My father’s father was often told to be a bitter man. I’d heard that he was often aggressive even abusive and if the chores weren’t done right, fear encompassed the home farm. My young age kept me from ever knowing him, I was two years old when he passed. People often ask me if I remembered him, I don’t I’m afraid, yet I find myself thinking of him often. When I was in 7th grade we watched a video from 1992, the year I was born, about the tornado that hit town that year. In the video a man started talking. His face was so familiar, but I didn’t and couldn’t place it until a name popped up below the clip. “Dale Blader” it said. I paused. That’s my grandpa. I stared at the screen and a tear welled in my eye. I’d never heard him speak or move and here he was, almost alive.
His death was a tragic one; he had a heart attack out on the combine one afternoon and no one found him until later in the day. My uncle found him I believe. The struggle of his pain was evident though. I’d only heard of the incident a few times and no one really said much else about it.
As I’ve been learning more and more about my family’s history with faith I began to wonder how my grandma who professed her faith even before getting married ended up with a man who seemed to be so far from God. This Thanksgiving a beautiful story was revealed to me. Grandpa Dale went to church regularly, but my grandmother always questioned whether he’d actually believed in Christ. He had gone his whole life, but never lived a life that seemed impacted by the gospel. My grandma’s heart was good with the Lord and was convinced that he was not. Religion to him was just something he did under the belief that works like going to church is what saves you and takes you home. After his death, her heart was disturbed to think he’d died without ever turning to Christ. This probably saddened her a lot. She said only once had she ever seen him read the word, and when he did there were tears streaming down his face. Her turmoil must have impacted her even to the point of sharing her distress with her family.
After time had passed, my great uncle Fred, a very godly man, had a dream to share with my grandma. It was of the day my Grandpa Dale had the heart attack out on the combine, struggling for life. It was in the moments before death that he called out Jesus name and died. Home to heaven, home to Christ he went.
God knows what it takes to win us over to himself. I often wonder how many people come to know Christ in those very moments. I’d reckon it’s a lot more than people think. Even in death, there is hope.