Well, I had no idea I'd be writing this post today. I had hoped to write about plans for the New Year. Instead I'm writing about the death of my grandfather.
Many words could describe him: faithful husband to Lucille for over 60 years; father to Cecille, Dennis, David, my mom Linda and Jeff; grandfather, great-grandfather and great-great-grandfather (!) to many of us; United Methodist minister for his whole career...
I was so blessed to know this man. He and Grandma lived in a little apartment connected to our house when I was in high school. I loved having him around. He was a constant encouragement, coming to sports events, plays I was in, special church programs, etc.
He participated in Luanne's and my wedding in Simi Valley, California, in 1993. It was so special to have him and Grandma there to experience that moment with us.
When we moved to California back in 1998, I couldn't see him very often. In fact, I think I only saw him three times in the last decade. But we would try to connect on the phone and over email. He always remembered to send holiday and birthday cards to all of us. He would always write encouraging bible verses and messages.
He was always thrilled that I had chosen a life of vocational ministry, and several years back he gave me his clergy robe and stoles. I've never had an opportunity to wear them, but I treasure them. I wish he could have lived to see me become an ordained minister, but I know he'll see it from heaven.
He cared for my Grandma for years and years. She was a longtime diabetic and had many health problems. He was always right there to support her, right up until the end of her life.
After Grandma died, it was like Grandpa had a new life in some ways. He became very active in his retirement community. He preached, he led communion services, he sang in the choir, he visited people. Even though he had been retired for decades, he never retired from life or ministry, and I really respect that and want to emulate it in my life.
Last Thursday, on Christmas Day, we did a video chat. It was a terrible connection, but we got to see each other and talk one last time. He even badgered me into singing a song... He just wouldn't let it go no matter how many times I tried to defer. I'm really glad I sang for him one last time.
He had a great last Christmas, surrounded by family. He was in reasonably good health and good spirits.
Grandpa was known for his many, many letters to the editor of the Warsaw Times-Union. He would write about everything, but his consuming passion was to help people experiencing the saving grace of Jesus. The family was often copied on these missives, and I know that a lot of prayer came our way in addition to the many emails.
His last email came yesterday morning:
One more day in 2009! The Old Year Is Passing and Dying.
God has permitted me to live through 90 plus years on His earth. I thank Him for a memory to recall I was a lad with short pants and long black stockings which we wore in the early 1920s!
I pray God will give you a Blessed New Year of 2010. Start it with Him in your mind and heart, and stay with Him all year long. He will truly bless you.
with love and a prayer,
Cecil L. Hendrix
This morning he didn't respond to the nurse's knock on his door. She came in to find him resting peacefully in his recliner. He often woke up early in the morning, sat in his chair and spent time in prayer. I guess this time he got to meet with Jesus face-to-face.
Grandpa would have been 91 next month. Thank you, God, for a long, well-lived life.