Where, O death, is your victory?
Where, O death, is your sting?
The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law.
But thanks be to God! He gives us victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
1 Corinthians 15:55-57
Just three days after Christmas, twelve members of my family packed our cars and took a long road trip east. We were headed to see my Granddaddy (my mom's dad), who had been courageously fighting esophageal cancer for the past year. At the forefront of our minds was the possibility that this may be our last visit with him - and definitely the last time as a family together with him - and yet the joy and the peace of our time together far outweighed the sadness.
When we arrived after our 10-hour drive, we knew he could only handle a few hours of activity before getting very tired.
We packed his little house with his four kids and their spouses and 6 granddaughters.
We ate fried chicken and macaroni and drank sweet tea.
We laughed at Granddaddy's famous corny jokes.
We sang hymns around the piano and recounted the Lord's goodness.
We prayed for one another.
We celebrated a life on the brink of eternity in a way I've never experienced before.
The hours passed quickly as we laughed and cried, then laughed and cried some more.
|Granddaddy, opening a book of letters from each member of his family, full of our favorite Scriptures.|
|Giving his children copies of over a hundred poems and stories from his life|
|He even showed us his "shed" with his vast record collection. This one is one of his own recordings!|
When the time came to say goodbye, Granddaddy embraced each member of his family, one by one, and blessed them. Nothing was left unsaid. When it was my turn, he stood tall and wrapped me in those long arms of his, tucked his face into my shoulder, and told me how proud of me he was... how he would never forget the first time he held me as a newborn... how he couldn't be prouder of Shawn and me and our hearts for Jesus. His words are treasures.
As we pulled away from his house, what struck me more than anything was this: death has lost its sting. When you're a child of God, the confidence that upon your last breath you'll be in Jesus' presence obliterates fear. Not only that, but there's joy! Joy that the temporary discomforts of feeding tubes and pain meds will be replaced with worship and unfathomable freedom. My grandfather had walked with Jesus since he was a boy, and the depth of his relationship with his Father was undeniably real.
|Seeing a photo of all of his children and grandchildren (and a great-grandchild!) together.|
Just two weeks after this sacred day with Granddaddy, my mom had compiled the photos we took into a book and shipped the book to Granddaddy as quickly as possible. He was able to see these photos of his children together for the first time in years. He saw the love that surrounded him. He saw his faithful wife of 30 years, and the legacy of his granddaughters who love and follow Jesus. And I believe it was in part because of this moment that he was able to let go. He beheld the lavish love the Father had poured out on him in this life and was able to embrace Him in the next. Just a few hours later, Granddaddy went to be with Jesus.
Tomorrow is his funeral - or more accurately, his celebration service - and because of the demands of school, I'm not able to be there. It breaks my heart that I cannot grieve and rejoice alongside my family, but in a sense, I feel I've already been able to celebrate him. And I've been able to celebrate him in his presence. What a rare and priceless gift. I don't think anything can surpass that experience.
It was a privilege to be behind the camera that day, capturing our last beautiful moments as a complete family. It was a privilege to take this very last photo of him, one that exudes peace and has comforted our hearts.
Mostly, though, it was a privilege being his granddaughter.
Weeping may remain for a night, but rejoicing comes in the morning.