We've had a very tough week with the death of Matt's grandpa last Monday and traveling to California for the funeral and to be with his mom and grandma. Matt is the one and only grandchild, so he was very very close to his grandpa. We are so thankful for the comfort of knowing that Grandpa E is in heaven and we will see him again one day.
Matt spoke at the funeral. If you have a couple of minutes, please read what he said... (so proud of him)
My senior year of college, I was given the assignment to write an essay over any topic. I chose to write about the influence that my grandfather had on my life. After our first drafts were finished our professor set up individual meetings to offer suggestions on improving our work. When I met with our professor, her first bit of advice was more of a command—“You must give your grandpa a copy of this.” Doing what I was told, I sent a final copy to my grandpa.
When I arrived here on Thursday, I sat with my family and we talked with Pastor about Grandpa. My grandma brought up the essay and what it had meant to him. She suggested that I should read it at the funeral.
I hadn’t planned on reading it, as I was going to write something new to honor him. After all, I had written the essay eight years ago and since then my love and respect for him only had grown.
I wanted to write about the many ways that he had blessed my wife and later on our children. How his kindness and peaceful nature caused my wife to instantly feel part of the family and how hard she cried when she learned of his passing.
I wanted to write about the joy he would show when he got to play with his great-grandson, Xavier, and how he would will his sore and exhausted body to the park to watch him swing and run-around.
However, after listening to my grandma and thinking about her suggestion, I kept going back to two things. First I wanted to honor her request and read something that he loved. And second, the thing that first caused me to not want to read it is the very reason why I should—it was written eight years ago. It was not a collection of good memories, sifted out of the bad or the common. This is what is expected at funerals; people talk about the good times and forget the bad. Instead I would like to read to you what I wrote and proudly read out-loud to my classmates eight years ago about how there were no bad days or even common days spent with my grandpa.
“ So, what exactly is a hero anyway? This past summer I watched a man play his final season. Tony Gwynn wore number 19 for the Padres since I was eight years old. In an age where professional athletes are seen as being almost superhuman, it was strange to see someone I grew up watching become old overnight. Gwynn’s final year was a season long celebration that came to its conclusion with a tear-filled farewell in a sold out Qualcomm stadium. Every single at-bat of the season was met with a standing ovation. Fans wrote thank you letters that overflowed mailbags. The Union-Tribune even had a special Thank You Tony section on the day of his last game. For a fee, fans could write a few lines to their aging hero and tell him what he has meant to their lives. Truly dedicated fans could spend a few extra bucks and decorate their message with a baseball, Padres cap, or a bat emblazoned with the number 19.
The fact that an entire city mourned the retirement of a baseball player illustrates a simple fact—the world is in desperate need of heroes. I consider myself one of the fortunate ones. I grew up within miles of a true hero. This man never swung a bat in a crowded stadium or had his name displayed on the Big Screen. All he did was teach me how to be a gentleman and how precious life truly is.
Visiting my grandfather is like stepping into another world. All of the fear and anger that consumes our culture never found its way into his life. He has found the secret on how to remain positive no matter what is happening. When I see him, I am transported back to a time where men were expected to conduct themselves like gentlemen. After fifty-eight years of marriage, he still opens every door and walks holding hands with the woman he courted for two months before they decided to make it forever. Every time they part, he reminds her that he loves her. You would figure that after fifty-eight years she would know that already. I guess this shows that you can never get tired of being shown that you are special.
Being men, we have never sat down and had many deep, personal conversations. At times I wish my grandpa would take on the attitude of the stereotypical grandpa and carry on and on about his life. I would love to know more about him. This isn’t him though. What makes him special is that he cherishes the past, but does not live in it. He is content to talk to me about last week and what is happening in his life now and not fifty years ago. Dwelling on the past would involve reliving disappointments or boasting about his accomplishments, two things that are not in his nature. There are enough people in the world who refuse to let go of the past. My grandfather is not one of them.
Two summers ago, I went golfing with my grandfather for the first time. What I keep asking myself is why did it take me so long to do this? Golf bridges our generation gap and allows us to spend five hours at a time engaged in an activity that we both love. I really enjoy the game, but I cherish the time together even more. Watching him talk with the golfers we get paired up with like they were old friends is priceless. People are drawn to him. His smile and laugh managers to loosen up even the stuffiest golfer in our party who takes their game much too seriously. Often I am the one who is taking the game a little too serious. This is when my grandpa gets the chance to spread his simple life wisdom. He would tell me relax, that we were all given unique gifts and were never going to make the tour anyway since, “the Good Lord blessed us by making us good-looking, not good golfers.”
The greatest compliment I have ever received was from a man that I knew for five hours. My grandfather and I were paired with two other golfers. At the end of the day I was told, “I sure enjoyed playing with your grandfather. He is a real positive person. You remind me a lot of him.” I pray that he was right.
Now, I would be lying if I claimed that I was not a little choked up watching number 19 play his last game for the Padres. Like other Padre fans, I loved Gwynn’s hard work, commitment to his team and his city and the joy he showed playing a child’s game for a living. I did not however, shed a tear or stay sad for long. My favorite player simply retired. My role model was still a phone call away.
I do not get to see him that often now that I live in the middle of the nation. Each time I visit, I cherish our time a little more. The last few years his body has ached a little more, his walk has gotten a little slower and every time I prepare to head back to the Midwest I can’t help but wonder if this will be the last time I see him. I know that one day God will invite him to live with the other angels in Heaven and he will accept. That will be a time of mixed feelings. I will be ecstatic knowing that he is seeing our Savior face to face. I will also mourn for what will be missing here. Our world is in desperate need of heroes.”
Looking back at my essay, I realize that I was wrong about one thing. Monday morning, my grandpa got to meet his Savior, face-to-face, but he did not get his invitation to heaven that day. His invitation was given to him 2,000 years ago when God took on flesh and died as a final sacrifice to defeat sin and death. When Jesus died and conquered death three days later, we were all given the invitation to share in His resurrection. We all became co-heirs to the kingdom of heaven. Jesus through His blood issued the invitation and my grandpa had long ago accepted.
This is why he would always refer to God as “The Good Lord.” He knew Him to be His source of blessing, hope, peace, joy, and ultimately comfort in knowing that he was loved by the Creator of the universe and that this life is just a blink of an eye in light of our eternal home in paradise.
Anyone who knew my grandfather couldn't help but be deeply saddened by the news of his passing from this world. However we can take comfort not simply in our memories, but in knowing that The Good Lord has issued the same invitation to us through His Son. We too can have the same peace and joy in our lives that he did by accepting that invitation of eternity. It is this truth that brings us comfort in knowing that the current sorrow we feel is nothing compared to joy we will have when we see him next, when we can golf again, when he will get to run with his great-grandchildren and we can all get the chance to join him in singing praises to our Good Lord.