Listening To The Shouts of Pain

The lessons I’m learning from G-Dad’s death

“Pain insists upon being attended to. God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our consciences, but shouts in our pains. It is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world.”
― C.S. Lewis

My grandpa, G-Dad, passed away last week. I plan on writing more about his life and influence at another point. For now, a week after his death, I’m listening to the shouts in the pain. Here are some of the lessons I’m learning.

The Moments That Matter

I don’t care what kind of car G-Dad drove. Or the size of his house. Or his social-status in the world. What I’m thinking of right now are the moments of connection. I’m thinking about the times he made me laugh uncontrollably.

I’m thinking of all the speeches he gave me. I’m thinking of the times we cheered against the Dallas Cowboys together. I’m thinking of all the outrageous things that occurred while camping and fishing.

I’m thinking of the time G-Dad took me squirrel hunting. We geared up and got prepared for the big adventure. Then we walked outside and saw a squirrel in a tree in the front yard. We shot the squirrel and then decided to call it a day. Our hunting trip was concluded without even leaving the house. (For my California friends, if this offends you, know that we didn’t just hunt the squirrel for fun. We also ate it.)

These are the moments and the scenes that linger. These are the moments that matter. At the end of our life, it will be these moments of connection that our loved ones will remember.

I want to spend my life making moments that linger. Moments of connection.

Life Is a Few Blinks

I imagine G-Dad at my age. Like me, he had kids running around the house, creating energy, life, and chaos. He was a pastor like I am. I’m sure the end of his life was far from his mind. He was a vibrant and active man. I’m sure he was focused on teaching others and fathering the best way he knew how.

Then he blinked and his kids were adults. Another blink and he became “G-Dad.” Another blink and it’s today.

This is the harsh, beautiful, tragic, and meaningful reality of life. Life is just a few blinks.

I don’t want to miss it. I don’t want to spend my time fretting and worrying about silly things. I want to focus on the here and now. I want to create value in this world. I want to soak up the beauty of creation and spend moments with my Creator and the ones he has created.

Health

I don’t know if G-Dad’s tumors could have been prevented. I doubt it. Cancer is a ruthless, conniving snake. But I do know that in my pursuit of a full and vibrant life, I need all the health I can get.

This is a hard one for me. In my younger years, I played sports non-stop. It was easy to stay trim because I was always active. Now, like many of us, my focus is directed to my job and my family. The rest of the time, I seek comfort. Comfort food, comfortable entertainment, comfortable situations.

I always tell my wife that I wish she could have known G-Dad before his initial brain tumor. He was as vibrant as they come. I wrote an essay in high school about him—my grandpa who did flips while skiing, in his 60’s.

I want to run and play sports with my kids. I want to meet my grandkids. I want to do everything within my effort to fight against disease and laziness.

It’s our physical health that gives us the ability to live to the fullest.

Legacy

My family loves coffee. Coffee respresents conversation and connection for us. When I became interested in drinking coffee in high school, G-Dad wouldn’t allow me to use sugar or cream.

He said, “if you want to drink coffee, you have to learn to drink it like a man.”

I still drink my coffee black, like most of our family, including my wife. G-Dad taught her to “drink it like a man” once she entered the family.

As I sat at G-Dad’s funeral, I was overwhelmed by how much I’ve been influenced by him. Again, I’d like to write more about this at some point — there is so much to examine.

The day before he passed away, I was preaching. As I spoke from the stage, I realized that it was G-Dad’s influence that helped get me to this point. Teaching/preaching has never been a goal or aspiration of mine, it is something that runs in my blood.

His ministry was marked by his fight for the marginalized, the outcast, and the defenseless. Person after person, talked about him being different and more radical than most preachers. From the way he dressed, to the people he chose to include, his ministry bucked tradition and stagnation.

Again, I am influenced by him in this way. Religion drives me crazy. The traditions, politics, and standards of church drive me crazy. I’m interested in Jesus. And Jesus was interested in the people that were not-included.

I’m thankful for this legacy. It makes me think about my own.

We all leave a legacy. With each decision and action, we are constructing a story that passes on after we leave. Friends, family, and coworkers will be influenced by our story.

God, help me to leave a legacy that inluences others for good and justice — a legacy that is focused on serving others instead of myself.