Heaven gained a grandpa yesterday morning. Grandpa Worth passed away around 7:00 Thursday morning and while he lived for 91 years on this earth, he now will live forever in heaven with Jesus where they probably don’t bother trying to keep up with your age because it doesn’t matter in the light of eternity, does it? He was my “Grandpa” even though he wasn’t my grandfather. He had a huge impact on my life and I will miss him very much.
Grandpa Worth was my mom’s brother-in-law, married to my mom’s sister Ruth for 70 years. When I was little, I spent a lot of time running around with his granddaughter Denise, who was about my age. My grandfathers had both died long before I was born so when Denise would call Worth “Grandpa,” I figured he was my “Grandpa,” too. Rather than correcting me, he told me he would be happy to be my Grandpa and for the rest of his life, whenever he saw me, he would say, “Hello, Grandson!” You might think this one story gives you a sense for the Christlike love that seemed to pour out of Worth, but it’s only the beginning.
Grandpa was a Presbyterian pastor. When I was growing up, he pastored a church in Sanford, North Carolina and some weekends my family would drive down to visit and hear him preach. I remember thinking how deep and strong his “preaching voice” sounded compared to his gentle Grandpa voice. His sermons were easy for me to understand because they always had three points to remember. His favorite theme to preach on was how much God loved us. There were many times where I got to spend the night at Grandpa’s house and I remember having a great time there. They had a little poodle that yapped a lot and now that I think about it, was probably pretty similar to the dog I have today.
When I turned 16, Grandpa got me my first set of golf clubs. From then on, every Wednesday in summer while I was in school and every Wednesday I could sneak out of the office after I was employed, I was able to play golf with Grandpa and my dad and sometimes one of my brothers. We always played as early as we could and Grandpa never took any practice swings. He would hit his ball quickly and then search diligently for any balls that previous golfers might have lost and left behind. He seemed more happy finding golf balls than he did hitting good shots. Most of the ones he found he ended up giving to me, I think, and I needed them because I lost a lot of golf balls during our rounds. We had some good conversations on that golf course through the years, looking for lost golf balls.
When I was in college, Grandpa became the pastor at the church where I grew up and still attended. When our choir director retired, it was Grandpa who came up with the idea of the church hiring me part time to lead the choir. That had two benefits: it made me come home and be in church every Sunday while I was in school when I might have otherwise stayed in bed and it gave me some income when I was barely making ends meet. I ended up having that job for over 15 years. Grandpa married my wife and I in that church and I remember one thing from the marriage counseling he did for us before our wedding. He told us to make sure we always held hands when we sat down to say a blessing over a meal because it was hard to stay mad at someone too long when you had to hold their hand. It was good advice. During the wedding ceremony, Grandpa prayed a prayer over our marriage that was so good my wife and I typed and printed it out and framed it and it is still hanging in our house today. Grandpa could really pray.
Unfortunately, in the last few years, I didn’t get to see Grandpa as much as I wanted to. But thankfully, I got to visit him Tuesday evening. We knew his time was likely short, and I wasn’t sure what to expect when I went to see him because his mind hadn’t been as sharp recently. But God was gracious and Grandpa knew who I was and we had a brief but good chat. It was difficult to understand everything that he was trying to tell me, but there was no mistaking his smile and pride when I told him that I had applied to take some seminary classes online and pursue a master’s degree in ministry. I told him that I loved him very much and his son Chip asked Grandpa to say a prayer for me. I couldn’t make out much of it, but I know that if I could have, I would want it typed and printed out and hanging on a wall in my house. I’m so glad God gave us that time together.
Grandpa loved music, also. I specifically remember two hymns that were his favorite. They both remind me of something I loved about him. “The Love of God” has beautiful language that reminds us of how God’s love is beyond our ability to comprehend just like Grandpa liked to preach about. “Could we with ink the oceans fill and were the skies of parchment made; were every stalk on earth a quill and every man a scribe by trade; to write the love of God above would drain the ocean dry. Nor could the scroll contain the whole though stretched from sky to sky.” The other, “Share Jesus with Others,” was simple and direct like Grandpa: “Share Jesus with others, He loves and can save them, too. Share Jesus with others. That’s what a Christian should do.”
Heaven gained a grandpa yesterday morning. But before he left, he taught me in both words and actions how awesome God’s love is.