I woke up at 4 am Thursday to a text from my sister letting me know that Grandpa had passed away. He’d had a stroke two weeks ago, and much like his grandson Reid had done many years before, continued to fight on far beyond his initial prognosis, amazing doctors with his strength. It’s difficult to wrap my head around what’s happened being so far away, and yet I have experienced so much peace these last few days.
Wednesday was the most difficult day, waiting by the phone, texting with my family throughout the night before. Overwhelmed and restless, I attended a beautiful evensong service at Christchurch Cathedral, which was a tremendous comfort. Then, just as the sun was setting the rain clouds broke and a breathtaking rainbow descended on the city.
Then the next morning after he passed, I was out walking and spotted a high school student on a college visit, wearing a sweatshirt from Grandpa’s high school. Encountering that child from a private school in New Jersey in the streets of Oxford, hours after he had passed was nothing short of miraculous and comforting beyond words. As difficult as it is to be so far from family and trying to fathom what has taken place, I feel carried by the nearness and love of “the God of all comfort and the father of compassion. ” (2 Cor 1:3) I have also found great encouragement in the idea that he is reunited with my brother Reid, who died 7 years ago next week.
These last few days, I have cherished recounting simple snippets of memories from years past: tractor rides around the mountain when we were young, the rope swing he built for us grandkids, chopping wood, the Archie Bunker chair, family dinners at Sirloin Saloon, stories of family lore, his vast history library, seeing him greeting and taking the offering when we visited their church, calling my grandma by the simple and tender nickname “Sweet”, his love of football, devotion to Rotary, his hugs, and so much more.
I particularly treasure last summer. Studying an hour away, I got up to their house most weekends for a quick visit, and I treasure these times. I managed to record him telling a few stories, which I can’t bring myself to listen to just yet, but I am extremely thankful to have. Every time I left, he would still tell me to drive safely and want me to let them know when I got back to campus. And now, as unthinkable as his absence is right now, he has arrived safely to his eternal home. He leaves behind an immeasurable legacy, the ripple effect of which we will probably still be discovering in years to come.
Good-night Grandpa. I love you.