Saturday, January 28, 2017

A Viking Ship -- What a Way to Go!

I sat with my youngest grandson yesterday, reading another book about Vikings. I must say I’ve learned more about Vikings in the last couple of months than I had ever known. The first Viking book was fiction about a very poor family in Denmark in the early 1900s who lived on what rich folks considered to be haunted land. Eventually a Viking ship was discovered buried under a great mound on their property that changed everything. To continue his school studies, now he’s reading a more extensive book on that time era and we both were captivated with the legends of the Vikings and Raiders (BTW – we’re not talking about the football teams, though now I have a little more insight into why those team names came about).

This book is very pictorial and it opened our eyes to their living conditions. One of their great warriors had died and they were preparing him for burial. His wife was changing his clothes before they put him in the bottom of his ship. The richest Vikings would be buried with ships that were filled with clothes, weapons, furniture, horses, dogs, and even servants. The ships were then covered with earth in funeral mounds. Their beliefs were that it’s a good thing to die, because they are entering into their next life, and those objects (and treasures from their raids), people and animals they bury with them, would be there to serve and help them in the next life.

Whew! Thank goodness we believe in such a better ending from our temporary assignment on this earth to our eternal afterlife in heaven. When I saw the woman changing her deceased husband’s clothes pictured in the book, I said to Bryson, “That reminds me of the day your Papa went to heaven. Remember how Papa couldn’t sit up for so long because his back hurt him so much?” Bryson shook his head that he remembered. I continued, “Well, Papa’s nurse asked me for clothes to put on Papa to go to the funeral home in and I gave her one of Papa’s warm-up suits. She said, “You can go out now, and I’ll change him.” I said, “No, I’ll stay and help you. I haven’t seen him sitting up in a very long time, but today I can sit him up and he’s no longer in pain! Isn’t it great that Papa doesn’t hurt anymore and he’s having such a great time in heaven?”

I gave Bryson a hug and I realized, still, how much I miss that beautiful man, and wished this youngest grandson had known him as well as the older grandchildren did. Thankfully, none of us think often of those last days of Papa on this earth. We only recollect that strong, robust, brilliant, hilarious, and loving man who could do just about anything…literally. Papa was the BEST fisherman, hunter, piano player, singer, builder of houses, mechanic on cars, could fix anything, best story teller ever, and so many other talents that none could surpass him – at least not in our eyes.
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I don’t like to push memories or thoughts of my husband to the side because the best of him is in me, my children and my grandchildren. Often, we’ll talk about him and remember one of his stories or jokes or funny way of doing things – like the way he’d leave one of his favorite food bites on the corner of his plate. That’s the last bite he would eat and savor. Or the way he would put the milk in the bowl BEFORE he put the cereal in, or the way he’d want us to use our fork in one hand and the knife in the other hand to shovel the food in the fork.

Here’s the really good news. It’s okay to miss Papa (my Sweetheart) and still fully live the life God has created for me. The missing reminds me this world is not my home and that life is precious and short. Whether I live thirty more days or thirty more years, this life will be over sooner than I think. Knowing this reminds me to slow down, to live generously, to forgive often, and to love deeply – to cuddle with those who lean into me and want to talk and share about the best of times.

I am so grateful for the knowledge of knowing that Papa didn’t have to get buried with anything except the clothes we buried him in, because those clothes don’t matter. The grave doesn’t matter. What matters is, he really does have an afterlife…..actually it’s the real life that he was destined for – where there is freedom from pain and sorrow and there's eternal praises and joys forevermore. 1 Corinthians 2:9 “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no human mind has conceived -- the things God has prepared for those who love Him.” And, Papa loved Him so much, I can only imagine the afterlife he is getting to live!!!

So for now, I will embrace the memories, the sweet kisses from heaven that remind me he is probably leaning over heaven’s balconies…..cheering us on…..like he did on this earth when he tried to convince us to eat his way or hold a knife and fork like he did – saying “Ya’ gotta’ see this. Ya’ gotta’ be here. Ya' gotta' do this! It is worth the journey…..it is worth it all."