Sunday, Oct 3, AM: Hollywood - spoke at Hollywood Baptist Church (Rome, GA). I served as an intern at Hollywood for a year while I was in college, and have remained good friends with their pastor David Harper and many folks from their church family. They have sent mission teams up to Lake Placid a couple of times, and hope to do so again in the future. It was fun sharing with them about our ministry in Lake Placid and my experiences as chaplain at the 2010 Winter Olympic Games. I was surprised and encouraged to see my brother-in-law and sister-in-law Rob & Maria! They recently moved from Lake Placid back to GA, and they popped in for worship at Hollywood.
Sunday, Oct 3, afternoon: Hospital - met my parents for lunch, along with Rob & Maria, and Pastor David Harper & his wife Beverly. After lunch, my parents and I went to the hospital to visit my grandfather, who had become very ill. We visited with him, prayed with him, and saw other family members there. The doctors had decided that he needed to move back to ICU.
Sunday, Oct 3, PM: Hebron - spoke at Hebron Baptist Church (Dacula, GA). I served as a youth pastor at Hebron from 1992-2001. I shared with the folks there about our ministry in Lake Placid and experiences from the Olympics. I also showed a couple of the excellent videos produced recently that tell a bit of the story. One is called "Life in the Fast Lane" and the other is "God at the Games." Afterwards, I talked to many friends that I had not seen in a while, including Pastor Larry Wynn and many of the pastors & staff of Hebron. It was good to catch up, to see what the Lord is doing in their lives. Then, I went back to the hospital to visit with my grandfather until late night.
Monday, Oct 4, AM: Hospital - to the hospital with brother Greg. My aunt and my dad had both spent the night at the hospital so they could be there in case their dad (my grandfather) needed them. We all visited with him for a while, and many friends and family came by. My brother Kyle was also there all day too. Only God in His sovereignty could have worked out the details to have me in GA on these days, to be able to spend the last few days of my grandfather's life with him.
Monday, Oct 4, lunchtime: 12Stone - headed over to 12Stone Church, where a couple of guys who were in my youth ministry are now pastors. It was great catching up with Jason Britt and Ryan Britt.
Monday, Oct 4, afternoon & evening: Hospital - Our family met with a wonderful nurse who explained my grandfather's grave condition. The doctors, nurses and entire medical team at Gwinnett Medical Center provided wonderful care for him, and had been doing everything they could to help him get better. But with every day that went by it was obvious that his body was shutting down, that nothing more could be done for him. Our family cried together and then made the right decision to allow Hospice to care for my grandfather for the rest of his days, no matter how many days were left. Later that evening, after we had visited with many family & friends who came to visit, I said goodbye to Grandaddy, and told him that I loved him, knowing that this would be the last time I would see him alive on earth. But confident that in heaven I will see him again!
Tuesday, Oct 5, morning: Shorter University - my brother Kyle drove me to meet my father-in-law Eddie. Eddie had volunteered to drive me to Rome, GA so that I could speak at chapel at my alma mater, Shorter University. Shorter was where I met Kim, and we have now been married more than 16 years! It was great to see how the school has changed, and grown, and is moving forward to be a great Christ-honoring university.
Tuesday, Oct 5, afternoon/evening/night - caught an early flight from Atlanta to Charlotte, which was my connection to return home to NY. However, there was not an earlier flight to Albany, NY so I had about 5 hours in the Charlotte airport. The good news is they have free wireless internet (Atlanta airport does not) so I was able to get lots of work done, and post a few status updates. My flight arrived in Albany on time at about midnight. Then a two-hour drive home to Lake Placid. In bed by about 3:00 AM.
Wednesday, Oct 6, morning/early afternoon: LPBC office - up at regular times to get the day going and get the kids to school. Then home to rest for an hour before heading to the office at church. It was great to see that all was in order (we have a great ministry team). I got a few things done, and talked with a few people who stopped by. I talked on the phone (thankful for Verizon-to-Verizon free calling) to my dad several times during the day, and he let me know that my grandfather was not doing well. All signs seemed to indicate that he would pass away soon. At 3:30 PM, Dad called to tell me that Grandaddy had died. My emotions included: sadness, grief, and joy. I called Kim. She told Emma Grace. I drove home to tell Grant & Andy. We hugged the kids a lot. We told them how much we (and Grandaddy) loved them. We began making plans to travel to GA.
Wednesday, Oct 6, PM: Bible Study - it was good to gather with friends for a Bible study at LPBC on Wed night. We read and discussed Matthew 8 & 9, talked a lot about Jesus' ministry to people, about healing, about heaven.
Wednesday, Oct 6, late PM: Buddy Passes & Plane Tickets - thanks to some friends of friends and friends of our family, three buddy passes on Delta airlines were made available to us to help make our immediate trip to GA affordable. And Delta is one of the few airlines that still has bereavement fares available. So we purchased two confirmed seats for our youngest children, and the buddy passes were available for Grant, Kim and me.
Thursday, Oct 7, morning/afternoon: ALB airport - When our family arrived at the Albany, NY airport, we went directly to ticketing to check-in, then directly to our gate. At the gate the plane was already boarding, and when I went to the gate attendant I learned that there were only two seats available to us for standby. In other words, someone was not going on that direct flight to Atlanta. So I sent Kim with the kids on to GA. They safely arrived in ATL right on time, met up with my parents and headed toward my parents' home. Meanwhile, I was still in Albany waiting for the next flight.
