My Grandpa and I, along with my cousins and sisters, had a relationship with Grandpa that was rare among grandparents and grandchildren. Growing up and even through adulthood, people would tell me that they have never seen such a close relationship with grandparents as we did with ours. My Grandpa has been in my life continuously for as long as I can remember.
Grandpa was a sports fanatic! He loved his alma mater, The University Michigan, and we had no choice but to love them too, unless we wanted to be kicked out of the family (just kidding, kind of). Grandpa attended every sporting event any of us grandkids had. There was nothing that was going to stop him from attending any of our events through school. Once we all graduated, he started attending events at schools and universities where he did not have a grandchild even attending, he just loved to watch a good team play ball.
As kids, my sisters and I have spent many, many weekends at his house. We even had our own toothbrushes and bathroom toiletries that remained there. The wonderful memories flood my mind with all the times he allowed us to bang pots and pans to wake up Grandma in the morning. We were a four-person army making sweet music marching into Grandma’s room with pots, pans, and spoons. All the trips we made to Meijers to pick up his favorite ice cream, Crunchy Munchy Peanut Butter & my sisters favorite, Mint Chocolate Chip. And of course, the drink of choice, good ole Coca-Cola. We knew that the weekends spent at Grandma & Grandpa’s house was going to be filled with eating anything we wanted, watching cable TV (we didn’t have cable at our house, so this was big time for us), playing on the pool table downstairs, riding our bikes around the neighborhood for endless hours, feeding the ducks at the pond, playing softball in his front yard and playing basketball in his driveway. We always had to watch out for his beloved rose bushes or we would have been “hung upside down by our toes.”
I lived with my grandparents for a little while in high school and a while in college. I would wake up to fried eggs and toast, or his homemade waffles in the morning and always a smile to brighten my day. We would have endless talks about boys, sports, school and life. All while he complained about loving the smell of my coffee I drank, but hated the taste. His morning drink was hot tea with honey, which was something I could not stand the taste of. But the time we spent together will never be forgotten.
One thing that I remember distinctively, is the fact that God was never talked about at Grandma and Grandpas house. I did not think about it then, but after I got saved as an adult, it started bothering me. I started thinking about my Grandpa’s salvation. Grandma passed away years ago before I got saved so I was never able to talk about God with her. Except when she was in the hospital a few days before she passed away. I was not saved, whatsoever. To be honest, I didn’t know what being “saved” really meant. I knew it had something to do with going to Heaven, but I was not worried about that because I clung to the verse in Acts 16:3, “Believe in the Lord Jesus and you shall be saved, you and your household.” I always believed in God, but believing in God and knowing God are two completely different things. I did not know that it wasn’t a religion, but that it is a relationship. As my Grandma lied on that hospital bed that day with a breathing mask on her face and the inability to speak, my husband asked me, “Do you think you should ask her about her relationship with God?” I was terrified! I had never witnessed to anyone in my life! I was not saved myself (unknowingly at the time), and here I am asking my dying Grandma about her salvation. But my husband was raised in a Christian home and had been around funerals and deaths for a long time, as his dad is a preacher, so he was familiar with the situation.
Sitting alone with her in that hospital room, I asked her if she had accepted Jesus as her personal savior? She scowled her eyes at me and mumbled something that I could not understand. By the looks of it, she was not very happy with me. I am hoping and praying God had grace and mercy on her and saved her in the last few moments of her life, if she hadn’t been saved already.
Almost a year after I got saved, I traveled to Michigan to spend a long weekend with my Grandpa and visit my sister and her new baby. Before I had left for this trip, I was at home cleaning the carpets. As I was on the floor shampooing the carpet, God put on my heart, “It is time to witness to your Grandpa.” I thought, “Oh God, that is a tall order to ask! My Grandpa is so ornery and stubborn, he is going to cuss me out the door!” But I knew this was a command from God, no questions asked. Days leading up to my trip I just prayed and asked the holy spirit to speak through me and use me as His vessel. I told Him I could not do this without Him and how I needed Him more than ever.
