May 13, 2018

Grandpa Gene

What can I say about this amazing man? He's my longest living grandparent. I remember being shocked in elementary school when I learned that his name wasn't actually Gene, but Harold Eugene. Gene suits him better.

He was the most humble man I think I have ever known. In my forty years I don't recall ever hearing him raise his voice (though I am sure my mom and aunts might have a different story to tell) or speak badly about anyone. He was a hard worker, retiring from at least two different careers in his lifetime. He was almost always the first person at Atwater Christian Church each Sunday morning. He made sure everything was set up and ready so those coming would be able to worship. It didn't matter whether the congregation was large or small, he was sure to have everything ready.

He was also one to laugh and joke with you. There weren't too many times I saw him without a smile. He was willing to push us on the swing and even hop on the teeter totter with us every now and then. I never knew him without his military style crew cut and there was not a visit with him that I didn't sit and rub his hair. He was a man of few words, but when he talked you should listen because it was probably important.

He loved Cardinals baseball. Even their farm teams. I don't know anyone with a larger collection of Western movies or books. He was a paratrooper in WW II, though all he will tell you about it is that he did three practice jumps, then the war ended and he never had to jump during battle. And there's a pretty funny story about Grandma, Grandpa, and a framed picture of a lovely lady that wasn't Grandma, but you'll have to ask his daughters about that one.

But the thing I remember most about Grandpa Gene is how he said good bye. Or rather, that I don't think I ever actually heard him say the word good bye. Every time we would leave his house, he would follow us to the car and say, "See you later, alligator. After while, crocodile. Pretty soon, baboon!" It was like a game to see who could start it first each time, but that was always how we ended our visits.

As I got to thinking on this, I thought what a beautiful picture that is, that never saying goodbye, for believers and the family of Christ here on this side of heaven. You see, when you are a believer and another believer dies, it's not goodbye, but a see you later. Thanks to God's deep and fierce love for us. Because He so desired restored relationship with us after sin cause separation, He sent His Son, Jesus, to pay the price for our sin on the cross. He paid the price for all of our sin, past, present, and future, in His death. Through Christ's death on our behalf we are able to lay our unholy, filthy rags at the cross and take up the holy, perfect, beautiful, righteous robes of Christ and be dressed like Him. To be reconciled to Him while we walk this broken world.

But, oh, friends, His love didn't stop there. Not only did Christ defeat sin, but three days later he rose from the dead, defeating death and the grave. For all eternity. Allowing all who believe in Him to not only become new creations here in this world, but to defeat death and live whole, pure, perfect, healed, free of sin and suffering with Him for all of eternity. So you see, this means that, for the believer, for Grandpa Gene, death is grace. Death is compassion. Death is mercy and healing and joy and peace and perfection. Something to be looked forward to rather than dreaded. Of course, those of us left behind grieve. We grieve because God gives good gifts, of which Grandpa Gene was one of the best, and we'll miss this amazing gift of a human He gave us. But we do not grieve as those without hope. We grieve knowing there is no better place for Grandpa to be. And for those of us who are also believers, we can rejoice that this is not goodbye, but merely, "See you later, alligator. After while, crocodile. Pretty soon, baboon."