Monday, November 3, 2008

Looking Back - Looking Forward

When I first began blogging in the spring of 2004, I wasn't really sure what I was doing or why I was even blogging. The most prominant thought I had was "why would anyone care what Carla the Nobody has to say?" I still have that thought today.

I had been reading other blogs before this, so I had a basic grasp of what they were for, how they were being used, and that sort of thing. I decided my first post would be one that would both honor the Lord, and honor the one man that had the most profound impact on me growing up. My grandpa. That first blog didn't last long and so when I began Reflections of the Times a few months later, I imported that post right away.

Today is my grandpa's birthday. I've decided to repost that piece with a good bit of clean-up editing. My grandpa is no longer among us, but with the Lord now. I still miss him a great deal. The following is my grandpa's conversion testimony the best that I can remember it.

My Grandpa

In 1991 grandpa fell seriously ill. Prior to that, no one suspected there was anything wrong with him until grandma found him one morning, sitting in his chair unable to breathe, skin turning blue before her eyes. He was rushed to ER, and immediately placed in ICU. After a series of tests, it turned out grandpa had asbestosis and the prognosis was not good. They had a very hard time stabilizing his oxygen level and for a few days it was very touch and go. He seemed to stabilize for a few hours then suddenly his condition would rapidly deteriorate, and they'd struggle to stabilize him again. This happened over and over again. Finally, the last time it happened they were not able to stabilize him. They tried and tried for hours, without success. The head nurse in ICU called a couple of family members to tell them if they wanted to see him, now was the time to come, as he would likely not make it, to the end of the day.

He was intubated, and was unable to speak. By the time word got around to the rest of the family and we all began to arrive at the hospital, his doctor had shortened his prognosis even more, down to "minutes" instead of hours.

My brother arrived, and his first question was "has anyone prayed with Grandpa?". He didn't even wait for an answer, and asked the nurse if he could go in. He went in, sat down next to grandpa, and began asking him some questions. (There are 2 versions of this part of the testimony; the second one is after this one) He asked grandpa if he could hear and understand him, and if he could, to raise his finger. Grandpa raised his finger for each question. He began to ask him such things as "do you realize they say you're dying?" (grandpa indicated YES), "do you believe after this life, there is another life?" (grandpa indicated YES) and "do you understand Heaven and Hell are real places?" (grandpa indicated YES). My brother then shared the gospel of Jesus with grandpa, and asked him "do you believe on the Lord Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior?" My brother said he looked in grandpa's face, and saw the tears in his eyes, and my grandpa lifted his finger, and indicated YES. Gary then prayed with grandpa, a prayer of repentance.

At this same time, something began beeping and making odd noises at the nurse’s station, and the nurse got up to enter grandpa's room. None of the family members knew anything, except that Gary went in to pray with grandpa. We honestly thought it was over, and grandpa was gone, and we were bracing ourselves for the nurse to come out with the worst news. She did come out rather quickly, with the most perplexed look on her face I've ever seen. A few seconds later, Gary came out of grandpa's room with tears on his face, and a smile. All he said was "grandpa is ready to see Jesus". We all began to cry, or cried harder. The nurse approached my grandma and told her something odd was happening, but I don’t know if grandma even heard what she was saying. Many of us overheard her, however.

She could not explain it, but all of my grandpa's vital signs, were stabilizing. They were not supposed to. Prior to this he had only minutes to live. They began to remove some of the life support apparatus from him, because as he stabilized, they had to take some of these things out. The nurse could not explain it, the doctor who rushed in could not explain it, but I remember one of them saying "the only thing that makes sense, is a miracle".

Over the next few weeks his condition continued to improve and eventually grandpa was well enough to come home. He was on oxygen 24 hours a day but he was doing remarkably well, for an 82 year old man with “minutes to live” just a few weeks prior.

When my brother shared what happened in grandpa’s room that day, this was the only testimony any of us knew. Grandpa had his own testimony which he shared with grandma, but he asked her not to tell anyone, until after he was gone. He thought people might think he’d went crazy.

