and I was overwhelmed by urgency to call Pa. I can remember standing there crying to hard I could barely talk trying to tell him his need for Christ over the phone. He said he loved me and would see me when I got home. I prayed... and prayed. Every prayer list, Bible study, small group I was a part of had my grandpa's name on it. I knew once he got there my grams would surely follow. Not only did I pray but the persistent attempts to share the Gospel never stopped.
He wasn't in good health and it made it that much more urgent to me. I can't tell you how many times in the last 4 years the doctors have told us he had 3 weeks, 2 days, or 5 months. I can remember specifically 2 years ago him being in the hospital and them calling a rapid response because his O2 sats dropped to 40% (for all you non medical people... that's really bad). I was in the hallway bawling incessantly and begging God with all my being to please let him live to accept Christ.
My grandpa was a wonderful man... he loved his family and his community. He could tell you stories about the past and keep you intrigued for days. He was such great company. He helped so many people learn the game of  baseball by founding the T-Ball program in our town and coaching, from the duggout and the sidelines. He invested in many lives and was know as "Papaw Bunk" to many.  He took care of his mom and stayed with her at night until she passed away in 2007 and was always helping the family. But all that being said I knew he wasn't ready to die. Many people try to rely on the hope of Heaven without recognizing the reality of Hell... but I had read my Bible enough to know that it was one or the other and he wasn't headed for Heaven. He could never be good enough and he needed Jesus Christ.
This is why I wrestled so much with moving to Delware. I thought God who will share the Gospel with him if I'm not there. But God made it very clear numerous times that I was to go... He had to save my grandpa, not me. Sure enough more people came into his life that shared Gospel.
So I continued to pray, others prayed. I continued to share the Gospel, and others shared the Gospel. And it was very obvious that continued to work in his heart.
January 2013 he was put on hospice and they told us that though you truly never know for sure that they didn't see him making it to summer. Of course he did... and it was that fall that something started to change in him. My Pa's biggest hold up was that he had unforgiveness towards his sister and people not kin who had wronged our family for one thing or another. He was holding on to something and wouldn't let go. He said he refused to become a Christian knowing he had unforgiveness in his heart. In August out of the blue, he wanted to talk with her. She came to the house that day and was back every day since. It was a miracle, unbelievable. She would see him every day and help him out and my Grams with things. It was like nothing had ever happened.
Around November he started openly talking about him praying to the Lord. Him and my Grams began praying together every night. He called to let me know that since I wasn't home to pray over dinner at Thanksgiving that he would be saying the blessing. My Grams got saved in the shower in December and shared the news when we came home for Christmas. She said she just couldn't resist God anymore ... AMEN! We would all pray together every night before bed while we were home. He continued telling me about praying but he would always end with "I don't want to give you the wrong impression. I'm not saved yet. I'm still not right with the Lord." As frustrating as this was, I knew God was up to something.
It was a Friday morning this past February and I called my mom on the way to work as usual. She informed that Pa wanted me to call him. This wasn't unusual... but what he had to say was. He sounded incredibly chipper on the phone and when I asked "How are you?", he responded, "I'm great! I finally got right with the Lord. I got saved last night." PRAISE THE LORD! I cried. I shouted. I texted and called every person I could think to tell in my excitement! After 10 years of praying, the Lord had answered my prayer. That day will forever be a beautiful memory in my heart.
In March I got to go home for a few days and spent a lot of time with my grandparents. Pa's health was declining and I could tell he had worsened since Christmas. In spite of that I can't tell you what a joy it was to sit and talk about Jesus without the burden of his salvation wheighing the conversation. For the first time I had peace telling him goodbye and that I loved him because for the first time I left knowing that no matter what happened on Earth, that wouldn't be the last time I saw him.
Sure enough it was the last time I saw him here on Earth. We got the call last Thursday, May 8th that Pa had taken his final breath here in this mortal place. The void I felt being at that house last weekend and him not being there was paralyzing. The heartbreak that struck when I went to bed each night without giving him a kiss was almost unbearable. I've not yet made it one day without sobbing. I wish I were still in VA with my family to grieve together or that I at least had something to occupy my time during the day so that I wouldn't be lost in memories. But what keeps me going and what keeps helps me stop the tears is that it's not Goodbye... it's See You Later.
I know I'll miss him everyday. But my Pa is no longer here suffering with his legs wrapped in bandages and an oxygen tube in his nose. He's not aching and moaning and taking medicines everyday. He's worshipping our Savior! Nehemiah 6.9b: the hosts of Heaven worship You Lord!
I'm not a big fan of "RIP"... Yes I believe there will be rest in heaven and of course I believe there will be peace. But I think it's something many people use to comfort themselves when they don't know where their loved one was going to. I don't think it does justice for the known born again Christian. My Pa is doing so much more than just Resting in Peace... I believe he's Dancing in Glory... and Worshipping Jesus face to face... I believe he's basking in joy.
And the next time I see him I will be too! I hope you'll be there with us!
When I went home for Pa's funeral he had sat something out for me before he died. I had forgotten about this but he had found it and wanted me to have it. It was my first homerun ball and the trophy he got me. It was funny how then at the funeral the preacher said my grandpa had hit a homerun by accepting Christ. It's so true... He really made a grand slam! The most important one you can make in life. He joined my team, God's team and I'm so thankful for that.
I pray that if you haven't accepted Christ and hit that Homerun that you'll do it today. And any of you out there who have been praying for a family member or friend for so many years that you just want to give up... please don't! God's still in the miracle business.




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