Death is a natural process of life. At times it may catch us off guard and we may not feel quite ready or prepared to accept it. At other times, it’s expected and we have more time to grieve healthily. However, if there is one thing I know for certain, it is that there is something very special we experience within each loss we must accept and endure.
Though I have had many experiences with death in the past, three people stand out to me the most: my uncle Tad, my grandmother, and my grandfather.
I remember each time I saw Grandpa after Grandma passed in November of 2007. I remember just staring at his face; how it had grown so much older over the years – every line deeper, every wrinkle a bit more visible. Staring for just moments was almost like going back to a place in time when life was simple. I saw my dad – crystal blue eyes, just like mine. Most of all, I saw Grandpa’s heart – heavy with years of hard work but filled with a happiness that only comes from a lifetime of love.
Grandpa had a difficult time hearing in his later years, but sometimes, I would watch him as he sat on the porch swing. Though he was usually looking away or at his feet, I never truly believed it was simply because he could not fully hear the conversation. As the swing swayed slowly back and forth, his gaze never drifted and his mind never seemed cluttered. Grandpa’s life was fulfilled. Though his stare seemed blank, I saw he had accomplished his purpose through God.
At that moment, I knew Grandpa had finally met Jesus in timelessness.
In October of 2010, my father, my uncle Tom and Grandpa took a trip to visit my uncle Ray in Arizona. Though Grandpa’s health was deteriorating, he insisted on making the trip. One night, after the boys had arrived in Arizona, Mom and I received a FaceTime call from Dad. Everyone passed the phone around the room saying hello to us while the rest would make jokes in the background. The smiles on each of their faces were so light-hearted. They knew this would most likely be the last trip Grandpa would be able to endure.
That night was the last time I saw the crystal blue eyes of my Grandpa.
On October 22, after a couple of days in Arizona, it was time for the boys to head back to Texas. While making the long drive home, they stopped in San Simon, Arizona for a short break. It was there, after spending several days with his children, that Grandpa was called home to Jesus.
Pain wept in my heart simply for my father, yet I somehow felt comforted that Grandpa passed in the presence of his children and not alone. Part of me felt he knew the time was near, but another part of me simply wanted a chance to say goodbye.
Grandpa’s funeral was probably the one of the best and worst days of my life. I remember my mom telling me it was ok to walk up to his casket, but I refused because I just was not ready to let go quite yet.
We waited long after people had moved on to the burial service. I stood at the doors staring down the long walkway where Grandpa laid and watched my dad. I wasn’t leaving the room without him.
Once we made it to the burial site and the service ended, everyone was given a chance to walk by Grandpa’s casket and say their final goodbyes. By this point, the casket had been closed and prepared for burial. Nothing had prepared me for this moment.
I watched the line of visitors pass by until the very last person had left, and I rose up from my chair. Placing my hand on the casket, I finally was able to say goodbye – not that I was at all ready. Nothing was more beautiful that day than the warmth of Grandpa’s spirit. Yet, nothing could replace him. Nothing could ever substitute for watching him sway on the porch swing. I would never forget the connection I felt with Grandpa, and I swore I would never lose that with my father.
Months later, God gave me peace in the form of a dream. I awoke that morning recalling every detail, and I couldn’t wait to share it with my dad.
It was the day of October 22, 2010 when Grandpa passed, but he was not in Arizona. I was walking toward the curtain of a hospital room when I looked to my left and saw Grandpa sitting in a chair against the wall as if he were watching over someone else behind the curtain. He turned and looked at me and began to speak.
“I’m so sorry,” he said. “I’m so sorry that I didn’t get to say goodbye.”
I was silent.
“I love you so much,” he said before fading away from my sight.
Jesus had sent Grandpa to me that night and gave me something I’ll cherish forever.
My dreams will always be a special place I can go to see Grandpa and Grandma. So many nights since then, I’ve met my loved ones in my dreams where time knows no bounds, and their spirits are free. Nothing can be more heartbreaking than losing a loved one, yet no one can replace the power of God to provide a place for their souls to live in eternal joy.