Goodbyes and Bike Rides

September 5, 2016

I didn’t see it coming. I was on our couch cuddling with my son Tuesday morning when I got a call from my aunt, informing me that within the hour my grandfather had passed. Adrenaline took over, and within a few seconds I was talking to my mom and letting her know I was on my way into town to help. The rest of the day seemed like every other day I have spent in similar circumstances (of which there have been too many). Crying, hugging, sniffling, sobbing, stories, questions, more stories, a litany of phone calls and texts, and a few blank stares. A trip to the funeral home and some fast food for every meal and the day was a completely perfect unplanned and painful experience. And one I would in some ways, rather forget.

I wanted to remember. The good times. The conversations. The things we had done together. I took so many trips to my grandparent’s farm as a youth. Many with family, some with friends, all of them incredible. It is a place like no other, free from cell phones and internet, even air-conditioning, and it always brought with it a sense of calm and peace. Not just physically, but in your mind too. Life is simpler there, slower even; if only because the people won’t let it speed up. My grandparents always knew how to bring perspective to what mattered, by not worrying about things that don’t. And so on Thursday night, I hopped on my bike, found some country roads and just rode and remembered.

I remembered the times we spent fishing by the dam, grandpa pulling bullhead off the lines as fast as Jordan and I could catch them. I remembered the times we gathered around the table for Thanksgiving Dinner, with the television showing football just out of sight in the other room. I remembered trips to local restaurants and malls, Christmas’ and New Years Eve’s, watching grandpa eat grasshoppers, and the time I went for a combine ride at night. I recalled numerous band trips, eating way too much, climbing in the hay mound and exploring in the granary. I thought back to tractor rides, milking cows, and the smell of the milk house – and I cried.

I cried because with that unexpected phone call Tuesday morning, it feels as though my childhood has officially said goodbye. I am blessed to say I was close with my grandparents, closer than most people I know – and nearly every good memory or friendship I have from my youth involves them or that place in some way. And now, with the passing of my grandpa, it feels as though the part of me that still felt like a kid every time I saw him, has died along with him. A true and unavoidable part of life to be sure, but a sad one; and as I rode those 16 miles amongst familiar corn fields and farms, it was a losing of innocence I guess I just wasn’t ready for.

I didn’t see it coming. I was mowing my yard on Saturday night, just thinking through my sermon for Sunday morning. I operate that way. Sunday through Saturday night, and then the whole thing starts over again. So as I often do, I put on my headphones, turned up the ball-game, and reflected on recent events, and prayed and planned for some future. I had seen my wife and son outside and wasn’t paying much attention, but as I pulled around to the front of our house, I first saw it. My son. My precious little 4 year old-about-to-start-school-this-week-boy, pedaling a bicycle that only had two wheels instead of the customary four.

It’s not like I hadn’t tried to see this before. I had bought him a new bike, taken the training wheels off right away, and spent the better part of an afternoon trying to convince him what I could plainly see. He could do it! If only he could get past his fear. On that day he could not, and so the training wheels went back on, and the matter seemed closed, if only for a while. Just last Sunday, I mentioned to some friends that we might give it another shot before the snow flew, but I wasn’t going to force anything like I tried to the first time.

If only I had known how much life would change in one short week. Two days later, my grandpa would be gone. Two days after that, my childhood joined him. Then, in another two days, God revealed to me how childhood’s keep on coming, and grandparents keep on giving. Zeke’s grandma and grandpa rushed right out to be a part of this monumental event, and a night I know he’ll remember someday.

And I… I didn’t see it coming – this week of goodbyes and bike rides – a week that reminded me how precious life is and can be – and that when hurt comes to steal, kill, and destroy – hope is never too far behind.

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