I have 20 years worth of memories with my Papa. I do not recall the details of the day this picture was taken, but I do not need to. I know that it was full of a deep affection and too much ice cream, early morning cartoons, Eggo waffles and a lot of chocolate milk. I could say that about every memory I have. I remember car rides to and from school where I probably went on and on about superheroes or school — probably so fast it was near impossible to understand. But I remember only feeling like I was listened to and loved, and probably a brain freeze from a Frosty that was much bigger than me.
I have sat today with memories like that sitting in my mind. I remember making certain I had a seat next to him; it didn’t take much convincing, because I knew he loved it, and so did I. I remember movies and dinners at Red Robin where I would elbow him in the ribs if I felt like he was being too ornery for my liking. Why I started doing that, I haven’t a clue, but I knew it was his favorite, too. I remember movies at home and at the theater, most of which my Papa would never see on his own and did not really “get” — but he took me without hesitation and with a massive popcorn.
I remember money in cards and wonderful toys — but I was just happy my Nana and Papa were there. I remember him checking, double-checking, and triple-checking to make sure something was the right size, usually just a way to spend more money on me. I remember that, in a season where I needed extra help, and I was staying the night, I could know that my Papa was more than willing to help me. Even if it was my own fault for drinking a Sprite that, like many things, was bigger than me…
I remember being home alone, at my school desk, with my dog to keep me company. There were some long days where the wonderful reality of work and life kept the house empty a little longer. I remember that I never felt lonely on those days, because my Papa would bring food (for me and for Duke) and ask me about school and life, and was attentive to everything I needed before he headed out.
I remember birthday after birthday, drop off and pick up and everything in between. I know I will remember more every day — and that I will treasure each of them more than I already do. I remember the quiet, and encouraging warmth of being greeted as if I were royalty every time I entered a room to greet him, or scooted close in a booth at Red Robin, or answered a birthday call.
That, I will miss. I will long to hear it again, when I go Home.
I could go on, and on, and on — and I would love it. I will smile and laugh and cry, and meditate on a life full of deep, spoil-me-rotten, feed me until I burst, love. I am deeply happy that my little brothers were able to receive from that same generosity. I am sad that my own kids will have to suffice for stories, until we are all together again. I am grateful to Jesus for blessing me with a grandparent, a Papa, who made me feel special.
What is more, I remember, past all the fun and the silliness, was an example of faith that endured flaws and pain. I remember that my Papa was convinced of the saving grace of Jesus Christ. I remember sincere prayers of gratitude and remembrance filling the kitchen or the dining room where our family would gather. I remember church services, baby dedications, weddings, Easter and Christmas, where that remained the same.
I remember that my Papa represented to me what the Psalmist declared: “One generation shall commend your works to another, and shall declare your mighty acts.”
I grieve, but I take comfort to know that was not in vain, because how could it be? He is not the God of one generation, but the God who remains no matter the sting of life or age, or death. His Word tells me these things…
I will be your God through all your lifetime, yes, even when your hair is white with age. I made you and I will care for you. I will carry you along and be your Savior. (Isaiah 46:4)
But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. (1Thessalonians 4:13)
And Jesus said to him, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.” (Luke 23:43)
“He is not the God of the dead, but of the living, for to him all are alive.” (Luke 20:38)
I take comfort in knowing that this is not the end. Because of Him, life does not end in a crushing cloud of sorrow. There is grief and pain, but it is forever marked with the buoyancy of Paradise, and the promise to be reunited with those who we love. Jesus’ mission was not a half-measure: “Anyone who believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” I am sad, today. There will be a sea of emotions in the days and weeks and years to come.
For now, I will take no small comfort in this fact…
“He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” (Revelation 21:4)
I love you, Papa. I’m a little jealous that you get to see Jesus before I do. I know that He will enjoy your company in ways I can only imagine.