Yesterday morning, my grandfather Albert Freyer joined the church triumphant. I say it that way for a lot of reasons, but maybe most pressingly because my grandfather spent his entire life showing me and those around him what the kingdom of God really looked like. He was full of love, and compassion, and grace, and mercy. He loved God. He loved his family. He loved life.
Just look at this picture above, which documents four generations of Freyer men all together. We took 5 or 6 of these pictures, and absolutely could not get Pap to look at the camera. He was smitten with Josh and Julian. He was so excited about new life, about the joy that these boys represented, that smiling for a cheesy photo seemed pointless. Classic Bert.
As the day went on yesterday, I remembered a few scenes from my life where Bert was a central player. I remembered when I was a little kid, and Bert drove me to swimming lessons. I hated going under the water, so on this particular day I hid in the locker room instead of going out to the pool to take my lesson. Pap came in and sat next to me on the bench really quiet for a bit, and then told me something I've carried with me forever. "Anybody can do the hard stuff, the impossible just takes a little longer." I was a crazy happy swimmer ever since.
I remembered when a high school band trip took us through South Carolina where Pap and Grandma lived. I met up with them with some friends, including a girl I liked but was far too nervous to ask out who would eventually become my wife. He offered to buy her hot chocolate. Did he know? Probably not. If nothing else was happening in this story, he was simply a kind man who loved a good bit of hot chocolate.
I remember one Friday morning having slept over at their house, and when I woke up Pap was in a full suit and tie, getting ready to go to church. I kind of sleepily noted that it was Friday, and not Sunday, so why on earth was he going to church? Pap quickly shot back "I figure if God doesn't take a day off, neither should I!"
This world is so much worse off without him than we may ever know. But I am comforted by two incredibly important truths: 1) We will indeed see Albert Freyer again in our Father's house, where I can only assume he is already hard at work fixing up with a trusty Craftsmen drill, and 2) He lives on in me, my family, and I think even my boys. The other day one of the swings we put Josh in was stuck on something, and I looked at him and said "You're the broken wheel on the stagecoach of progress." Another classic Pap line. They're a part of me in a way I don't think I could separate. He taught me how to love people, being married to an awesome woman for 68 years, and proving that the amount of love a person can have for another does not diminish with age. He taught me how to be brave and be strong, even when you might have to go underwater for a little bit. He taught me how to be supportive, showing up to as many band and orchestra concerts as he could to hear me play (even when I was really really bad). And he taught me how to love God, to give my all for Him, and to share that love with the world around me.
I am the man I am today because of Albert Freyer. He will be deeply and sorely missed.