My chains are gone, I've been set free
My God, my Savior has ransomed me
And like a flood, His mercy reigns;
It's been a long and emotional week. The day that i've been both praying for and dreading for some time has finally come to pass...on Saturday I said goodbye to my Grandaddy. It's been an absolute miracle that he has even been with us this long - especially after two years ago when the doctors called us into the hospital and told us that we needed to start making "arrangements" because he wouldn't be coming home. But God had other plans. After months in a rehabilitation facility Grandaddy, although bedridden, did come home...I know that's where he wanted to be all along.
For the two years that followed, my grandmother stayed by his side day and night - often spoon feeding him three meals a day - and doing whatever was necessary to make him comfortable. No matter what condition he was in, Grandaddy would always smile and light up when one of us came in the room, but there was always a special sparkle in his eyes when he looked at his precious bride. In his last few weeks on earth, I witnessed one of the most heartwarming and heartbreaking moments of my life. Grandaddy had been having a hard time breathing, so my aunt and I were helping give him some breathing treatments. He really didn't like the mask being on his face, and he fought with us a little bit, so my grandmother had to hold his hands down while we gave him the treatment. Even as he struggled with each breath, I watched as he looked over at my grandmother, smiled through the breathing mask, and began raising his eyebrows at her...even through all of that, he was still trying to flirt with his wife! My heart wept with sadness at the pain she had to watch him endure, but it also wept with joy in witnessing a love that was still strong after 62 years of marriage. That night I finally learned what it was like to stop selfishly praying for him to stay with us, and start praying for rest for his weary body and soul. God gave me a peace that although the end was near, it was all part of His ultimate plan.
A week ago as I packed for a three day camp with my high school girls, I knew that there was a good possibility Grandaddy might not make it through the weekend. I felt so torn, wanting so desperately to be there for Grandaddy, Grandmommie, my dad and family, but also knowing that I very much needed to be there for my 18 girls that had given up their weekend to learn more about their relationship with God. I once again selfishly prayed that God would just let Grandaddy hold on until I got home Sunday night (even though I trust God, I still secretly hoped things would go how I wanted). I began to fear my cell phone, afraid to look at the caller id every time it rang that weekend, terrified that I would get "the phone call," and on Saturday Sept. 29th at 6pm, I did. Dad called just before we all went into dinner and calmly told me that Grandaddy was gone. I barely made it back to the cabin before I lost it. I sobbed for what seemed like an eternity filled with heartache over losing someone who had played such a major role in my life, and then later crying out rejoicing - relieved for the freedom I knew he had so deservingly earned.
I immediately wanted to jump in my car and come home, but Dad said to stay - and I felt my heavenly father telling me to do the same. Even though every bone in my body wanted to grieve with my family, I knew too that there was a reason I was still with my girls. We went into session that night and as I began to listen to the words of a familiar song, I found myself (along with all my amazing high school girls) jumping, smiling and yelling out these words of praise to God...When I stand in that place,
Free at last, meeting face to face;
I am yours Jesus, you are mine.
Endless joy, perfect peace
Earthly pain finally will cease
Celebrate Jesus is alive....HE'S ALIVE!!
I knew in that moment exaclty why I was not home when Grandaddy left. Had I been home, I probably would have cried and grieved and wallowed in my own self pity and selfishness of losing a great man, but God wouldn't let me. He made it poignantly clear that this was a time to celebrate...for another one of His precious children had completed his work. All praise be to Jesus!
The week that followed brought with it a roller coaster of emotions. As we planned out every meticulous detail of his memorial service, we began to go through box after box of pictures and mementos...laughing out loud at some of the funny stories that they brought to mind, and crying over some as well. I knew that I had one final act of service to complete for Grandaddy...I had to remember him at his memorial service on Saturday.
