Grandpa upon graduating Navy basic training at Farragut, Idaho.
“Pray that I would remain true to the Lord.”
That’s what my grandpa said when Michelle and I asked him how we could pray for him the last time we saw him. Ninety-one years old. He had served faithfully on his family farm growing up, in a Navy submarine in World War II, at the mission station and in a rebel prison during 20 yrs in Congo plus 17 more in France afterwards and for decades in retirement.
In my mind, he had already passed the “true to the Lord” test.
In the sovereign plan of God, he would pass the ultimate test two weeks later, in a hospital bed but surrounded by family.
My impulse is to “go philosophic” in the face of Grandpa’s death. I’m wired to engage the deeper, weightier things, to search for meaning in the jagged, ruptured edge of our earthly existence marked out by sin’s cursèd effect. But for Grandpa, I don’t really have to: he had completed his course and was receiving his medal of reward.
We, his surviving family, all prayed that God would not delay his death for even a moment. He was ready to go. I don’t mean that he had checked out of life and become unresponsive or listless. He was simply a boat at port (“Submarines are referred to as ‘boats,’ not ships,” he had taught me.) Rudders and planes locked, engines quiet, ropes coiled or fastened — his journey was almost complete. He had only to walk down that gangplank onto the dock of that glistening shore where his Savior waited to welcome him home.
I love my grandpa. To say that he inspired me to attempt great things for God and expect great things from God is understatement. I depend on him for a quarter of my genes but he had an outsized influence on my spiritual heritage. Grandpa taught me as much about carpentry, agriculture, prayer, ministry, and trusting God as anyone.
And though this is a time of real sorrow for my mom (his daughter) and our family, this is also a time of real rejoicing. Grandpa knew Jesus Christ well. I saw Him shining in him all the time. His sins were forgiven. His heart and mind were at peace. He was prepared. After all, it was Grandpa who used to tell me as a boy,
“A missionary’s got to be ready to preach, pray, or die at a moment’s notice.”
(In lieu of flowers or gifts, we are honoring Grandpa’s legacy by planting the Word of God in Congo through the continuing work of missionaries with his mission, Crossworld, accessible by clicking here.
Grandpa and Carlan in France in 1993.