On Loss and Pain

This morning I was lying in bed when I heard the phone ring. I was still lying in bed when Jud came in and told me that my grandfather Bragg had passed away. And I wept.

I didn’t know my grandfather the way some of my cousins did. I didn’t know him the way my kids know their Poppy. I didn’t know a lot of things about him, but I knew I loved him and that he loved me, even though it took him years to say those words instead of “Same-o, Same-o”.

I knew he was brave. I knew he was a hero. I knew he’d spent years of his life fighting back the forces of evil during WWII. He’d fought bravely from his B-26 Marauder. This interview is a helpful reminder of his experience, although his memory isn’t quite perfect (wish they’d have taped this about twenty years earlier) it is wonderful to have even these moments caught forever on film. He was never flashy about any of it. He never talked about being a hero or about the grand scheme of salvation that he participated in. He just talked about people – the men who fought with him, the ones who didn’t make it back and the ones who came to the reunions each year (and how they were wrong about this detail or that one, none of us really knowing who had any of it correctly locked into their mind).

I knew he loved his children – Mary, Clyde, Tom, Ann, David and Rick. You could hear how proud he was of them when he told you about the things they were up to – nursing in hospitals, earning degrees, serving in the military like he had.


I knew he loved their mother, but not because he told me. I knew the story of how he lost her to cancer when I was very young and how he nearly gave up living without her there to keep him going. I knew that the two of them had worked so very hard to make ends meet – the long hours, the time spent sacrificing, the stories about smelling of jell-o and the jokes about how we were buying certain cereals to keep his retirement money flowing. I knew about the big house in Greenwood, right next to the funeral home that I only faintly remember – a woven rug, a screened in porch, some cobwebs in a corner.

I knew he loved the woman I called Nana. She always looked so frail to me but she was feisty and fiery in a way I suspect my grandmother was not. I knew he respected her opinion and liked to get her riled up. I always loved how she would finish a conversation by proclaiming “That’s right!” and watching Grandad’s eyes twinkle when she did it.

I knew he loved ice cream and sharing it with the dogs. I knew he loved planting a big garden and I loved eating squash. I knew he was good with engines and cars and kind of figured he would die driving around in the “Ding-a-Ling” but figured he’d be happy to go that way. I knew he liked watching baseball and panning for gold, that fish that sang and repeating the same jokes he has since I was a child. <a

When I was in elementary school, maybe third grade or so, I started writing to him about spiritual things, asking him if he might be interested in placing his faith in Jesus Christ. He didn’t write back and he didn’t visit Hickory Ridge Congregational on Easter, like I had hoped he would. But I am sure that he would want you all to know this now; that eternal life isn’t something you earn by being good enough, not even by being a hero in this life. He’d want you to know that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Imagine if you had liver cancer and I offered to give you my good liver and take on your cancerous liver. I would die in your place and you would live. That’s what Jesus did when He died. He took on our sin and paid our penalty so that we could get His goodness.

Ephesians 2:8-9 tells us that we can be together with God in heaven forever if we trust in what Christ did for us. We don’t have to earn it at all, in fact, we can’t earn it. We get God’s grace only by believing in Him. Our sinfulness here on earth has disqualified us from being in the presence of Perfection and without Christ we have no reason to be pardoned for the wrong that we have done. But though Christ we can not only be freed from the guilt of sin but we also are credited with God’s goodness.

I know he’d want you to know too.

I hope that he knows how much we already miss him. I hope that he knows how much we loved him. And I hope.

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    • Sarah T.
    • May 22nd, 2011

    Will definitely be praying for you this week!

  1. Kim– that was so beautifully written. I love you, friend.

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