I wrote this for Easter 2009. It got the most responses of all the columns I’ve written. And the response I remember most was the woman who said “Now you go and let Poppa pray for you.” Which I did. (Pictured is Poppa’s easy chair).
My step-father is dying. He is under hospice care for advanced prostate cancer. We are grateful for the wonderful people at Washington Regional Hospice.
He came to Fayetteville with my mother four years ago. God bless grandparents. With three preschool boys, my wife and I were outnumbered. When the third was born, we went from a man-to-man to a zone defense. But grandparents have tipped the scale back in our favor. Of the grandfathers, “Poppa” has been there for my sons since the day they were born.
Last week I took each boy to see Poppa. One at a time I brought them in and sat them in his lap. They told him about their day at school. They told him about superhero underwear, SpongeBob and McNuggets. And though I had to prompt them, each one said, “I love you, Poppa!” And he held them tightly and said “Poppa loves you too. Poppa will always love you.”
I said to each boy “Would you like to pray for Poppa?” And they did. And there is nothing more profound than the simple prayer of a child.
But then something happened that I did not expect. Something that had not happened before. Poppa prayed. Poppa prayed for each of my sons. He prayed that they would know how loved they are. He prayed that they would grow big and strong. He prayed that they would be Godly men.
Yes, they eventually began to fidget. But not me. I was spellbound. As the littlest one ran out of the room to go play computer games, he said “Deeda, it wooks wike you are crying.”
Poppa is under many different medications. And we do not know if the cancer has spread into his brain. But as Poppa prayed for my sons, I knew I was on holy ground. His words came from another place, as though he was speaking to us across a sacred veil. From his frail body came words of life and love and hope. Heaven opened and shined upon us as we heard Poppa’s prayers.
Today Poppa is confused and restless. And as I prepare for four Easter services, I can’t help but think about Poppa. We’ve heard the Easter story many times. But sometimes the miracle of Easter happens right in front of us. Love, irrepressible, even in the face of death. A supernatural moment in a brown easy chair. Easter is still happening. Thank you Poppa. We will always love you, too.