Thirty of us, ranging in age from 16 to 80, crowded in the tiny room, ignoring the posted hospital rules that clearly read “three visitors at a time.” We had all gathered at the last minute because of the man who lay in the hospital bed. The day before, the doctors had thought that after years of medical problems, his time was finally up. But then he had regained some of his strength, and now he had called us all together so that he could talk to us. The hospital staff were graciously overlooking our disregard for the rules. After all, it’s not often that a patient’s siblings, children, and grandchildren all come to see him at once.
Remarkably alert for the first time in days, my grandpa was in preaching mode. And I don’t mean a condescending, lecturing kind of preaching that this might imply. Grandpa has always had a passion for teaching, sharing wisdom, and sharing his heart with those who would listen.
“How does one enjoy life?” he asked. “My father believed that anything fun was wrong. In a way he was most happy when he was suffering, but I think that God means for us to enjoy life, and I want to talk about the best way to do so. Where do we get joy? Does it come from partying and living wildly like the world tells us? No, it doesn’t take long to realize that is just another way of making yourself miserable.”
“Is joy hitting a home run?” he said, looking at my cousin who plays baseball. “I’ve found that I get the most joy out of doing the things I am good at, but not just doing them for their own sake. It’s when you realize that God gave you your talents and abilities, and you do everything for His glory, that you really feel joy.”
He went on to talk about having Christ as the center of your life, how he hoped that each of us would have that true joy that only Jesus gives. My rough paraphrase makes it sound cheesy, but it wasn’t. My grandpa, a man on the verge of death, was sharing his heart with us. It was beautiful and powerful in a way that I can’t put into words.
I know that when my grandpa says things like “God is faithful,” he is not just being trite. Born and raised in a missionary family in Cuba, he was forced to flee to Costa Rica in the late 50’s after he spoke out against Castro. His first wife had died, and he had to leave his three sons behind in Cuba with his brother. He said that he felt incredibly alone and hopeless during that time. “I felt as if everyone and everything I had loved had been taken from me.”
Fifty years later, my grandpa has a loving wife, four sons, and 14 grandchildren. He runs a ministry that helps train pastors in Latin America. He has seen sorrow, but has also lived a life full of joy. He has 80 years of experience that let him really mean it when he says “God is faithful,” and enable him to assure us, even while he suffers from fresh medical problems that leave him weak and in pain, that devoting your life to Christ really is worth it.
All these thoughts and more were passing through my head while my Grandpa spoke to us in that crowded hospital room. I couldn’t stop crying, and as everyone was filing out of the room grandpa called me over to him.
“Why are you crying?” He reached up and put his hand on my cheek. ”I love you very much.”
“I love you too,” I choked. “ I don’t know, it’s all just so sweet.”
He smiled at me. “Well, maybe you can write up a little article about it.”