Death is such a hard thing. These people who we know and love and share our lives with - they won't be here forever, and that's difficult to accept. I think we kind of subconsciously immortalize ourselves and everyone we care about because we don't want anyone to be taken away. This world is good. This life is good. We don't want it to end, and we don't want to see it end for anyone we love.
I found myself trying to disconnect from my Papaw's death. Trying to avoid the emotion and the memories and the reality that he was gone. Sometimes that's easier than dealing with it. But that night, when my cousin posted on Facebook the picture up above of me and my Paw, the floodgates opened. I remembered so many of the good times I had with him and my Nanny. The ways he looked after me all my life and how he just always seemed so proud of me (and all his grandchildren). How he taught me to mix butter and jelly together with a fork instead of putting them separately on a biscuit. How he encouraged my love of singing and music by his harmonica playing and his always having a song on his lips. How he instilled important values in me, like honor and respect and kindness and generosity and honesty. I loved him, and he loved me. And he loved my husband. And he loved my two sons.
And now he's gone.
But today, at his funeral service, I didn't feel a hopeless sorrow like you might expect when you lose someone who has had such an impact on you. I was reminded of some of the wonderful things my grandfather has done for others throughout his life, and I was reminded of the qualities and character he taught and displayed for all of us. He wasn't perfect, and he made his share of mistakes. He had a history, and some of it was rough.
But my Papaw loved Jesus.
And as I sat there today in that service and heard the minister share some of the funny and sweet and compassionate memories of my Paw, the verse "To live is Christ, and to die is gain" (Philippians 1:21) came to mind. I think that my grandfather's life showed the love of Christ in a way that only he could. He loved his family. He loved helping people. He loved singing about Jesus. He loved knowing God. And I think the good things he did in this life were a reflection of his Savior's love.
I'm glad there are good things to look back and remember and be joyful about, but most importantly, I'm glad that for my Paw, to die was gain.
My Papaw is in heaven right now, and I think he's looking back at this world and this life on Earth as though he had been in the sand, under the water, in the fog. I know that his pain and his sickness and his weaknesses are all gone, but I think his eyes are opened to see life as it really is... that to live in this world was a privilege and a joy, but to die is an even greater gain. I think he has been made whole in ways that we can't even imagine, seeing colors that aren't even in our earthly spectrum, understanding the answers to questions that we can't even dream up, feeling more free than we could ever possibly feel here in this fallen world.
And I think this is all because he is in the presence of Christ. Our God looks at the imperfections and the failures and the shortcomings of my grandfather but doesn't see them because my grandfather is covered by the saving love of God's Son, Jesus. All God sees when he looks at my Paw is a man who was redeemed by Christ's sacrifice on the cross. And I truly believe that when my Papaw took that last breath here in this world, God welcomed him with the words, "Well done, good and faithful servant... enter into the joy of your Master."
So I will miss my Papaw. I am sad that my boys won't get the chance to really know him. I will still tear up when I think about his life and his impact on mine. But I don't have a sadness that is without hope. In fact, it is a sadness that almost envies where he is now. I long to be there too one day. I want to know and perfectly experience the joy of my Master, just like my grandfather is doing now. And I know that one day I will.
This world is not our home.
We are not meant for here.
I was glad to be reminded of that today.