He sat in his favorite chair and shinned his shoes until he could see his reflection in them. A sure tell, tell sign he was going somewhere that required him to look his best. We stood in the door way and giggled as we watched him comb through his closet that contained hundreds of suits, shirts, and ties, all of the finest quality. We watched in awe as he put on a burgundy colored suit, white shirt, and a burgundy tie with a matching handkerchief. As he walked past us and towards the door, we followed behind him so closely that we tripped over each other trying to get his attention, like we always did.
This was a special game we played. And when the anticipation and excitement bubbled up inside of us to the point we couldn’t hold it in any long, we asked the inevitable question for the millionth time. “Granddaddy, where are you going, and can we go too?”
He smiled as he laughed, and put his forehead to ours. “I am going to see a turtle take a walk. And no, you can’t go, but one day you will.” We inhaled the scent of his cologne as he embraced us, holding on to him for as long as possible. And as he kissed us all good bye, we knew this goodbye was different, but wasn’t quite sure why.
We watched from the porch as he walked to the end of the driveway and met a man we had never seen before. We looked at each other with puzzled faces as Granddaddy greeted him with a smile as though he were an old friend. And we thought perhaps he was someone he’d played checkers with many an afternoon. Or maybe even another deacon from the church we hadn’t met before.
“Be good to each other while I am gone,” he called to us over his shoulder.
“And don’t forget to pray!” we called back to him in unison. His smile grew larger as he looked back at us, proud of what he’d accomplished.
“You have done well, my child,” we heard the stranger say as he placed his hand on Granddaddy’s shoulder. “You have taught your family the true meaning of unconditional love. And through your service in the church and in your community, you have brought joy to more people than you will ever know. Now, it’s time for you to rest, and to see the place that I have prepared for you. A place where there is no more pain, no more tears, and no more sorrow, only joy.”
We watched with heavy hearts as he walked and talked with his friend, knowing he wouldn’t be coming back this time. But as the stranger turned and smiled at us, a wave of warm feelings washed over us and we knew everything would be okay.
We took comfort in his words, knowing that one day, we too would get to go and see that turtle take a walk. And hopefully find Granddaddy and his friend there waiting for us, with open arms. Saying, “You have done well, my child. Now come and see the place I have prepared for you, where there is no more pain, no more tears, and no more sorrow, only joy.”