Wednesday, February 4, 2009

A Legacy of Faith


Today, February 4, 2009, marks the one year anniversary since we lost my Grandpa (in an earthly sense) and heaven gained him for eternity. This time in my life was sprinkled with gifts and blessings and profoundly covered with God's presence, provision and His peace.

It's hard to believe a whole year has gone by. I distinctly remember receiving the call from my mom in the early morning hours of February 3rd, 2008 saying my grandpa had suffered a massive stroke and had bleeding in his brain. That morning, Super Bowl Sunday, we drove out to the hospital in Ann Arbor to see him.

Gramps had lived with congestive heart failure and kidney failure for some time. We had made several other trips in the past visiting him during brief hospital stays. In fact, just the week prior he was in the hospital. It was he and my Grandma's 60th wedding anniversary and the nursing staff and family threw them a big anniversary party. I took the kids up to visit and celebrate with them during this time. But, Gramps was always "the comeback kid"...so when he was released from the hospital this time, I was expecting another full recovery. I didn't know that was going to be the last time I would actually have a conversation with him and see him smile. I believe it was his first night back home, after being released from the hospital, that he had the massive stroke.

I remember arriving at the hospital and asking several questions in regards to "What will the Doctors do next?" The weight of the answer fell on my heart heavily, "Nothing, there is nothing they will do except try to make him more comfortable." That's when an inner struggle pursued...being caught between HOLDING ON and LETTING GO. At this time, Gramps was unresponsive and his body was quickly shutting down.

My family of siblings, cousins, aunts, uncles, my mom and grandma and all of our spouses and children (some trickling in and out) huddled in that hospital room around grandpa all day long. We reminisced, recalled our favorite memories with Grandpa, the things we loved about him, his quirks and strengths. We prayed together, laughed together, and shed countless tears together. God gave us the beautiful gift of time to say goodbye to him.

At one point, Grandpa's breathing became more labored and we all circled around his bed wondering and worrying that these may be his last breaths. We held hands and began singing hymns and songs of praise ("Amazing Grace," "It is Well with My Soul," "How Great though Art," even "Jesus Loves Me" and many others... we even had the nurses print out the lyrics to "I Can Only Imagine" and we all sang that together). Our voices were cracked and broken- faltering between moments of laughing and crying- but we sang on. Let me remind you that Grandpa was still unresponsive during this time. There was a moment when singing, when a tear rolled from Grandpa's left eye. I can barely type now just recalling this divine experience. It was if God was letting us know that Grandpa heard us and loved us and that he was OK. The presence of God and the beauty of family make this memory one of the most bittersweet, endearing and glorious moments of my life.

We stayed with Gramps the entire day and finally left the hospital around 10:30pm. By 11pm I was in bed at my sister's house in Saline. I don't remember what time it was, because I was sleeping, but I vividly remember having a dream in which I saw my Grandpa's face. His eyes were closed and then all of a sudden he opened them. The chorus of the song "I'm in Better Hands Now" played over and over again in my mind. I tried falling back asleep and again, these lyrics just echoed through my mind. I didn't think much of it and eventually fell back asleep. Shortly after midnight, I received a call from my mom who was still at the hospital. She said that Gramps had finally passed away... I don't believe that my dream and my waking up to the lyrics of "I'm in Better Hands Now" was a coincidence. While I can't be certain my dream occurred the moment Gramps was welcomed into heaven, I do believe that this was a divine experience...a message from the Lord assuring me that Gramps indeed was in better hands...he was HOME. I struggle with adequately putting into words and expressing this entire experience, but it is something I will always treasure up and ponder in my heart.

The days following Grandpa's death were filled with more tears, joy and unsurpassing peace. This bittersweet time in my life was also one of the most beautiful times in my life. I witnessed and shared in the beauty of family unity, genuine friendship, and God's favor and blessing on those who love Him and seek Him with their all.

Now that I've shared my experience, I'd like to close with a reflection of my Grandpa, his life, and what he meant to us.


GRAMPS

Even though Grandpa was a man of few words, it is impossible to sum up his life in just that. He had 3 daughters, 13 grandchildren, and 12 great grandchildren...and he left a mark on each and every one of our lives.

