Sunday, March 3, 2013

Grandpa Tyler's Eulogy

Last Saturday, I had the incredible privilege of eulogizing my Grandpa.  I'm thankful to my aunts and uncles for giving me the opportunity and thankful to God for helping me bring together the right words.  I'm also thankful to my Grandpa for being colorful and Christ-centered enough to provide the material for an interesting and edifying eulogy.  Granpa was a character; a godly and loving character, but certainly a character.  I'm so glad that his faith has finally become sight, but I sure do miss him.  Below is a  video I showed on Saturday, followed by my eulogy (at least as best as I could remember what I actually said yesterday).

"Donnie, I know what Jesus done for me."  That refrain, more than any other, epitomized the life of my Grandpa.  Jo Ann liked to tell me that Pastor Borger had told her that he'd never seen a more dramatic conversion than that of my Grandpa.  Now, I didn't know the pre-conversion, hell-raising, rebel-rousing Glen Tyler, but I did know the post-conversion, hell-raising, rebel-rousing Glen Tyler.  And if his conversion was the most dramatic Fred Borger had ever seen, than I can only imagine what Grandpa had been like before giving his life to Christ. 

And therein lies the tension that existed in Grandpa's life.  On one hand, there was the man who had had his life dramatically changed when he gave his life to Christ in his 30's; his commitment to the church, his generosity, and his commitment to telling other people about Jesus. On the other hand was the fact that some areas of Grandpa's life remained unconverted.  Now, none of us ever reach perfection in this life, but for one reason or another there were areas of Grandpa's life that seemed to remain untouched by the grace of God.  I'm not sure why that was.  I do know that Grandpa had a difficult life and it seems that there were some deep wounds that remained unhealed.  As they always do in our relationships, those unhealed wounds negatively impacted his relationships with those closest to him. 

An example of how I tried to navigate that tension in Grandpa's life was how I approached our conversations.  My goal was always to keep the conversation going, to avoid any lull in the conversation.  As we know, if there was any awkward silence in the conversation, Grandpa would fall back to his default topics; what is wrong with the Democrats and this week's reason for why the world was going to end next week.  But if we could keep Grandpa talking about the good things, he was so pleasant to be around.  I loved listening to the war stories, no matter how many times I'd heard them.  And I knew the names of all the guys he's whipped in the bars (or been whipped by) but had later lead in "the sinner's prayer."  I enjoyed the stories of his childhood, how he started a business or his stories of my mom's childhood.  Of course, nothing was better than hearing about how he'd been dramatically saved in a Church of the Nazarene.  Occasionally, however our conversation would reach a lull but on those occassions, the silence would be wonderful as Grandpa would relish the silence, just sitting next to me with that goofy smile on his face.  I can remember his visits to our house, as he sat in my dad's recliner in the living room, smiling at us, happy to just be in the presence of his daughter and two of his grandkids.  

You've been able to sense it in what others have said today, the fact that Grandpa fiercely loved the people in his life.  We also know, and Grandpa would even admit to the fact that during the last ten years of his life he learned to better love his family.  I never doubted that Grandpa loved me and that Grandpa was proud of me.  It's such a privilege to be able to speak today because Grandpa loved to hear me preach.  He and Jo Ann would sit on the second row and Grandpa would beam up at me, so proud to have a preacher in the family.  I did notice however, that Grandpa smiled less after getting stronger hearing aids.  Afterwards, Grandpa would always tell me what I should've said but he would also offer words of encouragement, extolling me to "preach that Jesus is coming back."  

We all know what a great gift the last week of his life was to all of us.  I'd joked with several people that had Grandpa been as relaxed and easy going throughout his life in the way he was that last week, he would've been so much easier to live with.  I don't know for sure, but I wonder if Grandpa was able to relax that last week because he was finally able to relinquish control of the world to the One who truly is in control.  Maybe when Grandpa realized that he would be leaving this world for good, he was finally able to realize that the King of the Universe, not Glen Tyler, really is in charge.  Whatever that reason, that last week Grandpa did none of his usual preaching but rather simply went on and on about how good God has been to him while also showering love upon all of those who came to visit him.  And a lot of people visited, too.  I had the privilege of spending some time with him last Saturday and I saw how his face lit up whenever someone new entered the room.  If Grandpa was able to love more and manipulate less that last week due to a deeper realization of God's sovereignty, then imagine how much greater that realization must be for him now, as he has actually seen first-hand the throne room of our God. 

Grandpa also gave me a wonderful gift last Saturday; one final blessing.  I went over to Grandpa's chair, knelt down and pretty much put my head in his lap and then started crying.  Grandpa knew what I was doing, he knew I was telling him goodbye.  So Grandpa put his hand on my head saying, "Donnie, let's pray."  He then started with, "Lord, I pray for Donnie," then mumbling in a slightly embarassed tone " and I pray for... Dendphfgag.... names escape me right now."  While he may have not been able to recall Erin and Dawson's names, I knew he was seeing their faces and I knew how much he cared for all of us. 

After he prayed for me, I told Grandpa what I'd always planned to tell him the last time I would see him.  Since I was never sure what time really would be the last, I'd actually told him this several other times before.  Despite that fact, however I told him one more time.  I said, "Grandpa, when I get to heaven, you're the first person I'm going to look up."

I certainly don't mean any offense to the other family members I hope to see in heaven again and I'm not sure why I've had that desire for so long.  Maybe it's just because I liked Grandpa so much.  It might be however, because of the fact that part of the reason I want to see Grandpa right when I get to heaven is that I might not have a relationship with God were it not for my Grandpa's faith.  Both of my Grandparent's were first generation Christians.  In the best way he knew how, Grandpa taught his family about the love of Christ.  I'm so thankful that my Grandpa gave his life to Christ, that he took his family to church, that he sent my mom to church camp where she met my dad.  Both of my parents taught me about God and now my wife and I get to teach our son about God.  I am so thankful to my Grandpa for loving Jesus.

When I was a sophomore in High School, I wrote a short paper on the person I respected most and that person was my Grandpa.  I have to say that as I've gotten older, I've actually idolized my Grandpa less.  But I've also loved him even more.  I mean this in every sense of the word; I am eternally grateful that he was my Grandpa.