Mom Hawley and two daughters were by his side at the moment of his passing. We were all so glad he wasn't alone. Someone of the family had been with him around the clock for over three weeks. Nurses and doctors all commented about how much he was loved.
He was loved. Deeply!
Frank and I left for NC before dawn on Tuesday. All three of our girls and Kristin's husband, Cody, left Tuesday afternoon. They broke the drive up because Joy is within four weeks of delivery.
John and Nathan stayed in FL to juggle children, jobs and home; making it possible for their wives to be at Grandpa's funeral. Have you heard me mention how amazing our sons are?! Good Good Men Indeed!
Some of you will remember that Frank is part of a "blended" family; a yours, mine and ours group. Dad had two children, Dexter and Marsha from his first marriage. Mom had Frank. Then Mom and Dad had Kirk and Terry. If there ever was a study in how to do blended family well, it's their family.
Almost right away, Frank became extremely close to Dexter who was two years older than him. Marsha found her spot as the only girl. And everyone doted on the younger brothers who served to cement the family. With them, there were no "steps" or "halves." Everyone was Family.
Sadly, Dexter was killed in a car accident the month before Frank and I were married. Kirk and Terry were only 7 and 9 at that time. Frank determined in his heart to be as involved in their lives as an older sibling can possibly be. Christmas, birthdays, graduations, then weddings and their own children were big cheering points for us.
I've always been impressed with how those three brothers can be away from one another for months at a time then pick right back up laughing, teasing, encouraging one another just as if they'd been together last week. It's exactly what Frank had most desired even though we've lived far away most of their lives.
There are many funny stories to tell and several poignant ones. But I decided to simply share the points Frank gave at the funeral. Sharing at a parent's memorial service is always difficult. I was especially proud of how Frank carefully wove a rich tapestry using words of comfort, sorrow and humor to blanket the hurting hearts of those present.
Mom and Dad's pastor gave the actual sermon. Frank wanted to only serve that day as a son telling others about the dad he loved. These were his main points:
- Dad wasn't educated but he was very wise. He had to leave school after the eighth grade in order to work on the farm. His work ethic was the example for his children. We're all hard workers and we all went to him for advice.
- Dad wasn't rich but he was extremely wealthy. Look around you, the people gathered here are the testimony of his wealth.
- Dad was tough but he also had a tender side. He could put us boys in our place, even in our teen years. His massive hands were weathered and calloused; his handshake could crush a weaker man. But our favorite picture is of him holding our grandson Noah at about two months. The two are locked in a stare and smiling at one another. Dad has one huge hand cradling Noah's infant head, the other laid protectively over Noah's tiny chest.
- Dad loved us all fiercely and he made sure we knew it.
Our girls sang a precious medley of favorite hymns then the pastor brought a touching message. The graveside service was brief. The presentation of the flag from his coffin was most moving. We cried together, hugged one another, laughed at funny memories and shared a beautiful meal prepared by their home church. (It felt rather odd to be served and to not help clean up.)
We were shocked when we looked up to see our dear friends, Steve and Becky (Nathan's parents) in the hallway of the chapel. They had just closed their Easter drama with a final performance the night before; drug their exhausted bodies out of bed before dawn; then drove the three hours to be with us by 10:30. We were overwhelmed by such an act of love and Meagan just burst into tears.
Our own church and several individual families sent beautiful flowers. The little hometown florist was especially impressed that she had received an order from New York. Our precious friends John and Linda (John's parents) were there in spirit, too by way of their lovely arrangement.
I'll close today's post with a rather long passage of scripture Frank read at the memorial. It's written by an older man (Paul) to his apprentice (Timothy). What I'm using is from a more modern translation which I enjoy. Please take time to read over it slowly. And may our hearts be both encouraged and challenged:
"And regarding the question, friends, that has come up about what happens to those already dead and buried, we don't want you in the dark any longer. First off, you must not carry on over them like people who have nothing to look forward to, as if the grave were the last word. Since Jesus died and broke loose from the grave, God will most certainly bring back to life those who died in Jesus.
And then this: We can tell you with complete confidence - we have the Master's word on it - that when the Master comes again to get us, those of us who are still alive will not get a jump on the dead and leave them behind. In actual fact, they'll be ahead of us. The Master himself will give the command. Archangel thunder! God's trumpet blast! He'll come down from heaven and the the dead in Christ will rise - they'll go first. Then the rest of us who are still alive at the time will be caught up with them into the clouds to meet the Master. Oh, we'll be walking on air! And then there will be one huge family reunion with the Master. So reassure one another with these words."