Saturday, March 29

by Caroline Stratos

Don’t panic. I am with you. There’s no need to fear for I’m your God. I’ll give you strength. I’ll help you. I’ll hold you steady, keep a firm grip on you.     –Isaiah 41:10

I had a hard time understanding my grandfather at certain times. He would always have a billion things going on around him and still would be able to keep a calm composure. Whether it was preparing to marry some family friends or making visits to some sick church members, he would never break a sweat. He was a man of his word and would never back down on his promises. See, my grandfather on my mother’s side was a Presbyterian minister who preached at various Presbyterian churches across the whole country. People came to his services to hear his passion and love for Jesus Christ, to whose service he devoted his whole life. But beside his life of faith, he also devoted his life to spending time with his family. I remember going up to Waynesville, North Carolina, to visit him and my grandmother in their mountain house that overlooked a massive golf course. Right when my brother and I walked through the door, he would automatically engulf us in an enormous bear hug. And I would look up and see that smiling face. His smile would reach from cheek to cheek every time. And then I would hear his laugh, that soothing laugh that would always make my day. After his hug, he would offer us something to drink or eat and tell us to sit down and relax. Now I knew that when he went to get us something to eat, he would eat something himself, because he was a snacker. He had a huge pantry that was filled with everything from Goldfish to Fig Newtons. That was one of the things I loved about him. But the whole time we were there, he would spoil us and take us to every fun place there was in Waynesville (they were not plentiful). Also, every time we went out to dinner, he knew that my parents would try to pay for the meal, so he would pay for it beforehand. As these examples show, he would never think about himself. He was the most selfless person I have ever known.

Unfortunately, my grandfather developed pancreatic cancer later in his life. When he got his diagnosis, he was given a life expectancy of about two years. My whole family was devastated, especially my mother. I remember her coming up to me and asking, “Why did it have to be him? Why was he the one who got this terrible disease? He served the Lord his whole life, and out of everyone in our family, he’s the one who got it. I know I deserve to get it much more than he did.” That would leave me speechless because I understood how she felt. Throughout this constant time of worrying going on in my family, he was the one who remained the calmest. He would go about his daily routine, just as he had done before he received his diagnosis. In a way, he knew that this was just a part of God’s plan for his life. Knowing that I had few ways to help him, I decided to buy him rocks engraved with character traits like “hope” and “wisdom” from a store called Ten Thousand Villages. I would go every week and buy a different rock every time with my own money. I would then wrap up the rock with a Bible verse corresponding to the character trait and send it to him by mail. I decided to send him the rock engraved with “peace” first. It was the trait which I thought he displayed the most throughout his life. After about seven weeks, I ran out of new rocks to send him. Not long after, he passed away on a warm June evening after enduring his battle with pancreatic cancer.

I didn’t cry as much as I expected to. Why? Because I knew that he cherished the life he lived each and every day. I knew that he was in a better place now, free of pain. He was now in the arms of the Lord, whom he had loved and served all his life. Most importantly, I knew that he was peaceful when he passed. He knew that it was his time to go, and he was never afraid of this either. This realization gave me an overwhelming sense of peace I had never experienced before in my whole life. I understood this to be a pure message from God beckoning me to lead a life filled with peace, just as my grandfather had done.

About a year after his death, I went to visit my grandmother at Thanksgiving. There were many people there whom I had never met before, so I took a break from shaking hands and saying hello. I went into my grandparents’ room and walked around to observe many family photos held in fancy picture frames. As I was about to leave, I screeched to a halt when I noticed a most beautiful sight. The rocks that I had given to my grandfather were sitting in the center of his bedside table, arranged in a neat formation. He had kept these rocks close by him, until the day he died. I knew this to be my grandfather’s way of telling me to go out into the world and to live a life led by faith and filled with peace. I then looked up to him in heaven and promised him I would.

Lift in prayer today
Let Me Run and Girls on the Run, after school programs
for 4th and 5th graders teaching positive life habits and lessons