Toward the beginning of the book of Isaiah, he writes, "In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord." In different Bible studies, it has been mentioned how dear and beloved King Uzziah was to the people of Israel. For much of his life, he walked with God, followed his statues and brought the people to back to the Lord. I always find it interesting, though, how the Israelites 'following God' is largely dependent on their leader. If the King followed God, so did the people. If he didn't, well...most of the time, they didn't either.
A year ago at this time, my family was preparing to say good-bye to our patriarch - my grandfather, Joe Kremer. He battled kidney failure for three years. He was a fighter and probably one of the toughest men I have known. A year ago about this time, he suffered a stroke on a Friday morning and on Wednesday afternoon, God called him home.
In the year since Grandpa passed, my life looks very different than a year ago, but with all changes, they came incrementally. I can say, though, that in this year without Grandpa, I have seen and tasted the Lord. A year ago, God woke me up in the early hours of the morning with the words for Grandpa's eulogy. They just came to me, and I wrote them out. In so doing, I realized this great truth. I had often wondered why God hadn't allowed Grandpa to go earlier, before the suffering, before becoming confined to the house, then to a bed, and finally the nursing home. Grandpa said he was ready. Even if he was, we weren't.
In the days before Grandpa died, I battled a range of emotions - knowing that he should go but not wanting him to be gone. Selfish as it may be, he was the rock of our family. He was a good man, of great integrity, strength and courage. His passing would leave a great chasm and leave our family forever changed.
Jesus said that in order for a kernel of wheat to grow, it must first be buried in the earth and die. For life to come, there must be death. Proverbs says that if you train a child in the way that he should go, when he is old he will not depart from it. For our family to see the true effects of my grandpa's life, he had to go. His passing left an emptiness, but also created an opportunity. Each of us has the chance to rise up and take our place around the family table. It has been so neat to see this happen. We are a diverse family and spread across this country, but we are united by love.
Yesterday, was the feast of the body and blood; the celebration of the Eucharist in the Catholic church calendar. I recalled what my aunt Mary said at Grandpa's wake; as she wrestled with questions about Catholicism, Grandpa would answer that yes, the church was not perfect, but we have the Eucharist, the cup of life. She found great comfort in his words. As I took my first communion earlier this year, those words rang in my head. I was reminded of them again, yesterday. Sharing in the Eucharist helps me feel connected to the Body of Christ, the Church - and all those past and present. I miss my Grandpa, but I find such comfort knowing that he is part of the 'great cloud of witnesses' - the communion of saints - cheering on, encouraging, and praying for his heirs running the race on earth.