Last Saturday, October 15, my Poppy went home to be with the Lord. Fortunately, I was able to see him and speak to him before he passed. I was also asked to share something at the funeral proceedings.
When I was first asked to speak at my grandfather’s funeral, a million thoughts immediately flurried in my head. I didn’t really know what to say. How do you put thousands of memories into coherent words? The overwhelming and overarching reality that my grandfather — we called him Poppy — was gone is something I’m still getting used to. Now I was having to provide a little perspective to his passing as we reflect on the way he lived.
At first I thought of all the things I will miss. Like how I never got that book . . . For years we suggested that Poppy write or dictate his memories because the man had stories. Boy, did he ever have some stories. You’d get a glimpse of these tales whenever he preached. During his later years, his sermons turned into more or less narratives of his past experiences. Yet at the same time, those stories turned out to be some of the greatest sermon illustrations of all time, they themselves being perfect encapsulations of a God of all wisdom, grace, mercy, love, and truth. Still, I’ll never get to read of all his adventures and exploits as a young boy in North Carolina, of which, I’m sure, many would rival Tom Sawyer’s.
I’ll also miss seeing him look into the eyes of his newest great granddaughter for the first time. With mine and Natalie’s firstborn on the way, Poppy was sincerely thrilled about meeting Lydia Ann — and even as was lying in the hospital room, Lydia was on his mind. I saw how he looked at his grandchildren and great grandchildren, and in that look is the same look he’d give Lydia: a look of incomparable love and delight. I’ve never seen a man so joyful as Poppy was when he saw and held one of his great grandchildren. And even as he was in his last days, nobody saw quite the same animated reaction as when one of them walked in the hospital room and forgot to use their “inside voice.”
But most of all, beyond the things I’ll miss, I think of the man he was. My Poppy was a quietly, fervently faithful man, perhaps the most faithful man of God I’ve ever known. I’ll never forget his last words to me, the last words I was able to understand. I stood by his bed and he was squeezing my hand, and he told me, “Stay right.” That was my Poppy. Faithful to the end, deeply committed to God’s Word, and utterly convinced of his place in the larger mission of God’s Kingdom.
So often, young 20-to-30-something’s — like myself — get enslaved to the idea of “changing the world” and being a “planet shaker.” And while this is usually curtailed with an emphasis on the Great Commission, the underlying motive is undoubtedly acclaim and attention. It’s sad but many have used the mission of the gospel to fuel their own lust for notoriety. But this was not my Poppy.
He didn’t want attention. He didn’t want acclaim. He didn’t want accolades. Even he though he sincerely deserved all those things. I could’ve rattled off example after example and story after story of Poppy’s unshakable faith. I could’ve recounted the hundreds of ministries he helped, churches he shepherded, or people he impacted. But he wouldn’t have wanted us to celebrate those things. The only thing he would have wanted is for us to celebrate the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, for whom he lived. And though we mourned the loss of his presence, he gained far more than we lost, as he is now in glory in the presence of God.
Of the many things my Poppy was known for was his famous saying, “Oh me.” These two words were used in a myriad of ways. Like after one of my brother’s jokes, he’d chuckle and say, “Oh me.” Or after one of the grandchildren does something unexpected, he’d smile and say, “Oh me.” Or after he turned the channel from the national news, he’d grimace and say, “Oh me.” And I have no doubt that when he woke up in glory, and stepped on that heavenly shore, and breathed that celestial air, and was greeted with Christ’s words, “Well done thou good and faithful servant,” that he simply replied, “Oh me.”