These past 8 days have been an emotional roller coaster for my family and I. Last week, on Thursday morning, we were informed that my wife’s grandfather, Don Collins, had fallen off of his bed and also had developed pneumonia. He then was taken to the hospital.
At first, Erin and I didn’t think much of it because Grandpa had been doing very similar things throughout the past 9 years. But then, the texts and phone calls started to come in and they all said that this time, something might be a little different.
So, Erin and I started to pray. And do you know what it’s like when you pray and understand that everything is out of your control? It is freeing, because we know that at the end of the day, we don’t have the control that we think we really possess. This is a very good thing, because you and I make a terrible god.
Erin and I prayed, knowing that God could absolutely heal Don in a split second, but that He also could choose not to heal Grandpa, and that God would still get glory and praise from us. We continued our day, praying and doing life and business as usual. That evening, I had the honor of speaking at an awesome young adult ministry called Insite.
We went to the church and started to see old friends and new ones. 5 minutes before I was to go up and speak, we received a phone call from our cousin, David, letting us know that Grandpa wasn’t doing well, and he probably didn’t have much time. I then asked Erin if she wanted to go or if I should preach, fully ready to jump into our car and leave that minute. But Erin wanted me to preach, so I did. And I made sure that I preached for Grandpa. Grandpa would often watch many of the sermons that I posted on Facebook, and called me his pastor, so I knew that he would have wanted me to preach as well.
I taught on the Resurrection of Jesus—how we know that it is true, and what that means for mankind. I then shared an invitation to follow Jesus, and witnessed a group of young adults say yes to Him. After grabbing our kids, we drove home, packed some clothes, and drove 300 miles to L.A., hoping that
Grandpa would stay alive so that we could say goodbye.
We arrived at Arcadia Methodist Hospital at 2:30 a.m. and saw Grandpa hooked up to a bunch of machines, helping him to stay alive. We then were able to hug, kiss, and love on him for a few hours as a family. It was after that when he decided that he was ready to not hurt and suffer anymore.
The medical professionals kicked the family out of the room while they took the tubes out of Grandpa. We came back about 15 minutes later and were surprised at how happy and coherent he was. He was so happy to have his family around him, loving on him—and him getting to love on us.
After about 20 minutes, his heart started to beat slower and slower, and after he said that he loved us and that he wanted us to be happy, he closed his eyes and breathed his last breath. As a family, we stood around, cried, stayed there, and not exactly knowing what to do for what seemed like a very long time. We eventually prayed and thanked God for His grace in Grandpa’s life and the life that was so well lived by this 85-year-old father of 4, grandfather of 9, and great grandfather of 4.
During the following week, we prepared for his memorial, and had so many friends encourage us, offering their condolences. But to be honest, we were so busy that we didn’t have a lot of time to think about what had just transpired, let alone mourn.
This past Thursday evening, I was speaking at a church’s Men’s Ministry BBQ. As soon as I was done speaking, I jumped in the car, grabbed my family, and we drove down to L.A. once more. We were prepared for Grandpa’s viewing Friday night and his funeral Saturday morning.
What transpired during the viewing on Friday night was quintessential to our family. Other families went into rooms to have a viewing of their loved one’s body, and were somber and quiet. But our family, the “Collins Clan,” was loud. As many came to see Don and show their support to our family, we laughed a lot, cried a lot, and shared stories of Grandpa and all the crazy things we had done as a family over the past half century. It was very similar to the hundreds of parties that Grandpa had had at his home—noise from people laughing and talking over one another. The only thing that was missing was Grandpa, telling a story for well over an hour while playing hearts with his grandchildren.
The next morning, as we arrived at the chapel for the memorial, it started to become real. We began to see different friends and family (who we rarely see) there to pay their condolences and respect to such a great man who served his country and loved people like very few others ever had. Pastor Martin Smith took the lead, and he and I talked over what the service schedule would be like. Then we prayed and began the service.
After a welcome and a hymn, I was invited up to read 1 Corinthians 15:51-57, pray, and share about Grandpa’s life and what it means to trust Jesus with our lives. After telling a few stories about Grandpa and the amazing life that he had lived, I started to point people to Jesus, His death for our sins, His resurrection as validation of our justification before God—for those who trust Jesus and not their own moral record. Then I invited people to pray to the God Who loves them, and doesn’t want them to clean themselves up in order to come to Him, but to yield their lives to the Lord of Earth and Heaven who will accept them just as they are... if they would humble themselves and stop attempting to be their own god.
I prayed and heard family and friends share about their experience with this amazing man who loved everyone (except for the occasional telemarketer), and made you feel like part of the family as soon as you walked through his door.
Next, we witnessed him be placed next to his bride of 54 years, Elaine, in their side-by-side grave plots, as Erin led us in singing Amazing Grace. We then hugged and cried with many friends and family, and did what the “Collins Clan” does better than anything: we went to Kevin’s (Don’s youngest son) home and partied, ate, laughed, and loved on one another just as Grandpa would have wanted us to. I heard from many people that my message had touched them, affected them, changed them, or challenged them in a way that they hadn’t expected.
I cannot take credit for that since I really don’t remember what it was that I had said. But, I am thankful for the Holy Spirit who decided to use me, especially because I felt overwhelmed, under-prepared, and entirely unworthy to speak on behalf of a man who I loved and respected so much.
Ultimately, this week has been hard, emotional, challenging, and not one that I would want to repeat ever again. But feeling the closeness of God over this past week has been exactly what I needed and yearned for.
I once heard a preacher say: “I want my death to bring more people to know God’s grace than my life ever could.” And I believe that God has been doing this specifically through Don’s death, and I am so blessed by our family and the love towards one another that, honestly, is supernatural. 1 John 4:11 says: "Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.” I am so grateful for a family that understands this and practices it.
To Grandpa: You are loved, and left a legacy of those who you loved and equipped to be great parents, siblings and friends. Thank you so much for your example and love that you have personally given me. I love you, Grandpa.
If you are interested in knowing God personally, please check out this link: http://www.iamcompelled.org/gospel
and please let us know, so we can help you with next steps.