Saturday, May 16, 2009

They buried him today ...

My great-uncle Ralph Rupp ... they buried him today.

And I wasn't there. I wasn't there with Mumma to take pictures, share memories, hugs, tears, laugh and cry, sing and listen, watch and store it all away for years later. I wasn't there to comfort and encourage.

And to be totally honest ... today was a happy day. I worked hard on my school, listened to some dobro music, checked my e-mail, talked to the dog, practiced piano, made dinner, washed dishes ... but I didn't want to write this post. I put it off - until now... because even though it's the next morning, really, it has to go up.

It has to. Because if I can't be there and pay tribute, I can at least write what I could never say anyway. I have to honor the Lord by giving praise for a very Godly man who has inspired my heart. I can't say we were close. I can't say that I knew him so terribly well, my closest memories are from last year's February visit and this past April for my grandma's 90th birthday. I can't tell lots of stories ... but I can tell you that I loved my great-uncle Ralph anyway. He was special, dear to my heart, prayed for, thanked for, praised-God for.

I knew when I said goodbye in April that it would be the last time. I expected him to go see Jesus soon ... but I didn't expect the pain that would hit my heart when he did. Because I was not even close to him; I was just a great niece! But hit me it did. We heard Sunday morning, I only made it through half of the songs before crying, and actually having to leave the sanctuary. Since then, I have tearfully thanked God for Uncle Ralph, and prayed for his family, and his sister... my Grandma Florence. I knew it would hit her hard too, God be praised, I believe she is doing better than I ever hoped for.

Wednesday I had to look at the pictures from April, because I wanted to send some to his children, my Mom's cousins. It hurt. No, let me be honest. It hurt a lot. I sat in front of the computer and felt like my chest was caving into my heart, and it surprised me again ... that it really hit me this much! I am pretty sure it is from our visit in April. I called Mumma in to see them, and when we talked later that night, we both agreed how hard that was to see.

Because when I can hear him say "Hi there!", and the feel of his hand in mine, the sound of his breathing, the winks he sent my way, the feel of his stubbly cheek against my kiss, the way his eyes would sometimes hold mine, and his voice say "Love you too"... when I can remember it all so clearly, when I can't believe it wasn't today ... it hurts to know he isn't here anymore.

I want to be honest again ... not only did I not want to write this post all day, I didn't want to think about what to write. And so I didn't (sort of). I didn't want to have to write more than what I felt. Or think of better ways to say it less. I just wanted the pictures to show you. And they are not perfect pictures ... sometimes people weren't smiling, some didn't even know I was clicking away, and although it is hard to realize it ... most of you won't think they are anything special.

But they are. Because they contain in the very small and insignificant details, the last memories I hold with my Great-Uncle Ralph. They are wonderfully special to me.

My Grandma seeing Uncle Ralph arrive for her 90th birthday party.

It didn't hit her until this moment that he was here. She is saying - "OHH!" in surprise and joy as he reaches to hug her. He was her last surviving sibling, and they were very close.

He says "Hey there, Sis".
Aunt June (his wife) and Uncle Ralph.

Listening to the reading of Grandma's birthday cards.
A gentle smile.


Some smiles between brother and sister.

A glance toward the camera, and a request for a picture "With me holding her hand".

And so I took it.

Quiet sitting, side by side.

The next part of the story ... that not only do I maybe not want to share with you ... I didn't want to share with anyone. Because I don't know if I could stand it if someone said it didn't matter. But I'm sharing it anyway ... and I am also sharing some of what I wrote to U. Ralph's son, with some of these photos, in explanation of the pictures. I do hope he does not mind that I share this, if he does, I will remove it.
"Hi ____ I'm sorry for the ones with Grandma Florence not smiling...for a lot of that time, she simply wasn't that coherent or "together", so she wasn't smiling much. I figured just having the pic with Uncle Ralph in it made the other things not matter. I almost didn't send you my very favorite shots, just because the story...the story is so special to me. The story in the pictures. And I want everyone to see that, and nothing else. Because they were too special and dear that I couldn't bear anyone not understanding or liking them.

