Being brave is never something I have done well.
I shy away from confrontation unless I know I can win. And for the record, I can usually win (only if it is against my husband and he lets me win).
So on Monday, when I tried to talk to my grandpa about his faith and my grandma asked me not to because it made him uneasy, I listened to her. I don’t love to rock the boat, especially with people I love, and I have also been taught (as so many of us have) to respect my elders because they know more than I do.
Flashback to MANY years ago. My grandpa was a preachers kid and as someone who spent tons of time in the Church, he quickly realized that the people who ran the Church were flawed, hypocritical and sinful. While that is something that we all know to be true, it always shocks us so much more when we find out that a pastor has had an affair or the deacons are greedy. I am all for holding our Church officials to a higher standard, but we have to realize that they are human and they are going to disappoint us in one way or another because they are far from perfect. But someone in the Church greatly disappointed my grandpa as a teenager and he turned his back on the Church, disgusted with its greed. He didn’t look back.
My grandpa was not a bad man. In fact, he was a lovely human who married a beautiful, hardworking, brainiac of a woman and they had three kids, one of which was my mother. They had a great family and abided by all cultural norms. No major vices. No crazies.
But they did not know Jesus. On the surface, I am not sure you would have known. My grandma, being the brilliant woman that she is, can quote scripture very well, probably better than I can. And my grandpa, having grown up in a church, knew all of the Christian lingo and approved behaviors. So nobody questions anything.
Present day, the last few months of 2015, my family became aware that my grandpa likely wouldn’t live for another year. You know how runners push a bit harder when they get close to the finish line? That is how my family started looking at my grandpa’s salvation. Better late than never, right?
After a few trips to church (for my birthday in December, I asked if my grandparents would come to church with me) and several forced/awkward conversations later, we didn’t feel like we had clarity on if my grandpa’s eternity was secure. And suddenly after January 1, 2016, my grandpa went in to the hospital for the very last time in his life. After a week, the doctors concluded that the best move would be to place him in a nice hospice center to live the remaining days comfortably.
We spent 4 days loving on my grandpa and listening to the stories of his life. All of his kids were able to fly in and come spend time with him and take part in celebrating his life with him. The number one item on my grandpa’s list seemed to be making sure that his family knew that he loved them so much. It was an incredibly sweet time that I will cherish forever.
On Sunday night after all of his family had left, my grandpa asked his wife of 60+ years, “How do we know if heaven is real? And how do I get to go there?”. Boom. Big stuff. My grandma is an incredibly smart woman, like the first woman chemist hired by Shell smart. She can answer most any question, and most of them correctly! But without having a good understanding of the gospel with your heart, those questions are really tough to answer. However she answered them didn’t satisfy my grandpa and he became distraught to the point that he needed to be medicated, which put him into a fog until the next evening. Understandably so, my grandma asked us not to bring up heaven or anything spiritually to my grandpa for fear that it would upset him again. Disobeying my grandma was not something I looked forward to doing, but I felt God pushing me to find a way to answer my grandpa’s questions about heaven.
After months of prayer and awkward attempts, I got a chance to talk to my grandpa about his faith. When I went to see him on the evening of January 11, 2016, I prayed hard for him to be awake and able to talk with me clearly so I could try and help answer some of his questions about heaven. When I walked into his room, he was sound asleep. I waited around for about 40 minutes and then decided to leave and try again the next day. As I moved towards his bed to tell him goodbye, his eyes opened and locked on me.
I froze. Now? Do I talk to him now? What do I say? Will he understand me? I felt God push me and say “Be brave. I have given you the words to say and I have made his mind clear to understand.” So I sat down next to his bed and just started talking. I can’t quite recall what I said, but I believe it made sense and wasn’t full of corny jokes, which is a clear indicator that God was talking through me. I checked with him several times to see if my grandpa was following what I was saying and he would just nod his head. I went through the gospel and how much Jesus wanted him to call Him as Lord and Savior. Then I asked if I could pray with him and guide him through the words to ask Jesus to live in his heart and guide his life. He nodded. So I prayed and let the Holy Spirit speak through me. At the end of the prayer, I asked my grandpa if all of that made sense and if he had prayed with me. He nodded. I told him that was all he needed to do to ensure that he would go to heaven and be with Jesus. All he needed to do was tell Jesus that He was Lord over his life. And eternity in heaven was his. I told my grandpa that if he had accepted Jesus in his heart, that he would get to see my daughter in heaven. He nodded. I told him I loved him and that I would be by the next day to see him.
My grandpa passed away 10 hours later.
I believe God put a plan together to save my grandpa that left so little room for error for the sole purpose of bringing greater glory to Himself. And what a glorious thing indeed. I believe my grandpa hung on to this Earth until he found answers to life-long questions that brought him to Christ. I also believe that my grandpa was able to be an example that you are never to old and it is never too late to give your life to God. And I truly believe (and am incredibly jealous) that my grandpa is in heaven with his great-granddaughter and that they are both just loving it and so free from any physical hurt.
I am so thankful that God let me be a part of my grandpa’s story. I am so thankful that God pushed me to be brave and speak to him when I thought I didn’t have the words. Incredible things can happen if you only allow God to make you brave.
In honor of James Clary.