I stood alone in the cemetery yesterday as Ray walked to the canvas tent which had been set up for the graveside service for our dear friend Walter. One of the elders of our church came to me and asked, “Is this one of the hardest parts of it [meaning Ray’s role as a minister]?”
“It is,” I said.
Walter’s loving wife Fran, his children, and his grandchildren gathered under the tent. I came close and stood just outside. Ray added more words of comfort and hope to those he had spoken during the funeral service at the funeral home a few minutes before. He led us all in prayer. Ray said more words of comfort to our newly-widowed friend and soon joined me. We watched as the funeral home staff, Walter’s grandsons, and a great-grandson buried our friend.
“Death, where is thy sting?” I softly quoted to Ray from 1 Corinthians 15:55 in the King James Bible. Ray and I were shocked and saddened by Walter’s sudden and unexpected death around midnight last Tuesday, but the reality of his future with God is a rock solid comfort.
I had answered our elder Gary truthfully when I said that the role of wife of the minister doing a funeral is a hard one, but it has many blessings, too. Funerals of good people bring out the best in those who love them. We have witnessed so much love and service since Wednesday morning when we learned of Walter’s passing.
Three of Walter’s adult grandsons spoke during the funeral. They told us about their devoted, loving Pa. They cried. They told stories. They praised him. They spoke of their grief and their love. One said that Pa was the best man he knew. I think they all agreed with him.
Most of Walter’s family lives in our community. Pa had a daily practice of driving by the homes of each of his grandchildren. If it was a workday and his grandchild was at home, he called to see why they were at home. Some grandchildren might not appreciate such an attentive Pa, but these did. They knew the reason he was driving by. He wanted to be sure they were okay, and that was okay by them. The attention was evidence of his love. They knew it and they appreciated it.
One day last week, Ray and I were at Fran’s house when Walter’s only granddaughter stopped by. I listened as they laughed about Pa’s straightforward teaching. Fran said that Walter wanted his grandchildren to do right. His granddaughter smiled broadly and chuckled. She knew that he loved them enough to say what they needed to hear, and she appreciated it.
I had been only a few blocks from Walter and Fran’s house when I learned that she had called 911 last Wednesday morning. When I drove up, I saw several cars and two ambulances. No one was in any hurry. I was pretty sure that the news inside the house was not going to be what we all wanted it to be. I knew Walter must be gone from us until that time that we meet again in Heaven.
Walter had been having health difficulties for many months, but he was improving and none of his problems were life-threatening. Fran was worn out from the responsibilities involved in caring for him. Both were looking forward to better days that seemed to be in sight.
Walter had been in a great spirits on Tuesday evening. He was feeling better and had, as always, been delighted to see two of his great-grandchildren when they stopped by for a visit. Fran was shocked to find Walter unresponsive when she went to wake him up on Wednesday morning.
The director of our local ambulance service was one of the people who responded to her emergency call. One of the many beautiful things I saw that morning was the director coming to Fran’s side and squatting down to be at her eye level. He told her that he could tell that Walter had been very well taken care of. We at church have been telling her that for months. What a comfort it was for her to hear that from this kind man that morning. I also loved hearing one of those grandsons publicly thank and praise Fran for her great care of their Pa.
So, what is it in this story that relates to homeschooling? Everything. The heart of homeschooling is getting children ready for life on earth—and for life forever.
But the mercy of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting upon them that fear him,
and his righteousness unto children’s children;
to such as keep his covenant,
and to those that remember his commandments to do them.