That day has rolled around again and it's 3 years since my grandpa went to live with Jesus. Sometimes I feel like I should not let it still get to me like this and yet when I think about what I'd say if someone said that to me, I find myself thinking, "You must not have known him." I know my grandpa is with my Uncle Bob and the rest of his family. They are probably looking down at us singing, "Wait 'til you see me in my new home!" This was originally written October, 2008. I still miss him and I just don't think I could write it any better than I did then.
The little things that seemed so small,
are now like gold in a memory vault
I cherish every one I have with you
Now I can see and recognize the part you played to shape my life
I often see you in the things I do...
I sure miss you; life will never be the same with you not here
Each passing day has brought much pain
But with God's grace my strength remains
I sure miss you, but heaven's sweeter with you there
-- "I Sure Miss You" Crabb Family
Today is one year since my grandpa passed away. It doesn't seem possible that the time has gone that quickly. There are days when it's ok and there are days when it feels like it was yesterday. There are nights that I get up and sing "What Heaven Means to Me" and it seems like I can actually hear him standing next to me singing, "What will it be when we get over yonder…" It makes my heart ache.
The words to the song "I Sure Miss You" by the Crabb Family have become more poignant to me in the last year, specifically the second verse. "The little things that seemed so small are now gold in a memory vault. I cherish every one I have of you." My grandpa, every time I sang that he was there, would always tell me, "Honey you did a good job. I'm proud of ya." He always emphasized the word "good" in a very specific way as he shook his head. I am so grateful for those memories. He even said it when I had cried through a song more than I sang it. Nobody understood the calling on my life or what it actually means like he did. He did what I do… traveling, singing, ministering with the Blackwoods and then with the Toney Brothers. He was ALWAYS in my corner. He always knew what I was going to do because I believe he saw in me what he knew in himself. "Now I can see and recognize the part you played to shape my life. I often see you in the things I do." He would sit and tell me, and everybody who would listen, stories about when he was singing or just about his life in general; traveling with the Blackwoods in his suit, in a car, suitcases under their feet in the backseat (and we think we have it hard…) for hours to go sing; when he was little and living on the farm in Wilson’s Creek, West Virginia; how his mom died when he was only 18 and he had to come home from boot camp to go to her funeral; how he fought in the Battle of the Bulge; (watch Saving Private Ryan and you will see what he went through) how on a Father's Day when he was older, the Toney Brothers were singing in West Virginia and their dad got saved; how that same man was the one who taught them to sing shape notes. (He tried to teach me one time, I still don't know how)
There are so many things I could never forget. Being little and going over to their house in Michigan and climbing up on his lap because he had made cornbread and milk and I just knew he would give me a bite. "Interviewing" him when I was either in 5thor 6thgrade on a report I had to do on Veteran's Day. The day he walked into the kitchen at Durango Steakhouse because it was taking so long and saying to someone, "Uh what seems to be the problem back here?" Him completely making up a new verse to "Oh Little Town of Bethlehem" one year at a Christmas concert and if you didn't know, you would've NEVER guessed! "I love you so bad…" (I know it originated with Lisa but he was the one that said it to me) That night in his hospital room… him telling all of us individually how much he loved us and saying to me over and over, "Thank you for singing with me."
I recently heard Pastor Willy Rice of Calvary Baptist Church in Clearwater, FL in a sermon on grief say, "People always think they are saying the right thing when they say, 'You can't miss someone if you know where they are' but you can. Everyone's grief is different…. Just because it's been a year for someone and you think they should be over it, doesn't mean that they are. And it doesn't mean something is wrong if they aren't." Thanks for indulging me in my grief a little. It will get easier I know, but today… "I sure miss you; life will never be the same with you not here…"
Alden K. Toney – Dec. 1921-Oct. 2007