I was wasting a little time on the internet and came across an obituary for my grandfather. My grandfather died January 26, 2009. He had been in and out of the hospital repeatedly during the last two years of his life and was not well. In the final two months he contracted a staph infection that the doctors were not able to treat. Those last couple of months were hard on him physically. They were especially tough on my grandmother. I know that she wanted to be by his side the entire time. But living in a hospital room and sleeping on a pull out chair is tough once you get older. My uncles all live nearby. And so they would all take turns sitting with grandfather each night – just to make sure that he was never alone and was always cared for. But that was so tough for them too. They all work full-time jobs. Staying up at night then working, whew.
I knew all this was going on when I came to visit him for the last time. I was living in Memphis at the time and we (my wife and children) made the trip to Huntsville to see him, knowing that it would probably be the last time. I remember sitting in the room with him. I remember sitting in there with my grandmother and us talking to him. In a loud, yet loving voice she said, “George, it’s Jeremy. He’s here with his family to see you.” He was in and out, and barely able to talk. As I held his hand for that last time, the only thing I remember him saying that I could understand was “please pray for me.” I did, a lot. Some of those prayers weren’t answered though. He’s waiting to see a couple more of his great-grandkids that he never got the chance to meet in person.
But you know what I remember most . . . a white piece of paper taped on the wall with different names on it and dates next to their names. I remember asking my grandmother what that was. She told me that for the past three weeks, men from their Church family had volunteered to come and stay the entire night with my grandfather to help take some of the pressure off of my uncles. These were men with jobs and families of their own. My grandmother is not an emotional woman – at all. But her voice quivered and her eyes teared as she told me about those men and called each of them out by name to me.
I have rarely seen unconditional and sacrificial love like. I am so grateful for those men. They had an opportunity to be Jesus for my grandfather and grandmother. And they didn’t miss it. Just as importantly, they had an opportunity to show Jesus to my family – many of whom don’t know Him. And they didn’t miss it. Thinking back to that experience reminds of what Jesus told his disciples on the Mount of Olives, days before he was to die.
“But when the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit upon his glorious throne. All the nations will be gathered in his presence, and he will separate the people as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will place the sheep at his right hand and the goats at his left. “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the creation of the world. For I was hungry, and you fed me. I was thirsty, and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger, and you invited me into your home. I was naked, and you gave me clothing. I was sick, and you cared for me. I was in prison, and you visited me.’ “Then these righteous ones will reply, ‘Lord, when did we ever see you hungry and feed you? Or thirsty and give you something to drink? Or a stranger and show you hospitality? Or naked and give you clothing? When did we ever see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ “And the King will say, ‘I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!’ – Matthew 25:31-40.
That moment reminded me never to miss an opportunity.