Grandpa’s version was very similar to Gary’s except for one small detail. He remembered Gary walking into his room, he remembered the entire conversation, the prayer, and feeling at peace with God, but he also remembered wondering who the man was with Gary. He said when Gary first walked into the room, he noticed another man behind him, but really didn’t pay much attention to him. During their conversation, from time to time grandpa would try to get a look at the other man, because he thought he recognized him somehow. He said the man wore a long white robe, had a very peaceful face, and comforting eyes. At first he thought he might have been someone from Gary’s church, but there was something about him that intrigued grandpa, not the least of which was the long white robe. Men just don’t walk around in long white robes. Grandpa said the robed man stood the whole time, just behind my brother. After my grandpa prayed he looked at the man, and the man nodded his head in affirmation, and smiled. When Gary left, the man in the robe left behind him.

Grandpa had intended to ask Gary who that man was, but the more he thought about it, the more he realized Gary didn’t know anyone was with him that day. My grandpa didn’t want anyone to know this, because he was afraid folks in the family might think less of his conversion experience.

18 months later, Grandpa went to bed one night, and woke up in Heaven. I went to work that day and for reasons I could not explain I had a monumentally heavy heart. By 9:30 in the morning I had to tell my boss that I couldn't concentrate and was about to burst out crying at any moment. She asked me what was wrong but I could only answer "I don't know, something is just very wrong, with someone, somehow." I knew it didn't make sense but that was the only way I could explain it. Oddly enough she understood and told me to go home. As I walked through the door the phone was ringing and even though I didn't know who it was, I just stared at the phone, terrified to answer. Finally I picked it up and without even saying hello, on the other end I heard my sister's voice saying "Carla?" I said "who?" (meaning, who is this call about) and through tears of her own she said "grandpa's gone". My knees gave out and I was on the floor in tears. Somehow (and I don't pretend to know how) I knew that day that something painful was coming, but I had no idea just how painful it would be. I did not know I'd be on my floor unable to move, holding the phone tightly in my hand as if the harder I held it I could somehow hang on to gpa.

Those 18 months after he came home from the hospital he spent fairly bedridden, on oxygen. I was still living in the world at the time and on Halloween that year, I did what I always did. I dressed up along with the kids, and took them over to grandma and grandpa’s house, to trick or treat on their street. I had on a tall, pointy black hat, and came in the living room and said “trick or treat!”. Grandpa smiled, and jokingly said “hey, someone get that witch outta my house!”. The kids all went over and showed off their costumes to him, and he smiled and talked with them all for a few minutes. That was the last time I saw him. That was October 31st. Grandpa went home to Jesus, 6 days later. He was 83 years old.

He was the literal interpretation of the 11th hour laborer. (Matthew 20)

About a month later, grandma shared with me, grandpa’s version of what happened that day in the ICU, when Gary came to pray with him. All of these details did not escape me, even though I was living my own life as an unbeliever. I began to search the Bible for an answer to the robed man in my grandpa’s room, and found this passage:

But to which of the angels said he at any time, Sit on my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool? Are they not all ministering spirits, sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation? (Hebrews 1:13-14)

And this one: Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares. (Hebrews 13:2)

I cannot say for certain, that this was indeed an angel, but those two verses stood out in my mind as boldly as anything.

My own conversion to Christ happened just 17 months later.

My grandpa was Harry McKinsey, beloved husband of Zora, father of 4, grandfather of 13, great grandfather of 17 (at the time). He was US Army, and had been a machinist in the naval shipyard for 25 years, before retiring. Anyway, that's what the newspaper obituary said.

Growing up without a dad, my grandpa was the father figure in my life. He was smart, he was a gifted craftsman, he loved his wife, his children and his grandchildren, and he was the rock of our family. He influenced his children and many of his grandchildren in a wide variety of ways from being an example of a strong work ethic, to holding your tongue and appreciating the value of times of quietness.

I still miss gpa to this very day, and I suppose I always will. I miss that he never said "bye" when having a phone conversation. When he was done talking he just hung up. (I have a friend that does this, and while it's sort of annoying it's also sort of comfortingly familiar, as strange as that sounds). I miss the way gpa's cars always smelled - like they were brand new, no matter how old they were. I miss the image of walking into their house and seeing gpa sitting in his recliner watching tv or working on a crossword puzzle. I miss going to their house on Christmas eve to watch them open presents and no matter what anyone handed him to open he'd shake it and say "nope, it's not a jigsaw puzzle". More than anything, I miss his presence in my life. He was a good man, and someone I looked up to a great deal. I take an enormous amont of comfort in his salvation, and knowing that when his battle through life was finally over here, he went home to our precious Lord.


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