“Chaz, thanks for coming. It makes the day go by quicker with good company.” – Grandpa Oswald
As I hugged my grandfather goodbye in the hospital room Friday evening, these were the last words that he shared with me. I wrote them down and tucked them away, so as to not forget them. Somehow I knew they would be the last words I would hear from him.
It was Sunday morning at about 1:30am when I received the call that he passed away. Though I had intuitively expected that he would not have much more time, I still found myself in shock, as the night before I was told that he was recovering and was expected to make a full recovery. So I threw on a pair of jeans and a sweater and made the hour drive to the hospital where I visited him just 36 hours earlier. My family gathered in the waiting room to share in memories and share in tears. Reflecting back on this experience, I realize how special and intimate this moment was. The hospital allowed for my grandfather’s body to remain in the room so that the family could gather and mourn the loss.
When I first saw his lifeless body, I could not control the tears that ran down my cheeks. My grandmother embraced me and then lovingly placed her hands on either side of my face so that I would focus on her words. Looking me unwaveringly in the eyes, she said, “Son, it is alright.” Then she pulled my face close to hers and she kissed my cheek.
Though the tears did not stop, the love I felt was incredible. With the tremendous support of two pastors who were ministering to my family, we sat around my grandfather’s body in prayer, reciting Scripture, and singing together some of his favorite hymns. The intimacy of the moment was unlike anything I had ever experienced. The hospital’s silence was broken by our rejoicing, as we did not mourn like the world mourns. We grieved for the loved one we missed, but we were comforted by the hope that this is only a temporary separation.
Though my grandfather no longer is physically with us, the memory of him will certainly remain. He was a decorated Korean War Veteran whose bravery earned him the Bronze Star, which is the Army’s 4th-highest individual military award. He earned this honor, along with the Purple Heart (among, many, many other medals), for his bravery in battle when he rescued a friend by trading places with him on a land mine. He then jumped off the land mine, which caused him to lose both legs from the knee down.
In his personal life, it was evident that his faith in Jesus Christ was his highest priority. He embodied the fruit of the Spirit as he led a life that was loving, gentle, patient, joyful, good, and faithful. He and my grandmother had 65 amazing years together. They were so in love, even until the very end. I remember how he looked at her. I remember how he treated her. I remember how he cared for her. I remember how they held hands. Their relationship, which was built on the foundation of Christ, was to be admired and sought after.
Some of my fondest memories with him include playing Rook, watching University of Michigan football (Go Blue!), and sharing in laughter – lots of laughter! He was a man of character and integrity. And he will always be remembered by the smile that graced his face. My hope, now, is that grandpa’s passing will provide opportunity for my remaining family, who currently have no hope in Jesus, to experience the comfort that can only comes from the Living God.
“And He said to me, ‘It is done!’ I am the Alpha and Omega, the Beginning and the End. I will give the fountain of water of life freely to him who thirsts.'” -Revelations 21:6