My sister, Emily, and I were asked to speak at the funeral of our grandfather this past weekend. Our grandfather, lovingly nicknamed Granddaddy Peachy for the way he used to call us “peachy!” as babies, was a wonderful, hilarious, and Christ-loving man who suffered from Parkinson’s in the last years of his life. We were honored to speak of him to friends and family, and some have asked us to write down our words. Here is what we co-wrote. We hope it gives you perfect insight into the man our grandfather was and our love for him and that it encourages you to cherish the ones you love. We hope it brings you to the feet of Jesus and deepens your thankfulness for His faithfulness:
Tommy Fowler was a lot of things. He was a son, a brother, a World War II veteran, a husband, a father, a boss, and a friend. But we didn’t know him as any of these things. To us he was just granddaddy. Granddaddy Peachy.
We knew him as the man who came to every single one of our birthday dinners. We remember squealing and getting so excited when he walked in the house. We knew him as the hilarious granddad who lived to make people laugh. We remember this unmatched humor and wit, even in his old age. He would get in trouble for driving his motorized scooter around his nursing home too fast, and he would ride up next to women in the nursing home, wink, say, “Hey, ladies,” and drive off. We knew him as the man who hugged us tightly and always reminded us to “be good.” We knew him as the man who was forever proud of us, for no other reason than simply for being who we are. We knew him as the man who cared about us. He loved us deeply and loved us well.
But “granddaddy” was not the greatest title Tommy had. Nor was “father,” “husband,” “son,” or “boss.” His greatest title is “a child of God.” And as much as we miss him here on Earth, as much as our hearts ache for him, we are filled with a joy in knowing that he is finally able to fully feel the weight of what that title holds. We rejoice in knowing that Granddaddy Peachy is whole and with his Father whose love for him runs deeper than anything he could know on Earth.
Our granddaddy was one of the most special people in our lives. Even when his memory failed him, he never stopped asking us where we went to college and what we enjoyed doing. Even though he would only remember the answers for a short amount of time, that was enough. In gentleness, he loved and cared for people well. And for that reason, though we miss him terribly, we can’t help smiling when we picture our granddaddy standing before our Savior. We know we will see Granddaddy Peachy again, and there is no greater hope than that.
Granddaddy Peachy loved us more purely than many people in our lives ever have, and he taught us wisdom—sometimes without even knowing it. About three years ago when the two of us went to visit him in his assisted living home, he said, “Before you know it, you don’t know anything.”
And his words were true. This life is short and fleeting. Parkinson’s stole our grandfather’s mind in the last few years of his life, and through him, we’ve learned just how precious our time on Earth is, spurring us on to live more fully. It would be selfish of us to wish he were still here, because this is Earth, and Earth is painful. And how could we wish him away from heaven where we know He’s at the feet of Jesus, praising his Lord face to face?
We are confident that our grandfather is in heaven, not because of how well he lived his life or because he was baptized or took communion or went to church. Those are all wonderful things, but we know he is in heaven because he simply believed in the life and death of Jesus Christ.
And we believe alongside him that Jesus Christ, who is fully God, left His throne in heaven and humbled himself to our level because He loves us. We believe Jesus was mocked and scorned and sacrificed on a cross, allowing Himself to be the one and final sacrifice for all our sins. We owed a debt to God for our sinfulness that we could never pay, and He graciously offered Jesus as the payment for that debt. Our sinfulness formed a gap between us and God, who is perfect, and that gap could only be bridged by a perfect human life. We believe that Jesus took all our sins upon Him on the cross, died, rose again after three days, and returned to heaven where He sits at the right hand of God. He became the bridge for us.
That’s the good news that our family believes and that our granddaddy believed too. Because our family has confessed our sinfulness to God and trusted in Him, we are sure that we will go to heaven someday. And because we know granddaddy is there too, that’s why we have joy in the midst of sorrow.
There’s a worship song called “Forever Reign” that says, “You are life; in You death has lost its sting.” Those words are straight from the Bible, and they are truth. Jesus brings life in the midst of death. And though losing our grandfather is hard, it doesn’t sting quite so much because we have a hope of heaven. And we can’t wait to see Granddaddy Peachy there someday.