I'm a writer, by hobby and passion, however this was the absolute hardest thing I have ever had to write. I stared at my computer screen for hours, not even knowing where to begin. I'm sure it's not the most perfectly composed speech, but I think Grandaddy would have liked it...My Memorial Service Tribute to Billie James Waddy
When I sat down to write out what I wanted to say today…I got stuck. I had no idea how to even attempt to sum up Grandaddy’s life in just a few paragraphs. And then I realized, I didn’t have to. It occurred to me that everyone in this room is here because in some form or fashion, your lives were touched by this great man. We all knew and loved him, and each of us have our own unique stories we could tell about the mark he’s left in our lives. So I’d like to share a few of my favorite memories that always make me smile. (and sometimes laugh out loud) ☺
I believe that when we leave this earth, we each leave behind a legacy…something that is passed down through generations. And when I think about Grandaddy’s legacy, three words come to mind: Learn, Laugh and Love.Learn
I think of the word learn, because even my earliest of memories revolve around Grandaddy teaching me something. He was a great historian and the ultimate storyteller…both qualities that I came to appreciate more as I grew older. I can remember as a child Grandaddy loved to take us to different historical museums or battlefields, and he always threw in a story or two of his own days in the military. And I can remember in high school I had to write a paper on our family history – Grandaddy sat with me for hours going through old pictures, and stories and page after page of the family tree…he was determined that I’d get an A on that paper, and I did.
Now I don’t know if this really counts as “learning
”, but he did teach me all of the best card tricks he knew, so if you want to get stumped at a card game, come see me…Laugh
The second word that comes to mind is the one that holds the most memories for me…laugh. If you knew Grandaddy for even five minutes, you knew one thing about him…he LOVED to laugh. He was the ultimate prankster, and in fact – more times than not, when he told stories about the jokes he pulled, he would laugh at himself just as hard as the person he was telling the story to. Just the other day, Carol was telling me that when she was a teenager, Grandaddy would wait until she got in the shower, had just enough time to get shampoo in her hair, then he would sneak around the outside of the house and shut off the water...but she knew exactly who did it…and he would laugh hysterically as he heard her yelling at him all the way from inside the house. That’s just one of the many MANY prank stories we could all tell…in fact, I’m positive that if there’s a way he could play a prank on us from Heaven…he’d surely find a way to do it.
A lot of my favorite memories that make me laugh all revolve around family vacations at the lake. Grandaddy loved to camp and he loved to fish. I think that most of the time he was the only adult that was ever brave enough to swim in the muddy lake water with all of us kids. Julie and I were laughing the other day about how he could do this thing with his hands and pelt you with a squirt of water from 20 feet away. No one was safe from the aim of Grandaddy’s handmade water pistol. Inevitably at some point on the camping trip, one of us kids would get a scrape or a cut, and then it was Dr. Waddy to the rescue. He would bring out his first aid kit that he always carried around with him, and we would run and hide because we knew that whatever he put on it was going to sting. But he’d fix us up, and we’d be on our way.
There was, however, a time or two that we had to “doctor” Dr. Waddy…like the time that he and dad went out fishing in the boat, and they came back with dad’s fish hook in Grandaddy’s lip. One trip to the emergency room later, I think he was the only calm person in the entire place…including the ER nurses. He just smiled and laughed it off…not worried at all. Love
The third word that exemplifies Grandaddy’s legacy is love. When you spend enough time with a person, you begin to realize what’s most important in their lives. To Grandaddy, that was love…love for his family, love for his country, and most importantly, love for his savior. He was a dedicated veteran, active in his church, and a committed spiritual leader to his family. (Although, we could always determine how hungry he was by how long or short his blessing was over the meal.)
One of my favorite quotes says “you don’t choose your family. They are God’s gift to you, as you are to them.” I feel like God has blessed us abundantly by allowing us to be a small part of Grandaddy’s life. I will carry his love and legacy with me always.
Ecclesiastes 3 says “For everything there is a season, a time for every activity under heaven. A time to be born and a time to die. A time to plant and a time to harvest. A time to kill and a time to heal. A time to tear down and a time to build up. A time to cry and a time to laugh. A time to grieve and a time to dance.”
I believe today is a time to dance and rejoice in a glorious homecoming for a beloved child of God.
I love you, Grandaddy...can't wait to give you a big hug again one day.Billie James WaddyDecember 26, 1924 - September 29, 2007Decorated war hero, son, brother, father, grandfather, great-grandfather, loving husband and devoted man of God.