We had been seeing Cousin Vanessa at our homeschool P.E. class in Costa Mesa every Monday. I had been content with the news of Grandpa, in that everyone said he was doing okay. I’d hear that he preached Sunday, and imagined that that meant that he was pretty strong. But that Monday, when Vanessa gave us the update, Sid and I both had a feeling of urgency about going to visit.
After P.E., we went straight to Grandpa and Grandma’s house. We figured that if it wasn’t a good time to visit right then, we’d make plans to return the following day. But Iina, Grandpa and Grandma’s live-in nurse, brought us right up to Grandpa’s office where he was reclined, with his oxygen tubes in and his good buddy John Henry rubbing his legs.
Grandpa looked really happy to see us, the kids mostly, he LOVES his great-grandchildren so much. He stayed reclined, though, didn’t say much and didn’t move much. It was hard to see him like that. He was a man who powered through everything, didn’t hesitate, just charged at it and seemed not to comprehend why others didn’t take the same approach to life.
When Grandpa did speak, it seemed to take a lot of energy. I did not know his health had declined so much, people kept putting such a positive spin on his condition when they’d give a report, in retrospect I see that as a true testimony of Grandpa’s positive outlook when he’d say how he felt. He had just preached three services the day before, looking at him I didn’t see how that could have been possible.
Grandpa had not yet met Neil, who was then 3 months old. We had wanted to visit much sooner, but with my more difficult recovery and then the start of the school year, we just hadn’t done it. First thing when we entered the room, Sid took Neil over to Grandpa and held him close, so that they could make eye contact. Neil’s face broke into a face full of smile as he looked into Grandpa’s. Grandpa loved that! And we got to remind him that Neil was named after him, Neil Charles. Grandma still talks about how much, “Chuck loves babies.” It was a wonderful first, and last, meeting for those two.
Iina came in and suggested an idea – that Grandpa pray a blessing over each one of the children’s lives, and that we get it on video, with our phones. Her suggestion implied to me that this might be their last chance to receive such a blessing from him and that came as a surprise made me so, so sad.
When Sid left to get his phone, John Henry was also out there and met with Sid and told him, “I don’t know if you could tell, but Chuck lit up when you guys walked in the room! No one has visited today and this is the first day he’s felt very lousy, and hasn’t really spoken or smiled. I believe your visit was ordained by the Lord!” The man has an epic Irish accent too, so you can only imagine the impact this had on Sid (hee hee). I was really moved hearing about it later.
The kids continued to be good and play around a little in Grandpa’s office and we tried to get Sid’s phone charged enough to capture the amazing moments that were about to occur. Soon we were ready and Grandpa began to thunder out a beautiful blessing over Indy, while holding his hand. Each child got their turn, held his hand and received a blessing that covered the very rest of their life and their becoming the man or woman God would have them to be. It was so sweet, and sort of miraculous that Grandpa managed to muster the energy to bless them so intensely.
My cousin Brad had come in by then and spoke to Jonny, “So, Jonny, you’re the oldest, so you are kind of the leader of your siblings. What I’ve been doing is anointing Grandpa with oil and praying for his healing, would you like to lead your siblings in a prayer over him?” Jonny was obviously not completely comfortable with this, but he accepted! I think Jonny’s like me in that the gravity of a situation usually settles on us in the moment and that makes it difficult to wing it! So here, he had been asked to pray, not only in front of a room full of people, but also for a man who had been praying the most beautifully crafted, biblically inspired, accurately articulated, masterfully intoned prayers, for the last 66 years of his life, the likes of which, millions of people had been audience to, and thoroughly blessed by! So yeah, being eleven and having a pretty good understanding of who his Great-Grandpa is, he was hesitant. But he went for it!
Jonny, his siblings and I gathered around Grandpa and laid hands on him, and Jonny prayed. Grandpa wasn’t going to leave Jonny out on the line, though! He whispered guidance and encouragement that Jonny appreciated as he chose what to say. Grandpa was blessed and Jonny was relieved later to hear that he said everything correctly! He did a great job, Sid and I are so proud.
Grandma came in to eat dinner with Grandpa around then and so we stayed awhile and visited with her. She was refusing to eat because she didn’t want us to leave! She is the sweetest Grandma! I have so much to say about her (that’s for another post). We decided to leave and I went to Grandpa, around the back of his recliner, since he had tables on both sides, and from behind I leaned down, hugged him and kissed the top of his head. I told him how happy I was to see him, and he said, “I’m happy to see you, Jennifer and your beautiful family.” Big smile.
Grandpa died in his sleep, of a heart attack, two nights later. I’m just so grateful for our final visit. And please pray for my precious Grandma Kay, as one can only imagine how hard this loss has been for her.