If you’ve known me long at all, you know that you’ll never convince me that my Grandpa was the greatest man God ever put on this earth. He just was.
As a kid, there were 3 times that he should have died, but didn’t. Once, I don’t remember at all because I was a baby. Once I have very vague memories of because I was 6 or 7 years old. But the third time. That one is etched in my memory and on my heart for life.
It was the early (maybe mid?) 90’s. My Grandpa was having his second multiple bypass heart surgery. It was a July, but I can’t tell you the exact year. That surgery, if everything goes perfectly, is risky. And unnerving if you’re in the waiting room knowing it’s your person on that table. Surgery was long. Longer than it should have been. Long enough that the family and friends gathered in that waiting room were questioning why we weren’t hearing from a nurse or doctor.
I may have the order of events off just a bit, but my mom can put them in the right order if I have. But…a member of the medical team came in the family waiting area and told us that it was bad. That my Grandpa may not make it out of that operating room. Our people did what we do. We prayed. I know many were in that room with us. But I distinctly remember Steve Caddell, a lifelong family friend, praying for him and over us. I also remember someone calling up to Family Camp (sorry if you don’t know what that is. Just know it was one of the best parts of every summer), to have folks pray. Because the evening service was about to start. And my grandparents never missed a Family Camp. And those people pray. Pray the kind of prayers that move heaven to action.
Howard Burroughs was our District Superintendent at the time. The Burroughs family has always been dear to me. Pastor Burroughs (or Poppi as I had come to call him because I was so close to his grandkids) took the stage and opened the evening service with a call to prayer for my Grandpa.
Fast forward just a bit and the cardiac surgeon has come out to finally talk with the family. After it got “bad” in that operating room, it got worse. My Grandpa died on the table. They had tried repeatedly to revive him with no success. As the doctor was coming out to tell us he was gone, his heart started beating again.
As we began to share what God had done and put timing of events together, we realized that the time when my Grandpa was gone was about the time word had reached Family Camp that prayer was urgently needed. And that the time that his heart began beating again was about the time that Poppi Burroughs lead a charge on heaven on my Grandpa’s behalf.
Lots of people prayed that day. Every one of those prayers reached heaven. But in my heart, for all these years, I’ve always believed it was Poppi Burroughs leading that charge on heaven that moved God to bring my Grandpa back. And we didn’t just get him back that day. He lived many more years. He saw me graduate high school. He held Payne in the hospital, was the first person to throw a ball with him and made 5 years of memories with him. He saw me get married. He held Addison. Things I don’t think I’d have to hold onto if Poppi Burroughs hadn’t stepped in and called heaven down. My Grandpa went to be with Jesus 10 years ago this month.
Today Poppi joined my Grandpa (and Grandma and many others who have gone before) in heaven. I know there was a line waiting to meet him, that included my grandparents. Because I know that there are countless people who have a story just like mine of how Howard Burroughs profoundly impacted their lives. His welcome line likely spans whatever the length of heaven is. And his reward couldn’t possibly be contained in just one heavenly mansion.
Today my heart grieves because this earth has lost one of God’s best. Today my heart grieves for his kids, grandkids and great grandkids who have to say goodbye. But we grieve with hope. Because that’s the example he set for us. And because we know that cancer is gone and defeated. And he is made new. And where he worked his whole life to be. Right there with Jesus. And we can share stories of the legacy that he’s left. Because when you live the kind of life he did, your legacy lives on for generations.