My grandfather died this past Sunday and I am in Iowa with my family attending the visitation and the funeral, and doing the other things that are done when a loved one dies. His is the first death “process” I have truly witnessed as he had had multiple episodes in which we thought we were losing him only for him to come back, not better than ever, but certainly such that we routinely mentioned his “9 lives” in jest, but also with reverence. I have heard my uncle, whom I deeply admire, say more times than I can count when talking about my grandfather, “That’s why we won the war (World War II).” He’s probably right. Grandpa’s mind has been willing to go for months to years, but now his body finally agreed and decided to give up. He was built well, my grandpa.
In addition to watching my grandfather die, and this may seem obvious, I have also been watching my father say goodbye to and lose his father. Last month, there was a night where it was just me and my dad alone in the room with my grandpa, and all of a sudden he went from being fairly “normal” to struggling with his breathing. After he regained himself, it became clear quite rapidly that this could be his last moments. I have to admit, I wasn’t ready at all for this and I vacillated between thoughts of “This man whose hand I am holding, my grandfather, is going to die” and “My father and his father are sharing their last moments together.” It was an awkward (since it was unexpected and so new to me), yet special moment that I am so grateful to have shared with them. Of course, my grandfather despite his 93 year old body wasn’t ready to go yet and he simply went to sleep. It took another 13 days for his body to relinquish the fight but I said my true goodbye that night.
My grandfather was a special man who was loved and respected by many. He was a pastor for 50+ years, served in a war, married and lost two wives, raised and loved two children, made the best homemade green bean casserole ever, and had a dog named Sebastian that he absolutely adored and who died in his arms. He cherished, no CHERISHED being a pastor and it was only until a couple of years ago after his 127th retirement that he stopped picking up the phone on Sunday and saying “Good afternoon, pastor (or Reverend) Topp speaking.” If it is anything like his 90th birthday party, the visitation and funeral will be jam-packed with well-wishers and people who will speak highly of him and talk about when they used to hold me in their arms when I was a baby, scratch that, when they used to hold my father when he was a baby. And they will mention this and that story to illustrate how much they looked up to him and respected him. A well-respected man, my grandpa.
So here’s to you, grandfather. We miss you. Rumor on Earth is that God needed you to preach a sermon in heaven last Sunday… is it true?