Almost all of my great memories involve my papaw Larry. God intertwined our lives from the very beginning. We shared the same spirit and the same dispositions. He taught me his love of woodworking and airplanes and showed me how to use God’s gift of encouragement. He was a constant teacher and mentor even in the most unusual of moments.
As the youngest of his four granddaughters I came along in his retirement phase and stuck around long after the other three granddaughters. Truthfully, I can’t think of a day that went by that I didn’t see my papaw Larry while I lived at home. All my school papers about my hero and the most influential person in my life were always about him from the time I was a little girl. I saw something special in him and he saw something in me.
During my first grade year there was a bump in the road: I almost lost him. He went into congestive heart failure on the Monday before Thanksgiving. It was clear at that time that he was in dire condition and needed a heart transplant. On December 3, he was transported 3 hours away to St. Louis.
He started out in the ICU, where little kids weren’t allowed because of the risks of carrying germs. I ached to see him! My little heart was so scared to be at the hospital but my childhood fear wasn’t bigger than my longing to see my papaw. I’ll never forget the sweet nurse who snuck me in to his ICU room. I was overwhelmed with all the tubes and machines, yet I found a peace because I saw my papaw Larry.
Days went by as caring nurses and doctors worked diligently to get him stabilized. Christmas was fast approaching and the thought of spending it in the hospital was a hard pill for my grandmother to swallow.
Most of my grandmother’s days were spent by my papaw Larry’s bedside, praying and willing him to live. God heard her prayers even when the path looked grim. He heard them every moment and he taught her through them. Eventually Christmas came and together my siblings sat on my papaw Larry’s hospital bed to receive our unwrapped cabbage patch dolls my grandmother had managed to purchase for us. We were delighted. My grandmother cried at the thought of Christmas being merely one gift, left unwrapped, given at a hospital bedside. As kids, we didn’t think anything about it. My day was complete and joyful because I got to see my papaw Larry and mamaw Buddy after going weeks without them. It was a precious Christmas.
Shortly after Christmas, on December 31, my papaw was stable enough to return home as he waited for his new heart. On February 5, 1992, he got the call and received his new heart. It was a surprisingly short recovery time with years of anti-rejection medication and doctor visits to follow. He lived 19 years and 7 months with this precious gift that a young woman’s family in St. Louis offer to him.
The extra time our sovereign God saw fit to grant my papaw Larry was a blessing and he never took it for granted. He lived each day giving and serving others with the love of Christ. He regularly went out proclaiming the gospel to others in his quiet, loving, and introverted way. He wasn’t a loud evangelist but God used him. He wasn’t a preacher, but God shepherded and loved through him.
In those next 20 years, I learned so much from my papaw Larry. I learned about the sovereignty and might of God. I learned to love others by his example of displaying Christ’s love to others. He was never too busy to love anyone who was in need and he so clearly saw their need through the prompting of the Spirit. I can’t think of him without thinking of Micah 6:8; “And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.”
Those months may have been short but the lessons were long lasting. God instilled in me an understanding for loving and fighting for your husband through prayer. God revealed that the legacy of family is more important than the way a moment looks. He taught me that even though my papaw didn’t deserve to have healing, that happened to be the answer this time. I learned to trust God because even in the darkest of moments he is the only light for my path.