I had an unfortunate reason for driving down to Tallahassee, Florida last weekend. My grandfather passed away but you know, it wasn’t really a dose of bad luck like the word ‘unfortunate’ would lead you to believe. He was 91. He lived a long time and got to see the next 3 generations of Wilders. He was married for over 60 years and was a romantic even till the last moments. My dad told us how, the day before he died, Pop kept saying “I love you more than yesterday, but less than tomorrow.” That’s what he always told Mom Mom. He loved her. And not like the love that we often hear about today in the news and stuff. Here today and gone tomorrow. It was love, the kind that lasts through wars. Through distance. Through time. What an amazing privilege to not only see that, but be a result of that. He might be right in line with God on this one because in Psalms it says that God’s love endures forever. Seems like Pop’s love for Mom Mom was that kind of forever love.
So the whole weekend was more like a celebration of a long life, well lived. A lot of tears, but a celebration still. And if there is such a thing as luck, then I feel lucky, and always have, that Pop was my granddad. I remember in junior high feeling sorry for my friends because I had the best grandparents. It seemed unfair. It was a feeling of compassion for my friends, and excitement of being in the Wilder family. We are proud. And with Pop’s passing, I think our pride grew stronger, actually. I can speak for my brother and sisters, we are so proud to be Wilders.
While I was driving the 8-hour trip from Nashville, I thought about Pop, memories of Monticello, and growing up. Sometimes I couldn’t help but cry it out. I pretty much went straight to the hospital and had a chance to see and talk to Pop the day before he died. Sitting there with him and Mom Mom. Talking. Reading Isaiah 40. Crying (I thought I got all of that out in the car!). But these are memories I won’t soon forget.
Like the gigantic rainbow the morning after Pop died. The funny breakfast conversation with Mom Mom about relationships and breakups and her saying “Well, you know all about that.” Soccer in the park. A jungle gym pull-up contest with my brother and brother-in-law. Working on Pop’s memorial tribute video (and that’s Pop singing in the video!). Driving his truck. Seeing my oldest friends. Helping with the funeral program. Talking about our favorite Monticello memories, like getting our first beagle. My dad letting me have his warm Coast Guard jacket, which I already love. Peeing in the backyard at the same time as my brother-in-law and dogs, like the exact same time. The circus.
The kindness of friends and neighbors bringing over so much food. Regret of not spending the night with Mom Mom the night Pop died. My sister Shannon playing a verse of “I Have Decided To Follow Jesus” on the piano at the funeral. And the way she always sits up straight on the last note.
Realizing I’m not as good as Pop was. How proud Pop was of my dad, and my dad’s career in the Coast Guard. Pop’s awesome picture with Mom Mom on the beach (on the right). People commenting that I walk just like my dad. My new “2013 National Championship” hat. Taking Pop’s Epiphone guitar back to Nashville.
All of these things will be remembered. But even today, a week later, it doesn’t seem real.
“Do you not know? Have you not heard?
The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom.
He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak.
Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall;
but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary,
they will walk and not be faint.”
Isaiah 40: 28-31
-Out of the Wilderness