Friday, December 29, 2006

A Celebration of God’s Glory in Memory of One Who Loved Him

That was what the front of the programme said for Grandpa Madeira’s funeral. Even though he went Home a month ago, the funeral wasn’t until Wednesday. I know. It’s kind of weird. Everybody thinks so.

But it kind of makes sense, too, when you consider that there were three hundred people who came through the reception alone. I have no idea how many attended the actual service, but the church where it was held—the church Grandpa planted decades ago—was packed. If the service had been before Christmas, probably a lot of those people would not have been able to make it there.

Sometimes I’m in awe of my relatives. One guy who isn’t even related to us and I’m pretty sure never worked with Grandpa drove up from the Carolinas to attend the memorial service. A lot of the people who used to work for Grandpa years and years ago came, even though he’s been out of the pastorate for a long time and most of them work in big huge churches in the Midwest and you would think they would have better things to do with their time. An elderly Haitian pastor cancelled a speaking engagement because he said, “My best friend has just died, and I want to be at his funeral.” It’s kind of a dizzying realization that somehow I got lucky or blessed or whatever enough to be the granddaughter of a Great Man. (I actually can say I was even luckier to be the granddaughter of two, but I didn’t know my other grandpa as well, and he went Home right around the time this one’s Alzheimer’s started making itself known.)

The thing that made him great, though (and he would never have considered himself to be so) was how present God Himself was in Grandpa's life. He was kind of quiet (except when snoring or laughing). He prayed a lot. He just wanted more than anything else to do what God wanted of him. Even when he got Alzheimer's--even at the very end when he couldn't even talk anymore--he was different. Alzheimer's patients often get belligerent. Grandpa never did. Sometimes he cried. More often, he smiled. That's the glory of God IN someone who loved Him. It boggles my mind that God can be so present in regular old human beings. People like Grandpa remind me that He can--and He will if we ask for it, apparently.

It was great to hear people reminiscing about how much Grandpa loved (still loves) Jesus and how much he loved people—how loved we felt around him. It’s inspiring to realise that people got to know that Jesus loves them because Grandpa did. I was struck with the thought that here we all were, hundreds of us crammed into a church because we had known and loved and been loved by this bald guy, and really, even though we could cry in missing him, we weren’t really mourning him. We were celebrating that God came here at Christmas and died and returned to life at Easter so that we could live undyingly with Him. We were celebrating that Grandpa is getting to know that for real now. And maybe we were crying a little bit because we haven’t experienced that fully yet ourselves.

But we still experience it a little. Even though we all start dying as soon as we’re born, there’s life, too. At the end of the reception, the cousins got together for our traditional “Crazy Cousin Picture.” We take one any time we see each other. At first we were nervous that people would think we were being disrespectful. Then we decided that, since we weren't. It would have made Grandpa chuckle. Maybe, out there, wherever "there" is, gazing on the face of Jesus whom he loves, he still gets a glimpse of his crazy grandkids. Maybe he still chuckles.


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