We are mourning the passing of Dad, a husband to one wife, fondly called Pop and Grandpa. People knew him as Bit Harris. His given name at his birth is not important right now. People bought a car from Bit, not the name on his birth certificate. That’s what he did for a living…he was a self-employed car dealer that people could trust.
He laughed a lot with his sons and spoiled the grandkids. The yard and shrubs were always groomed with perfection and he kept the backyard swimming pool sparkling for weekend family fun, birthday parties, and ready as a vacation haven for out-of-town relatives.
He rarely slept apart from his wife expect for the last week of his life. There were a few weeks apart during short stays in a nursing home for physical therapy, but I’m not counting those weeks. That last week occurred when he moved into the bed provided by Hospice. Even then he asked his sweet wife if there was room for two in that bed.
What they had going for them was long-suffering and a commitment to each other for better and for worse. What I find most significant is the most gracious and merciful woman who was his wife for close to 69 years and the mother to their six rowdy boys. The one that managed their household and kept their lives steady all the while working full-time for thirty years or more to help support the family. She is a saint! She is a role model for me.
Their marriage was not perfect by a long shot. All of us that are married will admit that marriage requires hard work and a lot of forgiveness and grace. The kind of grace that is desperately needed and should have been asked for years earlier. You can’t ask for something when you don’t know what you don’t know. Bit didn’t know what he needed.
Somewhere along the way, God arranged a meeting between Bit and a Pastor named Jack. There were a lot of pastors along the way that may have tried to have influence in Bit’s life, but Jack was different. Jack was a friend that accepted Bit “warts and all” with plenty of messes and dysfunctional stuff that every family has…and many are afraid to admit for fear that they would be rejected. Soon after meeting with Jack on a regular basis, Bit learned what he didn’t know…God’s love and grace for him.
I once wrote a post about a rhythm of cluttered memories in their home. All of the clutter of things kept for years, each holding a special story and memory. Like the small white wooden stool that my husband’s grandfather used to sit on while fishing in a pond with his grandson, my husband.
It’s the small things that become the big things in memories. Such as every year one of the boys or grandkids would give Pop another dancing Santa or some other animated Christmas toy that everyone found ridiculously silly and belly laughed with each flip of the switch to make it light up or dance or make a rude noise or say words that only boys could appreciate. Last week, one of the sons bought a new Santa toy, expecting Pop to laugh one more time. Batteries were never put in so it was never turned on and never danced, but it was left in a memorable place.
It’s also the big things of God using small happenings in the heart of Bit that will leave an etched memory, too. I began to notice a God size change in the life of Pop (that’s what I liked to call him) when he would drive with his wife more than an hour every Sunday morning to hear Jack preach and to be with new friends in this church community. He started reading the bible every day, too. I noticed his consistency and daily routine to have a personal devotion first thing in the morning before breakfast was served and there was no more coffee in the pot.
For that precious saint of a wife and caregiver for years, the first night alone could possibly be the hardest following the death of her spouse, after living together for nearly 69 years. But I suspect it will be living alone through the months and maybe years that will bring back the small things, those memories, once forgotten and buried by time, to the surface to be relived and clasped tightly to.
God is in all of that. She has been a giver for so many years and humbly kept going by the grace of God. He will forever keep pouring more grace into her life.
I think this quote by Ann Voskamp (A Holy Experience) is a wonderful closure for this story. We are experiencing abundant joy and wonderful peace this Christmas season.
“He did not abandon you in the ultimate storm of your soul. He will not abandon you in the immediate storm of your now.” -Ann Voskamp