This week I have found my mind wandering back to the day that my grandfather died. My grandfather Mardoqueo Picazo, known as Mardy, or Grandpa, was a great man. He was a US Navy WWII veteran, broadcast engineer, minister, missionary, and radio personality among many other things… As I sit here, I don’t think I can properly write down all his accomplishments. Instead I’ll tell you about his role as Grandpa.
I remember sitting on his lap when I was very young, listening to his deep rumbling voice as he read stories to me. I remember him sitting at the head of the table at meal times. He had a rule that when us grandchildren were done eating, we had to come over to his chair and ask permission to leave the table. Looking back, I can see it was an excuse to get an extra hug and kiss before we ran off to play our own games.
I remember the sparkle in his eyes, the amused smile. His love of corny puns and jokes. His warm hugs.
I remember when I was fourteen, I flew from Haiti to the States to visit my grandparents and other relatives. My grandfather drove to another city to come pick me up at the airport. We drove back towards the small country town where my grandparents lived. When we were close to my grandparents’ farm, we stopped at a roadside stand to buy some fruit. My grandfather proudly announced to the lady at the cash register that his granddaughter had come from Haiti to visit him. The lady looked surprised then eyed me carefully. (Keep in mind, I was a very quiet, reserved kid.) Then she leaned towards my grandfather and whispered, “Does she speak English?” My grandfather nodded gravely and said, “She gets by.” We got in the car and he chuckled to himself. My grandfather is Mexican American and has a slight Spanish accent. I am very white and have spoken English my entire life. He thought this was hilarious.
As I think about it, my lasting impression of my grandfather was a gentle, humble man who quietly went about his days doing God’s work. No fanfare. Just quietly going about his business with a lot of humor mixed in.
At the end of my grandfather’s life, after the passing of my grandmother, he ended up spending his last weeks at my home in hospice care. We had a lot of family coming in and out during that time. I remember times of sitting with my grandfather, singing the old hymns. By that time he was not able to communicate. And so I sat and held his hand and we sang songs that we knew he would remember.
At the very end, I had the privilege of being in the room when he passed away. He was surrounded by family. My father recited the Twenty-third Psalm as he breathed his last. And I remember walking over to the corner of the room by myself, tears streaming down my face, and suddenly I was overwhelmed by the presence of the Holy Spirit. I was sobbing, hands lifted up in worship, my mouth speaking words I did not know, and I had the impression of light, even with my eyes closed.
And that is my final impression of my grandfather, and the legacy I want to live out and pass to my children and my grandchildren. May we live our lives in such a way that our passing is a Holy moment covered in the presence of the Holy Spirit.