It's been a difficult few days.
Last week, I learned that my grandfather had been hospitalized with pneumonia. He was expected to recover. However, the pneumonia was soon complicated by a UTI and heart problems. On Tuesday he was assessed by the palliative care team and on Wednesday he was transferred to Hospice and by Thursday, he had passed.
My grandfather lived a long life. He was a pastor and he truly gave his life to God. While his beliefs and mine didn't mesh, we did believe in the same God, the same Jesus, and the same Christianity. I know we will see each other again in heaven. I was sad when he passed. But my emotions were different than I had anticipated.
I was concerned for my mom and her siblings. I was concerned for their sadness, their mourning. There had been difficulties in the last month or so amongst the siblings in regards to the care of my grandparents. I am so glad that there was peace made in that situation prior to my grandpa's passing and I hope the family stays focused on maintaining that peace when questions arise about caring for my grandma.
Here is what I want people to know about my grandpa. These are the things I will always remember, love, and cherish about him.
He loved classical music. When he was writing a sermon, he would be in his office behind a giant wooden desk and would have Bach blasting through speakers so that the room was entirely filled with the music. I know that my love of music is founded in being exposed to his love of the great composers early in my life.
He loved gardening. When my mom and I lived with my grandparents, my grandpa had an amazing garden. When my grandparents moved away and I would go visit, I remember his garden. And when my grandparents moved near Chicago, I remember the gardening my grandpa did in my aunt's garden. I remember his radishes especially. He would bring in radishes, wash them, and eat them with about a pound of salt on every bite. And it's just about the same way I eat radishes now!
He taught me that men are safe and good. Thanks to the positive male role models in my life, the choices of one male who hurt me greatly didn't completely damage my view of men. My grandfather taught me that men can love appropriately, that men can protect, that men demonstrate loyalty. There were no grand gestures, my grandpa wasn't one to offer affection. But he made important and powerful decisions in my life story that will forever stay with me.
The church's (where my mom and my grandparents were members and where the funeral was held) monthly newsletter included an article written by my grandpa about the meaning of the words "Gloria Dei." The church my Grandpa pastored for most of my life was Gloria Dei Lutheran Church so I know these are words with great meaning for him. He sums it up most succinctly when he said, "Gloria Dei is a Latin phrase meaning: God's glory. ... It is an apt name for a Christian congregation. It states its mission, namely to proclaim God's Glory in the community." One piece of the article he wrote really spoke to my heart.
"And we sing of God's glory. it is the sole subject of our hymns. We sing of what God was done for our salvation, how He has redeemed us through His Son. We sing how Jesus was "the lamb of God who took away the sins of mankind" (John 1:29)"
Granted, my way of proclaiming God's glory is pretty vastly different from his way- but that's the beauty of diversity and one of the many miracles, in my opinion, of the myriad ways that the Holy Spirit reaches out to so many different people.
I am blessed to have known him, blessed to know the impact he had on others, and humbled to imagine the greeting he received at the Pearly Gates- I imagine Martin Luther was waiting for him so they could discuss theology.
In addition to my grandfather's passing, there was additional loss for me last week. The layoffs that were announced in early August... the last day of work finally came for my friends and co-workers. It was a hard week and Friday was incredibly difficult to get through. Saying goodbye to people I have worked with for 12 years... 5 years... 8 years... Saying goodbye to the people I was most likely to go out to lunch with... Saying goodbye to people that I have learned so much from... it was incredibly difficult for the end of that day to arrive.
Last week was a week of much loss.
This week, I have to focus on what there is to gain, on what I already have.
I knew I needed a different kind of spiritual filling on Sunday. I had made arrangements for my obligations at church to be covered in case we were out of town. We got home late Saturday and I had decided that we would just take the morning off on Sunday- just rest, relax, have down time. Stay in our pj's and not go anywhere. But when I woke up Sunday morning, I had a drive to seek some spiritual growth. I didn't want to go to my church. That might sound weird. I love my church and my church family. I knew that I would receive nothing but amazing support, offers of love, ample amounts of hugs.
And I didn't want that.
It sounds weird to me- even now. But I just wanted to go somewhere and not be known, not have anyone know I was mourning, not have anyone expect anything out of me.
So I visited another church. A giant church where I could truly be anonymous. I'm not church shopping, I'm not looking for a new church home. I just needed to find the message my heart was seeking. And I got it.
I took that Sunday morning, by myself, to be just a Child of God like every other face in the crowd. I enjoyed the experience, I took notes on some things to bring back to my church, and I took a lot from the message given by the pastor. It was the quiet and alone time that I needed- even though I was surrounded by hundreds of people.
Today, I face the day at work without my friends and co-workers. Today, I pray for my mom and her sister and other family members as they bury my grandpa's body. Today, I pray for my friends who are now unemployed and continuing the search for new employment.
I started my day with quiet time in my car as I drove to work. I kept the radio off and stayed away from my cell phone. And I had an out loud conversation with God. I would contemplate and meditate (while safely driving, of course) and then speak my prayers to God. When I arrived at work, I knew that the hard times of the weekend were behind me. I knew that today was a new day, that God has a plan that I have to continue to be open to, and that I still know His purpose for my life.
In loss, there is also gain. In mourning, there is peace. In sadness, there is joy.