Ok, before I tell you about Grandpas, I want to tell you that the summer tour we just finished was amazing. I have been doing summer camps since 1986 and our family has been touring together during summers for the last nine years. This was our best summer tour yet. I wish you could have been there the last night of the last camp as Jr. Highers streamed forward to the front of the auditorium and then down the aisles because there was no room up front. I wish you could have seen them humbling themselves and actually bowing down to trust God with their lives, crying, confessing sin and praying for one another. The youth pastor and I stood on the stage in wonder watching this testimony of God’s grace working in these kids’ lives. I wish you could have seen it.
So, summer tour brings us to Grandpas.
First, my dad. Right before I started speaking for the summer, Grandpa Ray, known as Bubba to our kids, was at work when he started to feel sick, very sick. Something was terribly wrong. On his way to the hospital he started having severe chest pain with the classic pain in his arm as well. He was having a heart attack.
He pulled into a shopping center parking lot and knowing that he was in trouble he parked and started honking at people passing by for help. People just walked past ignoring him. He was lying down on the front seat expecting that he might die when he spotted a policeman. He began honking again, the policeman came over and immediately called an ambulance. They were helping my dad into the ambulance when he fell over, his heart stopped beating and he died. After shocking him three times they were able to bring him back. When he woke up in the emergency room the nurse kept asking him if he was trying to tell her something. My dad finally said to her that he was talking to God. He was bypassing the doctors and nurses and going straight to the Big Guy. That’s my father, a man of God who loves Jesus Christ and trusts Him with his life. Today he is doing well. If it were not for that policeman my dad would no longer be with us. “Dad, we all love you.”
Now, Carol’s dad. We were leaving the third camp, a very beautiful camp right on the Atlantic Ocean in North Carolina, when we got a very sad phone call. It was my nephew Bryan, who told me that Grandpa Siders had just passed away. The kids got very quiet and Carol began to cry. As many of you know Carol lost her mom 11 years ago.
I was flooded that day with memories of my time with Harley. I remembered driving to his home 16 years ago to ask his permission to marry Carol. I was so nervous.
When I told Carol’s parents that Carol was the most amazing person I had ever met and I wanted to spend the rest of my life with her, they both began to cry. I thought, “Well, this could be good or bad.” Finally, Harley spoke up and said to me in his quiet way, “I couldn’t find a finer gentleman to marry my daughter.” My first thought of course was, “Ok, I fooled him.” But his words still mean so much to me today.
Grandpa Siders had been sick for many years. We have watched Carol’s step mom be the hands of Jesus to Harley, taking care of him in the nursing home he had lived in for years. True love is sacrificial action. We were not surprised to hear that Grandpa Siders was gone. We are very excited for him while being very sad for us. His funeral was a great testimony of a shy preacher who loved the people God put in his care. That was my father-in-law, a man of God who loved Jesus Christ and trusted Him with his life. “We love you Grandpa Siders and we miss you.”
A note from Carol:
Daddy was a man before his time. When I went to Africa on a summer mission trip in 1985 he made me the first ever rolling suitcase. Also, I can remember him drinking iced coffee as far back as 1972. He was so special and taught me so many things including balancing the checkbook, ping pong, and how to win a game of Pinochle. But most importantly he showed me what it looks like to be a faithful servant of God. He pastored churches for over 30 years, always loving God and loving the people that God gave him. A woman told me at the funeral that it was my dad who had taught her to tithe many years ago. She went on to say that tithing has been a wonderful blessing to her family ever since. I never knew that fact, but it did not surprise me. This is a bittersweet time for my family. We grieve for ourselves, now missing both of my parents. However, we rejoice for him, being free of this earthly body and enjoying a new body in heaven with his savior. So, it is as the pastor said at his funeral: “So long for now, not good bye, because we will meet again.” I Love you daddy.