On this day, a Sunday (
Day 41 of the countdown), it is appropriate to reflect on my grandfather. A servant-hearted pastor for many years, my Papa King
died of a brain aneurism in September of 1974, not long after my parents had brought him to a hospital in Nashville to find out what was wrong with him. I was in 5th grade. It was one of the saddest seasons our family had experienced to that point in my life. But even in our sorrow there was hope. And peace
. I have thought many times of the scene in which my mom has shared as she reflects on that season of our lives … Friends and family poured through our home in Nashville during those days because Papa King touched so many lives! But one of my parents’ pastor friends did something for my parents that Mom said was the best gift she could have received. While the three of them sat together, he held their hands and prayed for peace
for both of them. She recalls that at that moment, peace flooded her soul
… the kind beyond understanding. I can hear in my mind right now as I type this, my grandfather singing “oh what peace we often forfeit; oh what needless pain we bear.” That prayer for peace was so timely.
Sitting in my grandparents’ den in North Carolina the following week, I remember being on the couch beside my daddy, crying and trying to understand why we were about to bury one of the best men I knew at the young age of 59. He delighted in his children and grandchildren and nieces and nephews. I wish you could see up close his face in the first picture as he stretched out his arms to hug Carol and me. So warm. He always came bearing gifts. He played with us, built things for us (he was a great carpenter), told us the best stories, gave us big hugs, and always … always … always let us kiss him on his bald head when he greeted us. As I sat there, I finally asked Daddy the hard question: why?! Little did I even realize as a 10 year old, that in that very moment he was probably asking the same thing. You see, they were the best of friends. Papa King was his mentor … his pastor … like a daddy to him.
I admit I don’t remember exactly what he told me in that moment, but I do vividly remember how I felt. I felt loved. I felt that the God my parents believed in on the ‘good days’ was the One they trusted in on this one – a ‘bad’ one. All through those difficult days of confusion, questions, and sadness, I saw my parents trust in God’s faithfulness. I saw strength in my grandmother that could only have come from the Holy Spirit.
The memories of my Papa King are precious to me. I am thankful for some pictures and videos we have to help refresh my memory. My mom even has some old cassette tapes of my grandparents singing hymns and talking. My sister and I stayed with them in North Carolina for a week, not long before he died. It was a great week. My grandmother fixed delicious meals, as always, and Papa King told us stories, bragged on us to his church family, took us places, let us help him in his garden, and loved us like no other.
I admit that there are things I just don’t understand this side of heaven. Like why my Papa King had to die when he did. And never meet my husband, or my kids, or they meet him. But I do know this one thing: God’s grace is sufficient for seasons such as this.
All those shades of grace … even the shades in death.