The story of picture # 836: It was raining outside of Fairlawn...cold rain. Uncle Ralph and Aunt June were heading home, and I chased my mom (Mary Ellen) and Grandma Florence down so that she could say goodbye to U. Ralph. Because of the rain, we had draped a thick blanket over U. Ralph, completely covering him inside (tent- like), U. Ralph had lifted the side to peek out and return my goodbye. My mom and Grandma Florence came up, and even though everyone was in a hurry, I knew that Grandma and U. Ralph both would need this.

We pulled the blanket back, Grandma had no idea what was going on, and she was not "connecting" at all. Uncle Ralph put out his hand to her, and my mom pulled Grandma's hand, and put it in Uncle Ralph's. We (Uncle Veryl was pushing U. Ralph), my mom and I, said..."Say Goodbye, ok?" to Grandma, but she was just looking at the floor. Uncle Ralph squeezed G. Florence's hand, and said "Goodbye, Sis", or something close to that, and Mom leaned in close to Grandma and said "Mom, it's Ralph", and Grandma looked up. Their gazes locked, and her face cleared. I don't remember anything big that she said...but she knew she was saying goodbye for that day, and she even smiled.

That's not the biggest part, though. The biggest part was their hands. They gripped each other's hands in a firm, loving, strong hold. Nothing needed to be said...just holding on that tight...said it all.

Which is where we come to picture # 840...which I really wasn't going to send either. This is what that hand-hold looked like. Amid the blanket falling back down, and the pushing to leave and people talking and urging and moving things...amid the chaos and uncertainty of Grandma and the concern for U. Ralph...they held on to each other, a strong, tender, loving moment. Their gazes held, their hands held, and U. Ralph said - "I love you, Sis.".

Now you see why I hesitated on sending these! Because I had to share my heart with someone I really don't know at all, and the possibility that someone else would read this ... but he is your Daddy. And just my Great Uncle ... and if this brought me so much sweet peace...I had to share it with you...it wouldn't have been fair to hold back. It would have been selfish. And love isn't selfish.

I hope you can see that in these last 2 pictures, not because I will feel stupid (even though I might, later, for writing all this), but because it's not a picture, it is a memory. It was so beautiful ... it will be one of my favorite memories of them both."

# 835 -

# 836 -

#840 -

The last time for now ... but not the last time ever.

I missed him the minute he left to go back home, and sat watching the rain for a good while, praying.
I have praised and thanked God many times over for you, Uncle Ralph, thank you for your love for your Lord ... you have inspired and encouraged my heart.

I love you. I don't need to say goodbye ... I already did.
"It is not death to die,
to leave this weary road
and join the saints who dwell on high,
who've found their home with God.
It is not death to close
The eyes long dimmed by tears,
and wake in joy before Your throne,
delivered from our fears.

O Jesus, conquering the grave
Your precious blood has power to save,
those who trust in You
will in Your mercy find,
that it is not death to die!"
2008 Sovereign Grace Praise (BMI)
What a joy to remember that it is not death to die in Christ! Thank you precious Lord!

Bless the Lord, o, my soul!
~ Jean Marie
Psalm 103

6 comments:

Sarah said...

Loving you and praying for you and yours, dear. Thank you for sharing.

Sarah xx

Laurie said...

Jean Marie,
I'm SO sorry that your Uncle Ralph has left this earth. I am looking forward to meeting him someday in Heaven.

What a precious post in honor of him and such sweet beautiful pictures. Thank you for sharing, Sweetie.

Many hugs and mumch love,
Laurie

Laura said...

...and all that is within me bless His Holy name.

You have blessed Him by sharing all that is within you about such a creature as Uncle Ralph.

You grab onto life very well for one so young.

Love,
{{* *}}

Marci said...

Ahhh.. life... it is all about change. Some changes are harder than others. Death is one of the harder ones. May the Lord hold your family close through this time.

Emily Rachael said...

Oh, Jean...
I know you've already told us, but reading the story of your Grandma and Uncle holding hands really made me cry... it reminds me of Isaac!

Oh, how a precious moment like that can pass so quickly and just as quickly become the last one like it on this earth!

Keeping you your family, Grandma and Great Aunt in prayer, Sweetheart!

I love you!
xoHUGSox
~Emily

Jean Marie said...

Thank you all - you have touched my heart with your love and words. Thank you for reading, for caring, and for letting me know what you thought.

~ Jean Marie