Thursday, Oct 7, evening: still in ALB airport - I was a "sure thing" for the next flight to leave for Atlanta, at 5:46 PM. That is, until another flight was cancelled and all of their passengers were re-booked onto my flight. Uh-oh. After that flight left for Atlanta, I learned that there were no more flights that day. What was I going to do? The gate attendant told me that there were no available seats for the next flight - the next morning - and that the best way for him to get me to Atlanta by Friday morning was to fly me to Detroit (!) on Thursday night, then catch an early, early flight from Detroit to Atlanta. Let's go with that plan. And we did.
Thursday, Oct 7, PM: Detroit airport - After calling Kim to tell her the news ("I'm in Detroit!" "You're where? Why?") I found a good spot to watch the MLB playoffs. I made it all the way to the last inning of the Giants vs Braves game, and then the airport turned all of their TVs off - it was midnight. Had to catch the last inning by updates on my phone.
Friday, Oct 8, all night: Detroit airport - this is the third airport I've spent the night in this year, and third in my life. The first was in Washington, DC with our mission team on the way home from Nicaragua in January. The second was on my home from the Olympics I had to spend the night in Laguardia (that one took a lot of watchfulness and prayer). For this third one, in Detroit, I think I was the only non-worker who was spending the night in the airport. Lots of people looking at me strangely. Finished up a book recommended by a friend called The Race Beat. I recommend it. I had lots of Bible-reading time, lots of good worship music on the BlackBerry, lots of prayer time. I recommend that too. Finally fell asleep for a few hours, using my computer bag as my pillow (Kim's suggestion). Kind of felt like Jacob sleeping with a rock for a pillow - better than nothing, but not exactly comfortable.
Friday, Oct 8, early AM: still at Detroit airport - when you wear contacts, and you sleep in them, and you don't have saline solution (because you didn't anticipating having to sleep in an airport), when you wake up it's hard to see clearly to get to the nearest sink. After waking up a bit, I was all set to head to ATL.
Friday, Oct 8, AM: Atlanta - the plane took me from Detroit to Atlanta wonderfully, I found my parents' car that had been left for me at the airport, and cracking the code to the automatic locks I began driving to my parents' home. On the way I had a great chat on the phone with a guy who is praying about possibly planting a church in the Adirondacks at some point in the future. God is at work here. Arrived at my parents, hugged my wife, my parents and my kids, and we all prepared to go spend the day at the funeral home.
Friday, Oct 8, afternoon and evening: Tom M. Wages Funeral Home - tons of family & friends came by to visit with us. The atmosphere at the funeral home was a mixture of sadness and joy. All were sad that my grandfather had died. It's always hard to lose someone you care about and love. But there was also joy, so much so that the small kids were playing and laughing at the funeral home. They sensed that my grandfather's passing was not the end for him, just the gateway to heaven. The joy was there because we know that Grandaddy is with the Lord for all of eternity. Based on the authority of the Scriptures, the teaching of Jesus Himself and so many other passages, and based on my grandfather's faith in Jesus Christ as Lord as Savior, we have the assurance (we don't hope so, we know so) that he is with the Lord forever. If you don't have that assurance, visit this website called The Kristo. Jesus died to save you from your sins. My grandfather put his trust in Jesus as Lord and Savior - how about you?
Saturday, Oct 9, morning/afternoon: The Funeral & Graveside Service - I had the wonderful privilege to be one of the pastors preaching my grandfather's funeral. Pastor Larry Wynn from Hebron Baptist Church spoke from John 14, and talked lot about heaven. I spoke from Revelation 19, Mathew 8 & Matthew 22, talking a lot about the marriage supper of the Lamb and how my grandfather (who loved to be around family, who loved to eat, and who was deeply committed to Christ) must surely be enjoying the fellowship and food of heaven already! And then Pastor Jeff Parmer from Ebenezer Baptist Church (Dacula, GA), the church I attended through high school (and my grandfather's home church), spoke from Genesis 48 & 49 and compared my grandfather's life to Jacob. Two songs were sung, including "Amazing Grace." At the graveside, there was a military tribute to my grandfather's passing, as well as Scirpture and a final prayer. Again, there was sadness and joy. As the Bible says, "We don't grieve as those who have no hope" because our hope is in Jesus.
Saturday, Oct 9, afternoon/evening: on Grandaddy's front porch - our family gathered for food with lots of extended family and friends. Then we sat out on the front porch at my grandparents' house. My grandmother passed away 10 years ago. She and my grandfather had been married over 59 years. After she died he never remarried. He was 90 when he died. One of the things that we always did was to sit on the front porch with them, talking and laughing, and watching the kids play. A long time ago I was one of those kids! Now as we all sat there, we realized the blessing that our grandparents were to us. I mean we all knew it, but collectively we talked about it and shared our memories together. There was a lot of joy there. One interesting thing was that late in the day our youth pastor Ryan showed up. He had previously scheduled a trip from NY to GA to speak at the church my brother Greg's family attends, Chestnut Grove Baptist Church, to say "thank you" to them for bringing a mission team to NY and to share more about what God is doing here in NY. Also, Kim's sister Maria was able to come over to spend the evening with us too. So on Saturday night we all spent the night at my parents' home.
Sunday, Oct 10, morning/afternoon: traveling home to Lake Placid - our desire was to get back to Lake Placid as early as we could. We were not able to get back in time for Sunday morning worship, but Pastor Jeff Gray preached and all of our ministry leaders led, and the Lord was glorified and His Word was proclaimed! We landed in ALB, discovered we had a flat tire, called AAA (I was wondering whether to renew my membership or not, guess that question is answered!), and then headed for home. We stopped for a bite to eat, and made it home in time for me to get to a Nicaragua Mission Trip Meeting at church, and for Grant to make it to G.Y.M. youth ministry at church.
No week is ever the same - and some are more different than others. But what a blessing to know that the Lord never leaves us or forsakes us!