We live in a new era, and I am still amazed. To learn of Bob's uncle's death on facebook first kinda sucked the air outa my lungs. It was then a race to reach my sons by phone before they saw the facebook laments by one grandson, and the other grandson's wife. Whew. I was too late. Even in the field, James had noticed the facebook entries. Then the race to reach Bob's siblings before they, too saw it on facebook. Too late. Sister in Albuquerque and brother in Frisco had already noticed.
Maybe when calls were made, the sad initial calls with the news, maybe, just maybe someone should have had the presence of mind to say, "hey, call one of the El Paso cousins, and tell them they are responsible for getting the word to all their siblings. They can delegate this or call everyone themselves, but, ready, set, go!" Just maybe.
But, on the other hand, it is funny. If it is my time to go to heaven home tomorrow, my friends and relatives will learn about it on facebook first. That is a hoot. And no use trying to fight it. Because certain ones do not believe in being organized. Propriety is gone. Years ago, certain news was never delivered by phone, but in person. You phoned someone close to in proximity to the one who had suffered the loss, and you met them face to face. You never broke the news over the phone because it was considered cruel, mean, and dangerous. And that was BEFORE cell phones when people think nothing of talking on the phone and driving. Bad news, if it had to be broken by phone, was prefaced with, "are you sitting down?"
But, times have changed. We are in a hurry. The grieving wanna share. Certain family members were "hurt" but when I told Bob their names, he kinda snorted, and did not want to be associated with them.
Customs change. Good manners change. My ancestors of only one hundred years ago would be shocked to see whatall I wear to church, let alone a funeral. Gotta roll with it. Gotta be flexible. And at our age, betwix and between generations, there is no time to grieve when you first hear bad news, because the race is on to try to let loved ones know.
So, I pulled out the address book, and girded my loins, and started with my sons. Time change conversions---those three hours to Alaska, was it tooooo early?? Surely, he'd be up and about? Youngest, was he on a roof? Did he have a dangerous power tool in his hands? Was he driving?
And what to do when I knew middle son was in the field? Wait until he came out? Let his bride break the news? But, my distress was all for naught, for his fancy phone keeps him plugged into facebook, and he had already noted the grandson and the other grandson's wife's laments. Thankfully, I had been taught how to email a short forty character note via cell phone, and requested he call me if possible. When my Army son called at noon, he said he'd had duty all night, but had not been able to fall back to sleep after getting up to go to the bathroom, and his first question was, is the funeral this weekend? By then, I knew more from emails from the daughter and sons. So, I could reassure him he would not miss it.
But, what a strange day. I just was reluctant to even take a shower or run errands until I had talked to Bob at work, and heard each of my sons voices.
I know this post sounds so self-serving. And it is not like the news of Bob's uncle was a suprise. The family was so good about email updates, and the hospice predictions. But, I am slow to learn things. And I wish someone had warned me that when you receive bad news, and when the wind gets sucked from your sails first thing in the morning...if possible, stop. Rethink the errands list. You are going to feel distracted and should not be driving. Take it easy. Pray for wisdom. Pray for gentleness, restraint. Wait. Listen. And the bittersweetness of the day unfolds into a blessing in that you might get to hear the voices of the ones you love. And even on facebook, memories will be evoked that you had forgotten.
For example, one niece mentioned that when she last saw the dear uncle that died, it was at her own grandpa's funeral. And when he came down the hall to get her, the resemblance of the two brothers took her breath away. I remembered then at my own grandpa's funeral that his brother came by the house, a great-uncle I had not met, and the resemblance made me think I was seeing my dear Poppy who had just died. Same white hair, same body, same build. He probably wondered why this 13 year old girl kept staring at him. It took my breath away.
We so desire to take care of each other during a death loss. We so desire not to step on toes or further injure the grieving or suffering. He was not just Bob's uncle. He was a lot of people's DAD, Grandpa, Uncle, cousin, mentor, neighbor, fellow-church member, teacher, friend. And we desire to honor him as a World War II veteran, upstanding husband, father, citizen.
I hope his cousin that knew him in her youth, and remembers welcoming him home from WWII will come forward with some neat stories. I hope whoever does the service mentions all his overcoming disabilities, his tender love for his own Mom, and gentle ways. We have so many pastors and teachers who are sons, nephews, and even one married to a niece, that it will be interesting who is tapped to speak. At his wife's service, the sons spoke, so I am sure they will here, too, and while it is painful for them, it is such a wonderful lesson for all the great-nephews sitting there...and I am sure they will each ask themselves, "what will I say about my Dad when it is his time?"
For a death in the family reminds us that we are only here temporarily. Even if that life stretched 93 years, it is but a breath, and flies by. His was a life well lived. He was an honorable man. He would be the first one to tell you, advise you, encourage you to love your wife, take care of your children, defend and protect your country, stay alert, yet with a gentle unbendable strength. I don't think I ever heard Bob's uncle raise his voice. I don't think I ever heard him even yell a warning. I asked Bob last night if as a little kid, did his uncle ever have to correct him? Bob said no. Bob said it was not necessary. In my opinion, Bob's uncle was pure preventative when it came to kids. He kept them busy, and thus, kept them out of trouble. To hear the oldest grandson speak confirms this. For he was the only grandson for quite a while. Ten years stretch between David and Doug. And whenever he talks of his Grandfather, he tells of being the center of attention, loved, and engaged with a Grandfather that focused on him whether in the garden, or playing in the yard. What a wonderful example of fathering and grandfathering, and being an uncle. Showing men by example how to be that gentle strength, that iron like power of true masculinity. A leader. Not a showman. Not selfish. Not yelling nor abusive. Yet a force for all that is good, and pure and right. By contrast he made other men look small and mean. And that was not his goal, in fact I wonder if he realized that his very humbleness before the Lord was a threat to the criminal mind, and the males that think they are men.
To the one doing this service, I have this urge to get in their face and say, don't mess this up. Here is your opportunity to preach it to the next generation. Set the emotion and blubbering aside. Here is the time to explain to the grandsons, greatgrandsons, nephews, greatnephews that when they wonder what a real man is, when they are looking for heros, remember this man. And know it is your turn now. He was the last of his generation. He believed in the power of prayer. He believed in being alert to what was going on. He knew how to handle difficult women, he knew what to do in a crisis, and he knew how to raise God-fearing children. His legacy is one he would be uncomfortable to be made to sit and hear. He did not like being the center of attention, nor did he enjoy being praised. He knew he was a sinner saved by grace. He knew how to get to heaven thanks to what Jesus did on the cross. He lived a good life as unto the Lord, not because it gave earthly praise or rewards. But, because it was the right thing to do, and that God would want him to, and because he could do no less. May they say the same of us someday.
What does a real man look like? Someone who perseveres until the end, with daily looking into God's Word for direction and principles to live by.
A real man is known by what he does and also by what he does not do.
A real man raises good children, so he does not have to worry when his body gives out, because they took wonderful care of him. Surrounded by children that loved and respected him, he was so ready to go home years ago, but instead, God kept him here to teach us all. Lesson learned.