“I’m just an ordinary guy who loves the Lord and tries to obey Him. If I have done any good, it is God working through me.” ~ Grandpa Ralph, August 26, 2011
It’s 11 p.m. on Monday night in Taiwan, but a funeral began an hour ago in New Jersey for Grandpa Ralph, one of our dearest family friends and an adopted grandfather to me and my sisters. After 94 years on this earth, he is finally with the Savior that he faithfully served throughout his life. Grandpa Ralph was an inspiration to me as someone who loved the Lord and sought to serve God with his whole being. By the end of his life, Grandpa Ralph was nearly deaf, had difficulty walking on bad knees, and struggled to breathe after taking just a few steps in his house, so it’s a joy to imagine him now celebrating in the presence of Jesus in a new body that can hear and walk and breathe with no pain and no trouble.
After my return to Taiwan in July, Grandpa Ralph sent me an email saying that he enjoyed our time together this summer but that it would probably be the last time I’d see him. That brought tears to my eyes and grief to my heart, but I decided that I shouldn’t let an opportunity pass me by. I composed an email that was sort of an “I love you & goodbye” letter. I wanted to tell Grandpa Ralph what he has meant to me in my life before it was too late. I didn’t literally say goodbye and we continued to email regularly after I sent the letter, but I felt that if Grandpa Ralph passed away, I could be content knowing that I had said what I needed to say. My heart is still sad that I am not able to grieve with my family and friends today,–it is on days like this that I feel the sacrifice of being a missionary so far from home–but I am thankful that I have closure because I had a chance to express to Grandpa Ralph how much I truly love him and think of him and Grandma Gladys as family. An edited version of my letter is being read at the funeral today, and I’d like to share it here as a sort of memorial to my dear grandpa whom I will always cherish and miss.
“I know what you mean when you say how hard it is to say goodbye. I learned that years ago when I said goodbye before going overseas in the war and didn’t expect to get back. But God in His mercy saved me and brought me home.” ~ Grandpa Ralph, August 24, 2011
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I know we are not related by blood, but I certainly do think of you as my third grandfather. I am so blessed to have had you in my family.
I remember sitting in church with you and Grandma Gladys at Francis Childs when my parents and grandparents were busy during the service. I also remember sitting with you when they were not busy but I just wanted to be with you instead. Those times at church are some of my earliest memories with you, but there over the years we created many more.
I cherish the crafts you made for us—beautiful painted magnets, puzzles made of family pictures, heartfelt and homemade cards, elaborate wooden trinkets, and the list goes on. I love the words you shared with me in the poetry you penned and the devotionals you compiled that came from your understanding of God’s Word. I am captivated by your creativity and ingenuity.
I will never forget all the correspondence we have shared over the years. When you first started emailing me when I was a freshman in college, I felt so special. My mom told me that you had written letters to her when she was a student at Asbury, so it was incredibly poignant that thirty years later you were taking the time to write to me too. Your emails always brought a smile to my face, and I cherish the things you wrote to me. Thank you for investing in my life.
You and Grandma Gladys were a part of so many important holidays and family events. In fact, it always seemed a little empty if you were not around for a gathering at Nan and Papa D.’s or a family party at our house. I am so thankful that we shared all of those memories together.
So many times, you supported me through financial gifts for mission trips, through prayer and intercession for special events, by being there for me on important days, and by offering encouragement and affirmation. Thank you for your gifts.
I admire you for your beautiful example of marriage, for the grace and peace you exhibited in the midst of all of life’s experiences, for the lessons you taught me, and for the way that you let Christ’s love spread through you to everyone you touched. You told me so many stories of life: of wars and travels, of love and heartache, of facing adversity and disappointment, and of joy and celebration. Through it all, your courage and faith were evident. Thank you for the example you set for me as I follow after you in the Lord.
My comfort now is that you are rejoicing in Heaven in a new body. You are praising your Savior, Jesus, face to face, and I believe that you have heard the words, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” I am so blessed to know that I will see you again one day when we celebrate in Heaven together.
Thank you for loving me like I was part of your family. You were truly part of mine. I love you with all my heart.