He was 96. By human reasoning he was a very old man. But to me and many others, he had the spirit of a tender child. This morning he was released from the bondage of his body. And we are thankful. For him. For his example. And how he made us feel.
For 16 years I've known this gentle man - although it seems longer as I heard about him before that. He and his wife had shown kindness to my own father back in 1959. And then we started to meet with him each Sunday for our married life. I like how we can read in the bible that those that meet together are like 'families'. That's what he was to me. Family. My grandpa. A father figure. A friend. This man could sing. And he liked the hymns to last longer than they really should sometime. He would belt out the notes and hang on to them for all he was worth. And he knew what he was singing. Most of the time it was by heart. And when we came to a phrase, a thought, or something that touched him, he'd nearly break down and couldn't finish. I will not forget that example to not just go through the motions but to really 'feel' what the words mean.
He loved families. He had tears in his eyes when we experienced our losses. And he had tears when we brought our babies into the room for the first time. And he loved to watch them grow. And throw Cheerios. And catch a smile. He and Mira had a thing going for nearly a year. We'd walk in and then he'd wave at her. She grew old enough to wave back. It happened every Sunday until I scolded Mira and said to not do that. I shouldn't have. It brought him joy. And it brought her joy. It bridged a gap that was 88 years between. Amazing. And sweet.
He worked hard. I remember stories of him laying wood gym floors and he'd stop and sleep on the hard floor without nary a jacket under his head. Just stop and sleep and keep working. He could fix about anything you set before him. And he loved to do it. For himself and for others.
He experienced bitter loss. He lost his first wife to cancer when still younger. He had the privilege of marrying again and had a very devoted wife through these years of weakness. It was inspiring to see their love. To watch her hold his hand. A smile. A pat. Deep and utter love until the end.
And so another pillar is gone from our area. We've lost a lot of dear souls the past few years. Those that have had an influence on our lives. Those that have encouraged us. Made us laugh. And made us love. Yes, we are a family. Sometimes it isn't blood. Sometimes it's even richer.