By Erin Hall

My grandpa died yesterday. It happened at three in the afternoon, on Saturday. It was a gorgeous day, one of those ones where you start to feel summer looming on the horizon. A day full of hope and new beginnings. As I sit here in my parents’ kitchen, I think back to yesterday afternoon at four or five. I think I was cleaning my own kitchen at that time. Just washing dishes, cleaning up. It astounds and terrifies me that I could be conducting my normal life routines and not know that Grandpa had left this earth.

Jesus said to her: “I am…”

We were at a hockey game last night and Dad told us afterwards. There were rumors among my sisters that something had happened, but I didn’t expect this. I thought something was wrong with my grandma. I thought one of my grandparents was hurt or had gotten a cancer diagnosis. I thought we had time. But he told us, ready or not, and I couldn’t process it. “Your grandpa passed away today.” Those words, yes, they have meaning but I can’t quite understand them. I’ve examined them from a thousand different angles, but I can’t grasp their meaning. Last night my bed was a place of near despair. I didn’t sleep much at all. Maybe I fell asleep at four in the morning, I don’t know. I feel numb.

Jesus said to her: “I am the resurrection…”

I talked to Mom on the phone shortly after Dad told us. She told me about how Grandma found him. About how she couldn’t get ahold of anyone for a while. She told me how my uncle—her older brother—is struggling to understand, like the rest of us. But we all have to be strong now. For Grandma. For our parents. For each other. She told me about how the coroner’s assistant is a Christan and how he waited for the funeral home people out in the backyard with my grandpa for three hours, just so Grandpa wouldn’t be alone. And the gratitude I felt toward that Christian brother, yes, but also stranger, words cannot express. My mom told me that they put a sheet over him. He lay there in the backyard with a sheet over his body. I don’t know why, but more than anything else that could have kept me awake last night, the image of a form on the ground covered with a sheet filled the vision of my mind’s eye. The sheet. A white sheet probably. It made it more awful somehow. Maybe more concrete. Why can’t I get that horrible sheet out of my head?

Jesus said to her: “I am the resurrection and the life…”

I also thought about other things last night. I thought about how a couple weeks ago when I baked a dessert, I had thought about going over to my grandparents’ house and bringing them something to eat. But I told myself that I would do it some other time. I don’t know if I was too lazy or thoughtless, but how could I be so stupid to not consider that there might never be some other time? I also thought of other things, like how my children will never meet their silly and wonderful great Grandpa. We won’t get to spend Easter with him this year. Grandpa loves Easter. But oh, how grateful I am for the times God gave us. God made us move back to the East coast in 2019, and we have seen my grandparents a lot the past five years. My grandparents saw me get married. We had a good Christmastime with them this past December. I think we have pictures of them with us all in silly paper Christmas hats. We got to celebrate their 80th birthdays just two weeks ago. Things weren’t always perfect. We disagreed with things he said. But in the end that doesn’t matter, because we’re a family.

Jesus said to her: “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me…”

My grandpa was many things to many people. Many knew him as Pastor Stiekes, a faithful man who led more than one church in his time. A man who talked about Jesus constantly. A man who loved his congregants whether they blessed or cursed him. Others knew him as Dad. They knew him as a man who made mistakes. They knew him as a man who loved his family fiercely enough to call Bob Jones back in the day and call them out for being racist. A man who changed the channel every time someone on TV said a bad word, only to miss the next thirty seconds of a program they had already heard the bad stuff on. Others, who will probably not remember him too much, knew him as Great Grandpa. My cousins’ kids. I saw the joy on his face as he video called with one of his great grandkids on the night of his birthday celebration. But to me, to me he was Grandpa.

Jesus said to her: “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die…”

Grandpa was silly. I remember his Donald Duck voice he used to do for us as little kids. I remember how he loved taking care of his yard and working outside. He told people about Jesus all the time. He waited on his front porch with his Bible when Jehovah’s Witnesses would try to witness to him, and he would witness right on back. My mom just commented how when she was at my grandparents’ house this morning, she kept expecting him to walk in the room and tell a dad joke. We’re all in shock, we’re all trying to process. But we’ve also laughed over memories we have of him. We’ve joked with each other to try to handle the pain. I’m confident he would have wanted us to laugh. He also would have wanted us to know Jesus and to cling to Him in the midst of our suffering.

Jesus said to her: “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live.”

Grandpa was in a lot of pain. He wanted to see Jesus so badly. I think it would be selfish of us to want to keep him from that. But we don’t have to sorrow as others who have no hope. Because Grandpa gets to see Jesus on Easter Sunday this year and on all the Easter Sundays for eternity. And because today, Grandpa is more alive than he has ever been—for he is finally seeing his Savior face-to-face.