One of my favorite authors is Ann Voskamp. In the chapters of her book, One Thousand Gifts, she talks about the goodness of God. And if God is good and never changes, then can he be good in the bad times as well? The "ugly beautiful", as she describes it. The answer must be yes, but oh how hard it is to grasp that! Her focus in this book is gratitude and how we can count the gifts God has given us and be thankful. If we count the gifts that are abundant around us, even the "ugly beautiful" gifts, we can experience a miracle. A miracle of joy and thanksgiving in our daily lives.
The past couple of months my grandfather, who we call "Papa", has been having some health problems. It started with a heat stroke last year after working in the yard, something he loved to do. He slowly recovered but never quite got back to his old self. He was experiencing more and more problems, and no one seemed to know exactly what was going on. He had to receive some blood transfusions, went through some tests, and a couple of hospital stays. Thankfully he was recovered enough to be home for Christmas, even though he wasn't able to do all of the things that he normally did. We went to visit him and my Nanny during that time, and I'm so glad we did. It was very hard for me, though, because I knew that he may not be with us much longer. Last night, after a short hospital stay, my Papa passed from this world. He loved the Lord, so I know that his faith has become sight...he is with his Father in Heaven.
As I look back on his physical decline, I can see God's hand in so much of the circumstances. My Mom, Papa's only daughter, and I talked about this. God allowed them the peace of knowing that Papa had not only heart problems but blood cancer, without having to go through the physical pain of testing and treatments. Papa wouldn't have wanted to spend his last days poked and prodded in a hospital. We also had lots of time to speak with him and visit him. Many are not given this gift of time when saying goodbye. These are just a few of the many gifts God gave us.
My Papa was a special man. Many of you reading this will have never met him, but I had the privilege of knowing him for over 36 years. I grew up on stories from my Mom, who told me of how he raised her and her two brothers on his own after he was divorced when my mom was 9. He had to be mother and father to his children. He was a hard worker and instilled that value in them. My mom has described so many nights when she was little, sitting around talking, working on cleaning the house together, and I almost feel like I was there. From the time I was a little girl, I knew I would always have a hug and a kiss from my Papa on Sundays at church. He would slip a peppermint in my hand when no one was looking. When I was older he was slip a little money in my hand and say, "Don't tell anybody," with a smile. He loved to grow things and always had a garden and for many years took special care to grow many types of roses. When we would go visit he would always cut "his girls"...my mom, sister, and I...some. I can remember coming home with roses wrapped in wet paper towels and tin foil, a big smile on my face. My most special memory is every year at Christmas he would read the Christmas story from Luke 2. I'm so glad that one year I video taped it. He wasn't able to read it this year, but while we were visiting him my husband got out his Bible and read it for him so he would know that the tradition would continue. My Papa loved the Word, and he would read the Bible through every year, for at least 20 years or more. He stood for what was right and what the Bible taught.
I think I could count one thousand gifts in just the memories I have of this special man. It's why I grieve at the thought of not having more memories, even though I can rejoice that he is where he needs--and wants--to be. God has been good through this "ugly beautiful" and I can give thanks. Papa, you were loved in life and will be honored through your passing.