My grandfather passed away on September 29th. He had just turned 72 years old on September 24th. He endured a 3 year battle with cancer. Praise be to God that during a large portion of that battle, my Grandpa didn't have a lot of pain. And, really, up until these last few months, you probably wouldn't have known he was sick by talking with him or looking at him. My grandparents dealt with this health situation in a way that showed their complete and total trust in a good and sovereign God. I remember when Grandpa first was diagnosed with cancer and his prognosis didn't sound good. I was really upset as I was telling him goodbye after a visit. And he told me that he would be healed one way or another... either here on earth, or up in Heaven. And as much as I wish that God would have chosen to give him complete healing here on earth, I am rejoicing for my Grandpa who has received complete healing in Heaven. I can only imagine his joy when he met his Savior face to face.
I would like to share with you the Tribute that my Grandma gave during the funeral service....
You were our “forever guy”, at least that is how we were tempted to think of you. Kind of like the Energizer Bunny, you just kept going and going.
You were forever fixing things. It was hard to get anything new around our house because you kept repairing the old. Our homes were well maintained, and we seldom had to call a professional to come make repairs. You kept our large and small appliances running, and coaxed the lawn equipment into working order through your patient, hard work. Especially was your family blessed with your mechanical skills to keep our vehicles drivable. Many were the trips you made to college campuses or distant cities to work on a disabled car. And when the kids were grown and out on their own, it seemed at every family gathering someone’s vehicle needed to be worked on. When the boys began caring for their own cars, they would call to ask for help in diagnosing problems and making repairs. Somehow, even over the phone, you were able to understand the problem and offer advice. We so depended on your mechanical skills and we thought you would be fixing things for us ------------forever.
Sports were your passionate hobby. From your own participation in high school sports to teaching your young, growing children the basics of various sports, you loved it all. Then came the years of following your children’s activities in their games of volleyball, football, basketball, track, baseball, and cross-country events. How proud you were of their accomplishments. When you didn’t have a child or grandchild to watch, there was always some relative, acquaintance, or perhaps kids from the congregations you pastored whom you felt would benefit from your cheering them on. You endeared yourself to many youth because of your interest in their sports activities. And there were the college and professional teams you watched on TV with interest. The KU Final Four basketball championship in 2008 was the sports event that captured your attention even in your weakened condition. We thought you would be boosting some sports event-------------forever.
Oh, how you loved to sing. No matter that you were slightly tone deaf, you thought “make a joyful noise unto the Lord” meant exactly that, and lustfully you sang away. In some of our small churches it fell your lot to be the song director. You were notorious for getting off on the wrong verse of a hymn. There would be some frowns, some smiles, some puzzled expressions from the congregation until you recognized the error and joined in at the appropriate place. At the farewell gathering at one of our churches, you decided to bless the people with one last special solo, and when you finished, one of the parishioners stood and said, “It’s just sad to see you leave on such a sour note.” And, we laughed. You see, it was the spirit with which you sang, often with your hand raised as a silent testimony to the Lord, that endeared you to our hearts. We thought you would be singing-----------------forever.
Many were your skills, but your calling was to be a pastor. Much of your pastoral ministry was in the small church setting. Often you needed to supplement the small church salary with another secular job. And this you did willingly in order to minister to and love the people of these congregations who could not afford to pay a full-time pastor. You always had an outline when you entered the pulpit, but you loved to tell stories and would sometimes become sidetracked. And it didn’t matter where the sanctuary clock was located, nor how large your wristwatch was, you would become oblivious to the time, and sometimes we thought you would preach……..forever.
There were the funny things you did that made us laugh. Like the time you were trying on boots in Wal-Mart…. while standing up, and you backed into the emergency bar on the exit door setting off the alarm. I hurriedly pushed the shopping cart to other parts of the store as I passed customers trying to figure out if they should run or take cover.
On one occasion you accompanied the church youth group on a camping trip to the state park. One evening you joined the teens in a game of “capture the flag”. In the darkness you ran squarely into a stationary BB grill. As you lay moaning and groaning on the ground, a park caretaker approached and asked where the director of the group was. With the teens standing all around you, they pointed…”that would be him.” It wasn’t funny at the time, but how the kids loved telling that story.
We were attending worship service at a church which followed a form of worship unfamiliar to us. Not having read the bulletin instructions thoroughly for receiving communion, you held out your hand to indicate you desired wine instead of juice. And, so, you, a tee-totaling alcohol abstaining pastor, imbibed on the real stuff that Sunday morning. That was a happy service!
You and I underwent major cancer surgeries at KU Med on the same day. However, having different care needs, we couldn’t share a room. In fact, you were on the 4th floor while I was on the 3rd. But one day I looked up to see you standing at my bedside. Surprised, but happy to see you, I asked if you had received permission. “No.” You had come without telling any of the nursing staff. After informing the staff of your whereabouts, we enjoyed a short visit. I said I would walk you to the elevators. What a pair we made! You had donned light gray summer style Dickey coveralls over your hospital gown. I put on a robe, and both of us, pushing our IV poles began shuffling our way down the hall. After going a ways you turned to me and said, “you can go back to your room now.” I replied, “no, I’ll walk you to the elevators.” We walked a little further when once again you said, “you can go back now.” Suddenly it dawned on me what had happened. You were lost. Standing nearby was a gentleman with KU Med identification. I asked if he could tell us where the elevators were. He looked us over, smiled, and said, “Why? Are you trying to escape?”
Or the time more recent when you had been asked to pray the morning prayer in the absence of the pastor at the church we attended in Smith Center. When the prayer was finished you walked up the aisle and sat down in the pew……..in front of me, beside another lady. I reached up and tapped you on the shoulder and said, “wrong wife”. The expression on your face when you looked up into the face of Jane Kirchner was priceless.
Humor helped us get through many a tough time. Laughter was an important, helpful part of our lives. You kept your wit to the very last days, and we thought you would keep us laughing ………..forever.
When several major health issues developed in recent years, you endured them with grace and an uncomplaining attitude. It seemed you “snapped back” after each new ordeal. We had come to think that you would keep snapping back ………………….forever.
But, life isn’t like that. There is a time for everything. As Solomon said in Ecc 3:1 & 2, “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven: a time to be born and a time to die…” So, for you, there came that time to die. We finally came to realize that you wouldn’t be with us……………forever. You wouldn’t be fixing things, wouldn’t be cheering us on, wouldn’t be singing, or preaching, or making us laugh, wouldn‘t be snapping back in health ………forever. The time had come for us to relinquish the notion that you were our “forever guy”. The time had come for us to tell you once again that we loved you and we were happy that you were going to be with the One who redeemed you, our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
But wait! You taught us how to be resourceful, you modeled a life of faith, you showed us a spirit of tenacity. We remember your cheerful, happy nature, your boundless energy. We won’t forget how you loved and prayed for us, how you encouraged us. Those memories are etched deep in our hearts. We will miss your presence, but in a way, you are with us……………forever.