The Saturday before my grandpa passed away we got a call that he was not doing well so Kaitlyn and I rushed to Joplin to spend the day with him. When we arrived I was prepared for the worst, but that is far from what we got when we walked in the door. We were greeted with a “there they are” and a big smile from Grandpa. He was his normal self. Kaitlyn and I spent several hours sitting by his bed talking and laughing at his off colored jokes until we cried. Of course it didn’t matter that is was the 30th time we heard most of these jokes, I’ll miss hearing them over and over again and rolling my eyes. “Did you know your grandma hasn’t cooked in so long the other day I caught her going towards the can opener with an egg in her hand?” was a staple grandpa joke. Every visitor that came through the door was greeted with “Have you met my buddy?” and he would point to Kaitlyn and grab their hands and make them shake. I couldn’t love Kaitlyn or my grandpa any more than I do, so I was just fine with it being all about her. I have shared a lot of things with my grandpa through the years and nothing is more special to me than sharing my wife with him. I’ll always remember Grandpa now when I look at Kaitlyn, and be sure to call her my buddy. That night before we left Kaitlyn leaned down and kissed him on the forehead and he said “You know why I love her Jake, because she’s not scared to kiss a 79 year old old man.” I told him I loved him and would see him on Wednesday and walked out the door. He yelled “Boy come here” and I walked back in and he pointed at me and said “Check the oil in the truck before you leave.” I smiled, nodded and walked out. Two weeks before, Kaitlyn and I were having car issues. We are both alike and don’t like to ask people for help but somehow my grandpa caught word our car was in the shop and it would cost too much for us to fix it. He called me the day after his first chemo treatment and weakly told me to get in my car and bring it to Neosho because his new truck needed someone to drive it and he knew someone who needed it; he gave me the keys that night. My Grandpa passed away in his sleep that Wednesday morning at 3:00am, the morning we were planning on coming back up to see him. I never thought that Saturday night would be the last night I would get to see him and talk to him. For those that knew my grandpa it is extremely fitting that his last words to me were “check the oil in the truck.” He was laid to rest with those oil stained finger nails, just like he would want to be.
The year after college when I moved home I spent a lot of time helping my grandpa out and he spent a lot of time mentoring me about the weak job market and what my life expectations should be. One morning he picked me up at 7am on a drizzle filled November day and we spent all day splitting logs and cutting wood for one of his elderly friends so he’d have enough wood to burn through the winter. Even though my grandpa was pushing “elderly” himself that did not stop him, we cut and stacked wood because someone needed it and we had the ability to fulfill that need. That next Sunday there was an article in the local paper with a picture of my grandpa and I stacking wood titled “My Christmas Wood Angels.” The man we cut wood for was a guest columnist for the local paper and wrote a sweet piece about my grandpa and his selflessness. That was my grandpa, always looking out for others and making sure everyone was taken care of from driving my grandma’s high school widow ladies to Hardee’s every Tuesday night for cheeseburgers, to mowing their widow neighbor’s yard who tragically lost her own husband and granddaughter, to accepting every garbage lawn mower people would drop off at his house to fix even when he knew there was no way he could fix it only to give that person a new one in exchange for a bag of green peppers he loved to share with me. When there was a need, my grandpa was the one there to lend his hand. I am a proud grandson.
You always hear death is closer than ever, and I understand what that means. But to me heaven is closer and I look forward to THAT more than ever. My grandpa was not scared of death and he was sure to tell me that every time I saw him even if I did not want to talk about that. “I lived a great life and I know where I’m going, there is nothing to cry about or be sad about,” he told me the last time we sat on his couch and watched the weather channel on mute with his flannel pajamas on. It should not take death for us to live like this.
“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 the VICTORY through our Lord Jesus Christ!”
The last time I said goodbye to Grandpa John on this earth I leaned over and put a flashlight in his suit pocket. Every birthday, Christmas, and Grandparents Day I bought him a flashlight and he had quite the collection of 50 + he proudly displayed in his living room. It was fitting it would be the last thing I gave him after all he gave to me for 25 years. But I know where he is, he won’t need that little light anymore.