A Chapter Closed

This summer has been a roller coaster of emotions for me and for my family.  In June we received a call that my Grandpa Bill was in the hospital and not expected to live through the weekend.  We all rallied and my Mom and her sisters found themselves making hard decisions and having those conversations that no one wants to have.  We said our goodbyes, talked candidly about Eternity and made peace after years of broken relationship.  He did in fact live through the weekend and even for a few more months.  But last week, on the 11th of September, the Lord took him home.  His suffering ended on this side of Eternity and we believe that he began his new reality with his Savior. 
 To say that our relationship with him is complicated is an understatement.  Although we are grieving for him now, we've actually been grieving for him for the last 12 years or so.  There is nothing to be gained in sharing the ups and downs in a public way, but I do want to give the Lord the praise He is due for the way He orchestrated our reconciliation with him in His perfect timing.  We can rest at night knowing that we chose and still choose to forgive the wrongs and the hurt.  He died knowing and believing that we loved him dearly and he made it clear how much he regretted his choices and loved us back.  It broke my heart to see him in July, to see his failing body and his thin frame.  We talked about a lot of memories and he held my hand telling me he wished we could go back about 20 years and start again. 
Yep, me too...
For the length of my childhood my Grandpa was a huge part of our lives.  He hung the moon in many ways and we loved Grandpa Bill like any granddaughter would.  He is technically my Mom's stepdad and our step-grandpa I suppose, but he was such an active presence in our lives and a source of love that we never thought of him as anything less than our Grandpa.  We still do.  His life was not an easy one from start to finish.  He was married twice, his first wife died very young of cancer and years later he married my Grandma.  For most of my life my Grandma was very, very sick and he lost a lot of years with her due to her illness.  The end of their marriage was a hard one, my Grandma had dementia and was in a nursing home for 10 years I think?  But as I've tried to process what happened in the years that followed, I think I can simply say he made some mistakes, chose people who abandoned him in the end, and walked away from those of us who loved him all those years, mostly out of guilt and regret I'm sure.  It's a sad story, never one I want my kids to experience or know, but the beauty of the ending is that the Lord truly worked in us and through us all to bring the forgiveness and reconciliation that only He could.  All is forgiven and the chapter is closed.  It doesn't make it easy, it doesn't erase the damage that was done, but we have hope that we will be with him again one day, all of us restored and alive in the presence of Christ.  No one is perfect and we all make mistakes.  This has been a sobering reminder for all of us about the consquences of sin and the shorcomings of man.  When we look to people to give us all we need or to be our savior, we will always be disappointed...we all fall short.  But when we look to Jesus to be our constant, unchanging, unconditional God, He never leaves us lacking!  He is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow and we have learned just how powerful that love is in the face of disappointment and hurt. 
In the end, only because of the power of Christ in me, it is well with my soul when I think of my Grandpa...
 And so when Jesus took him home last week, I packed up my kiddos and drove to Iowa to say goodbye.  Travis wanted to come along but last week was one of the busiest ones he's had in a long time and my parents were so gracious to release us from the pressure of needing to be home.  I knew I could do it with the kids, so we did!  And this is a classic scene of what life with these two little monkeys is like :) Never a dull moment, never a photo opp without a struggle!  Ha ha!
 As we prepared to walk down memory lane with family and friends, we got a kick out of the following pictures from our growing up years!  This one is one of my favorites!  My Mom has never been a Halloween fan, but when she gave in we always dressed up in happy costumes :) :) :) I clearly remember this Halloween and being so happy with my costume, I loved everything about it! 
 This was from our matching dresses era :) Stacie's smile cracks me up here!
 We vacationed a lot in northern Minnesota, in cabins on a lake.  Oh, the irony!
 From a young age my Mom dressed me in little suits...seriously, I always had the formal jacket and bow while my sisters always rocked the big collar look :)

I think my matching socks are particularly a nice touch!
 The little family :) I know my Dad would go back to these years in a heartbeat!  Good for me to remember when I want to fast forward 10 years with my own kids some times! 
 One of the many Sundays after Church when we had lunch with my grandparents. 
I really miss that tradition...
 And just for fun, this is from my college years and my sister's high school years. 
So. Much. Hair.

This a picture of my Grandpa's younger brothers, his nephew, my cousin and my cousin's 3 boys.  
 The big cousins, minus Stacie who couldn't come back from South Carolina. 
 All of my cousins on my Mom's Grandpa was a blessed man!
 With our Moms, my Grandpa's three daughters. 
My cousin Noah and Cody.  We are all about the same age and we were the original three!  We're the oldest kids in our families and we were pretty inseperable growing up.  For the first four years it was only the three of us, so you can imagine that we have lots of memories with our Grandpa Bill. 
 Love them both, can't believe we are this OLD!!
One of my sweet co-workers who trained me in High School did the flowers for us. 
This was the arrangement from the grandkids...
 ...and this was near him from his great-grandkids.  He had 6 little ones...Although my kids really didn't know him, Ava has been praying for Grandpa Bill for months now.  She has made me tear up on more than one occastion with her precious little prayers on his behalf.  He cried when he saw her picture for the first time because she looked just like I did when I was a little girl. 
My Grandpa served in the Korean War and therefore had the honor of full military burial, which is truly an incredibly moving thing.
To see older veterans, who didn't know him but honored him as one of their own...amazing. 
 This scene was hard to photograph but it was a beautiful depiction of the Korean war, my Grandpa would have been so moved by it. 
I am so grateful for the men and women who serve our country. 
They are robbed of the honor and respect they are due so often, but in death they are defintely treated properly.
We chose to give his Memorial Funds to an organization that arranges Honor Flights for Veterans to go to Washington DC and see the WW2 and Korean War Memorials.  My Grandpa would be so proud of that.  You can read a great story about it here
 His funeral was on a gorgeous, Fall day...
 And although we were missing Stacie Jo...
 ...she was well represented.  My Mom found this adorable thing she wrote when she was 8 and my Mom read a wonderful tribute Stacie wrote on facebook at the funeral. 
We missed you but we didn't forget you Stace :)
As we were driving to the cemetary, we passed a local attraction that my Grandpa LOVED, which was in full swing last week.  The National Cattle Congress is a tradition in my hometown, kind of a cross between a week-long livestock show and a county fair.  I have so many memories of my Grandpa and the Cattle Congress.  We thought it was fitting that it was happening when he died.  So that night, after dinner we took the kids to experience it too!  My Grandpa would have loved that.
 It's been years and years since I've been there, but it was the PERFECT Fall night and we had such a great time!
 There were animals galore and lots of events to watch...
 ...the kids did not know what to think of this pig staring and snorting at them :)
 Pretty horse,  his name was Dreamsicle :)
 We introduced the kids to the world of Tom Thumb donuts.  They approved!
All in all, a great night.  Fun to be outside, fun to walk around and see everything, fun to re-live old memories and think about my Grandpa.  So glad we did that!
It was good to be home, hard to say goodbye and yet, I'm grateful for the way this chapter ended and for the hope of Heaven we share!  I stopped at our favorite cupcake place to bring a treat home for Travis.  Nothing like a little sugar coma to wrap up an emotional week :) 

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