“What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.” James 4:14
My granddad (casually known as Paw-Paw) died a few weeks ago. He was 88 years old.
His death touched me in a deep and peaceful way. I cried at his funeral, of course, but these tears were so full of gratitude. I truly hope that on my day of passing into the next eternity that those around me will feel the way I felt.
Family friends and pastors spoke at his funeral. They grabbed my hand and took me on a journey through his life with their words. They told stories I had never heard before. As they spoke, I kept thinking, “This man was amazing! Thank you God for creating him and letting me be his granddaughter.” They even spoke of certain experiences my granddad had right before he died. I felt so captivated listening to them.
I’ve been to my fair share of funerals before. You can’t escape the somberness they bring in your heart. Even if they were suffering, or their death was expected: our loved one is gone. They aren’t here to experience the pain we feel when they leave us. Their spirit lives only in our memories…I might say it is the hardest part of loving some one. We love them with so much, yet we know we do not own them—we cannot keep them forever.
There were a few characteristics of my Paw-Paw that were mentioned numerous times during his funeral. Virtues that I admired and desired to have more of in my life.
My Paw-Paw had a servants heart. He never thought twice about helping anyone. He delighted in helping people. His desire to help did not come from selfish gain, but with humility and genuine concern for whoever was on the receiving end. His heart was so willing to put aside his plans for the day to go and help a family move into their home, bring them a meal my Granny had cooked or just to listen to a problem they were dealing with. I felt so convicted sitting in that church pew listening to them explain this. My heart needs working on in this area. I’m always consumed by my tasks, my goals, my life–that when some one needs help the first thing in my mind is “I can’t because I have to [insert excuse here].” I felt so much respect come over me as this trait was brought up again, and again and again!
He loved people. All people. All ages of people. He didn’t treat any one person better because of what they did, their job, who their family was, etc. He saw people as Christ sees them—worthy. Worthy of love. Worthy of a conversation. Worthy of his time. He knew that a child could teach him just as much about life as a big time preacher. His heart did not judge. Tears well up in my eyes as I reflect on his heart that understood that every person is to be celebrated.
He followed his dreams and goals. My Paw-Paw was an incredible artist. As a fellow artist, he always stirred in me the desire to make art prevalent in my life. He knew the narrow path that is required of an artist. He did not let doubt creep into his heart to the point of giving up. He believed art was his God-given gift and knew that it took self-discipline to pursue it. He believed in what he was doing. He attached his purpose to God and gave God the credit. I believe he reaped a great reward because his heart was alive following his dreams. He accomplished what he set out to do on this Earth. If there is anything to be praiseworthy about, it’s this!
He loved the Lord God with all his heart, all his soul, and all his mind. It did not take long for you to be around my Granddad to hear him mention Jesus. It would take maybe 20 minutes before he was asking you how he could pray for you. Or he would simply say “God has been so good to me.” in a way that made you feel hopeful. His faith was one to admire. He trusted in God through the trials of life and was not scared to mention his goodness. He followed the Holy Spirit and desired to obey what God asked of him. I pray that God makes my faith grow into such beauty.
“What is your life?”
That is the question I asked myself as we drove away from the cemetery that afternoon.
I looked around at my family and felt a mysterious refreshment spring up inside of me. I was thankful that we had spent our day together celebrating a life well lived. I could feel our hearts being united and rooted in love for this dear person we were going to miss.
I was present in this day, these moments—spent crying and laughing, dancing through the good times in the course of photographs and stories.
Photographs + stories…two of my favorite things.
It is a rare occasion that this side of the fam is all together so I had to bring the camera out. Thanks to my wonderful husband for capturing most of these photos 😉