While I was sitting at Grandpa’s house one day eating lunch with him at his table, I asked him when he got saved. He said, “Saved from what? What was I supposed to get saved from?” Oh boy, I knew I had some work on my hands. So I continued telling him that in order to go to Heaven, you must ask Jesus to come into your heart and be the Lord of your life. He replied, “I don’t believe that!” So I asked him if he ever knew a time that Grandma got saved, he said that he didn’t. I told him that if she never received Jesus as her Savior, she is not going to be in Heaven. I told him that admitting that we are sinners in need of a Savior, believe that Jesus is the son of God who died for our sins, confess our sins to God and ask Jesus into our hearts, that was the only way we were going to Heaven. Again, he replied, “I don’t believe that! What about all of the other Gods and religions that are practiced?” I told him that the only living God is our Lord Jesus Christ. He was crucified on a cross, buried, and three days later He rose again and has been living in the hearts of believers around the world ever since.
As we sat there and talked, I stopped witnessing to him and just asked him straight, “Then what do you believe?” The silence continued. Again I asked, “Grandpa, what do you believe?” Again, silence. One last time, “Grandpa! What do you believe?” He never answered and that was that.
Since that day it was very heavy on my heart. Let’s face it, the man was 90 years old at the time, and no one is promised tomorrow. I continued to pray for his salvation every single day; as scripture states, God wants no one to perish. I was hoping that our conversation that day would sew a seed in his heart to make him start thinking about the, “what if?” Because we both knew that he was not going to live forever.
From that day forward, I did not witness to him again, until two weeks ago. His health started declining, he developed Dementia and our conversations were not able to last as long. After 15 minutes he could not remember who I was. He was becoming very upset and aggravated at his condition. He was no longer allowed to drive, live alone and unable to fully take care of himself like he always had for so many years. He continued to tell me and everyone in the family that he just wanted to die. He did not want to live any longer and that he just wanted to die.
He called me 13 days before he passed away. We were talking about the upcoming trip I was planning on taking to Michigan to spend the week with him. I was going to take him anywhere he wanted to go and do anything he wanted to do. While we were conversing on the phone, he had mentioned to me again that he wanted to die, he did not want to live this way any longer. I felt God saying to me, “Shannon, it is time to talk to him about me again.” To be honest, I was a little nervous due to the incident that had happened two years prior to this, I had no idea what he was going to say and how he was going to respond. But once again, I listened to God’s voice and proceeded with the question, “Grandpa, if you were to die, do you know where you are going?” And without hesitation, he quickly answered back, “I know without a shadow of a doubt where I am going.” I breathed a little easier at this point, and continued, “That is wonderful Grandpa, absolutely wonderful! You know you can talk to God about anything, He is always right there with you.” To my astonishment, he replied, “I talk to Him every night.” Praise the Lord!! I almost dropped the phone and danced a jig I was so happy! I finished with, “Grandpa, that is so wonderful, just awesome! Jesus is your rock, your salvation, your best friend, your joy, your peace, your everything. You can go to him for anything!” He said in the most peaceful, calm voice, “Thank you for that, honey, I really appreciate it.” Little did I know, that was going to be the very last time I spoke to him.
The devastation I felt the day I received the phone call that he had passed away, I am praying for God to give me peace every day in knowing where my Grandpa is now. I feel in my spirit that God was waiting for my Grandpa to finally accept His invitation to be a part of His family and it took my Grandpa being in a very uncomfortable, unhappy state in his life. Isn’t that how salvation works, though? It takes you being at a very low point in your life, thinking there is no where else to look, but up. And that is exactly where God wants us to be; flat on our face calling out His name in surrender. He wants us to be totally dependent on Him, no one and nothing else.
I will never fully understand why God took him the day before I was going to visit him. I have asked that question one thousand times and I will continue to ask that question until I see God face to face. But I have rest assured in knowing that He took him when He felt my Grandpa was ready. And I truly feel that because of my prayers I have cried out to God for three years now, and the two times I witnessed to him about God, I have peace in knowing my Grandpa was spiritually ready and emotionally ready to surrender and spend eternity in glory.