As some of you know, my grandfather, Irvin Ladage, died this past January. At 30 years old I have been incredibly blessed to have lived this long in close relationships with all four of my grandparents as well as two "adopted" grandparents. I always wanted to write something about the days leading up to his death, but it was just too fresh of a wound until now. So here goes.
My mother's side of the family has always been very close. Growing up we gathered every Sunday evening at Grandpa and Grandma's house on the farm in rural Sangamon County. Sitting around the table we had Democrats and Republicans, farmers and city folk, public school kids and parochial school kids. But Sunday nights tended to put those things aside and we were simply family.
Even though our family has grown and changed over the years, and several of us have moved away from Sangamon County, these Sunday night meals kept on going in one form or another. We stayed family, and we stayed comfortable being with each other.
My Grandpa Ladage began suffering several years ago from prostate cancer. In the second half of 2012 the disease really began to take its toll and he became much more acquainted with the Springfield hospital system than I am sure he would have wished.
By the beginning of January things did not look hopeful. His once handsome (and enviable) mane of pure silver had tinned out. Grandpa had lost quite a bit of weight, his bones were being infected by the cancer, bed sores were starting to form, the treatments were wearing him down.
While he was hospitalized I had an entire day off (a rare occurrence for a pastor from October through April) so I asked my wife, Rebekah, if she thought I should go and visit with him for the day. Although it would mean leaving her alone (and pregnant) with 4 other small children running around, and it would mean that we would not get to spend any time together that day, she did not hesitate to tell me to go.
I got to spend the entire Monday morning and most of the afternoon with Grandpa, my uncle, and one cousin. Grandpa was fully awake and in good spirits that day. He was even able to get out of bed for just a moment. It was a good day, because even though we were in the hospital, even though only a few of us were there, even though there were a lot of unpleasant things on our minds, we were simply family.
Grandpa went home from the hospital on hospice care. They set up a hospital bed right in his own bedroom.
That Friday Rebekah and I made the decision to push off all other things that needed to be done and to go visit with Grandpa and the rest of our family. We took 4 children under the age of 8 and spent the day with my grandparents, parents, aunts and uncles, and many cousins.
We would move around quite a bit. Some people would sit in the bedroom with Grandpa, taking turns holding his hand, kissing his cheek, and telling him jokes. We were able to help him take his medicine and stay comfortable. My cousin Jennifer (a hospice nurse) did an amazing job caring for his physical needs. It was inspiring. You would walk into the bedroom and see one person in a hospital bed and 6 others lounging around on the other bed, chairs, or floor.
If you weren't in the bedroom you were in the living room talking, eating, or playing games. Cousins came and went as their work day permitted. In-laws stayed just as long as the rest.
I could not help but think of those Sunday nights, cousins running around the house playing tag, watching football in the TV room, sitting and talking in the living room. It was simply family.
But there was more. The pastor also came everyday, sometimes more than once. He read Scripture passages of comfort. He proclaimed the gospel of Jesus Christ, the forgiveness of sins, and the life everlasting.
That night, before we left, I prayed with my grandfather, blessed him, kissed his forehead, and whispered, "I'll see you later." It was the last thing I said to him on this earth. He died later that night.
I regret nothing about that entire day. I am glad we took the time to spend together as family. I am glad those were the last words to my grandfather because in reality they will not be our last words. We will meet again on the New Earth and stand before our Savior.
I fully expect, no matter what age we have in the new creation, that his silver mane will be back, his body will be cancer free.
I look forward to that day, promised by the resurrection of my Lord Jesus Christ, when all who have trusted Him in life will be resurrected, when we will be given the chance to be, with Him and all Christians, simply family forever.