Proverbs 22:6 says "Train up a child in the way that he should go and when he is old he will not turn from it." This is exactly what Grandma and Grandpa have done. Alton Ealy was not just a grandpa, father, or husband. He wasn't just a good man- he was a godly man. He walked a life loving God and loving people every step of the way. As his grandkids, we always knew what our parents expected of us, but we also knew what our grandparents expected of us, and we did not want to disappoint them.

Grandpa was a good example of a father's love. He was a role model and in many ways, the cornerstone of our family. Many of us have experienced times of instability and grandpa and grandma have always been that constant, that stability, that pillar that represents strength and faithfulness. Through 60 years of marriage they have been an example to all of us...living their lives devoted to one another and devoted to the Lord.

No matter where we were in our spiritual lives, Grandpa was always loving and accepting of us. He didn't judge or condemn. He remained humble and kind and loving, and was full of wit and good humor along the way. He always made us laugh. How many other 80 year old die-hard Michigan State fans do you know? Such a lover of the Spartans, he even had a U of M wolverine doll hanging from a noose in his backyard and taped a Sparty bobble-head doll to the front of his walker he used to get around.

Grandpa enjoyed life. He was actively involved in our lives- whether it be attending a game, concert, recital, birthday party, wedding, or birth of a child- he was there supporting and encouraging us through life's big and small moments.

Even with his health declining, he never complained- but kept a fun-loving attitude and joyful spirit. He still found such joy and delight being entertained by his grandkids and great grandkids. Although it had been years since "the death grip" (one of grandpa's favorite games he used to play with all of us grandkids), his eyes lit up when he was around us and we always felt that we were loved.

Grandpa instilled many values in us. A teacher for 34 years---he instilled the value of education and wisdom. He was wise with how he spent his time and resources, putting his family first and taking time to travel, explore, and enjoy the world God gave us. He was also a great example of being active in the community and serving others. He served his community through volunteer work with Kiwanis, the Saline Hospital Auxiliary, the Rentschler Farm Museum, Habitat for Humanity and as a devoted member of Saline Baptist Church.

The values he instilled and his example are great gifts...but perhaps the greatest gift he could have given us is a heritage of faith. His children and grandchildren have seen the sincerity of his faith...we saw his faith in action in the way he lived his life. Our family tree is full of generations of believers and Grandpa has been a spiritual father to many of us.

There is a beautiful song by the Christian artist, Nicole C. Mullen, called Sharecropper's Seed. She wrote the song about her own Grandfather and explains that:

"Much of who we become is shaped by the people God places in our lives. We are all a product of the love and wisdom we glean from family and friends who sow into us. They guide and teach us, leaving an indelible impression not just on our hearts and minds, but on future generations as well.

We all come from someone else's toil. They've prayed for us or planted seeds on our behalf or encouraged us along the way. We all have somebody who's responsible for the great harvest that we might receive in life. Most of the good crops today that we are reaping, were sown in love by those before us."

Deuteronomy 7:9 says "Know therefore that the Lord your God is God, He is the faithful God, keeping His covenant of love to a thousand generations of those who love Him and keep His commands." Exodus 20:6 speaks of God showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments. -Love and faith affects generations.

Grandpa's faithfulness had and will continue to have an overwhelming impact on the heritage of his children. And now we must think about the impact our own faith has on our children's future. What we do with a seed has power for generations to come. If you bless the seed and nurture it just the right way, then the seed can rise up.

We have much to be thankful for on this day. Grandpa is now in heaven with the Lord. By honoring and remembering him, we are also honoring Jesus because Jesus shined through his life for all of us to see. There will be generations of Ealy descendants in heaven because of the foundation Grandpa and Grandma have laid before us. Let's praise God for this harvest. This heritage of faith is a priceless legacy.

Only God knows when we will draw our last breath. Grandpa is in better hands now. We look forward to the day when he will greet us at heaven's doorstep...and I wouldn't be surprised to see him laughing, smiling, and dancing around in a hula skirt.

Love you Gramps and miss you so much!

3 comments:

  1. Beautiful.

    Love you SuperModel ... really do!

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  2. The tears are flowing! Thank you for sharing so beautifully, and sharing about "I'm in better hands now". That will, indeed, always be with you. I had something similar like that when my brother died.

    Love you Amanda, and I'm so glad to be part of Grandpa's family!

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  3. It could NOT have been said better -- thank you so much for sharing, caring and loving! I really DO have the greatest family!!! Love, Mama Jo

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