For anyone who has ever experienced the death of a loved one, that grief is a weird thing. Sunday my grandfather breathed his last with a smile on his face. He was ready to go. And we all are left with such good memories with Pap whether it was riding 4wheelers, hiking through the woods he knew like the back of his hand, fishing in the pond, or checking out a new baby calf. I learned what I know about living in the country from Pap. He taught me the best places to look for chicken eggs in the old barn. He taught me about the different bird species traveling to and fro throughout the seasons in the early mornings- just to two of us- him sipping his coffee looking out the big sliding glass doors. He taught me about fishing, and gardens, and deer tracks, and trees.
He was a walking encyclopedia with incredible eyesight and a love for the outdoors. He knew everyone and everyone knew they could count on him. He always told his granddaughters how beautiful we were…and there are a lot of us. And my brother made him laugh like no one else.
He and my grandma would have celebrated 55 years of marriage today, the day before we plan to bury him… the kind of marriage that when his tea glass was empty he would jingle the ice a little and she would hop up to fill it for him. The kind where he called out for her in pain in the middle of the night just a few days before he died and she came to faithfully and lovingly sit by his bed holding his hand while he slept. The decades he lived through shaped him. He was a hard worker who provided for his family, enough to get by. He was tough after having served in a war. He was proud of his kids who always came back to the family farm year after year to celebrate Christmases, birthdays, and good ol’ fashioned summers.
He worked with his hand, always fixing things, growing things in his gardens, caring for things like the albino deer that they rescued and raised. The grandkids hated her for all the attention she got but he built her that pen and kept her alive and drew quite the crowd. He was protective too. We had to beg and beg to ride the horses. He didn’t want any of us to get hurt. And the times we got stuck in the mud on the 4-wheeler, he would just laugh and say how crazy we were but be glad we didn’t flip.
He was a mountain man, content in his little house on the family farm. He will have lived, been raised, retired and died all within a mile of the original Bell family home on Hilltop. I was able to have some sweet moments with him when we went home last and even over the phone. Seeing his eyes well with tears as I walked in at Christmas was special. We had made a pact that he would do his best to make it to Christmas if I would too. We both made it! And God gave him several more months after that but Sunday was his time.
He told my dad just the other day that he was ready to go to Heaven and that he knew his hope was in Jesus alone. And that he was proud of us. I think that’s what makes death and grief so weird. Loved ones are left with memories that make us happy and sad all at the same time. But we are left with a joy knowing they are finally with their Savior. And God is so good to give us that hope, even when we don’t deserve it. Because none of us do. And when I think about Heaven, both my grandfathers there now together, it makes me long for it too. I want to be wholly made new in my Savior. I want to know my joy fulfilled completely. Sunday, while dad preached, that happened for Pap. We never grieve as those without hope. And in that we rejoice.