By far, the most challenging, painful, yet love-drenched moments of this month were those spent keeping vigil as Paul’s father and our beloved Grandpa, Fred Heidmann, journeyed to his final home with his Lord and Savior. God gave us nearly three extra years after his diagnosis with pancreatic cancer, far longer than we expected. And despite the ravages of the disease and the treatments, he maintained such a sense of humor and vitality, still riding his bike up until just a few weeks before the end. That end came, too soon for us, but as always, in God’s perfect time. On the morning of May 17, 2018, having said farewell to each one of his dearly loved children, grandchildren, daughters in law and his heart’s treasure, Patricia, he breathed his last and was taken home. His legacy of laughter, love, hard work, faith, and quiet devotion, will challenge and inspire us from here to eternity.
Here are a bare few of the precious memories we will cherish forever of dear Grandpa Fred.
On May 23rd we said our final goodbye. At his request, his oldest three grand-daughters sang at his funeral, and what a perfect tribute it was.
As the oldest son, Paul had the honor to speak at the funeral. Here is what he said.
As most of you know, for the past two decades or so, I have worked with and alongside at risk youth and their families. In that time, I have seen physical abuse, sexual abuse, and grave sexual abuse. I have seen kids who have been emotionally abused and kids whose parents were drug dealers (they did this right in front of my eyes). I have held the hand of a girl who was crying, because she had just learned that her mother was selling herself for drugs. I have visited a young man in a hospital who had been shot in the leg. The bullet was meant for his father, in a drug deal gone bad. His father drove away, leaving him bleeding on the lawn.
There are so very many demons in this world, armed with an awful arsenal of razor-sharp weapons dipped in reckless and unrelenting hate. They twist, bruise, and pierce a soul, leaving wounds that fester. Their goal is not just to destroy a soul, although I’m sure they enjoy that well enough. Demons understand well that hurt people … hurt people. They wound a soul so that the soul will wound, through wicked deeds now easily committed. The demons want to spread, so they can wound others. Hurt people … hurt people.
There is so much damage, so much. Of all the damage that I have seen, I think the worst must be the twisting and perversion of a soul’s view of love. Every parent, even the bad ones, will say to his or her child, “I love you”. When that parent turns around and physically abuses the child, that child learns that love is unforgiving. The child learns he is not valued. These children often turn into people that think that God just wants to punish them for the sins they have committed. I know a man, named JD, who once had two really cute kids. Their teeth were full of holes, and they often suffered from tooth aches. One day, he called me over to show me his new stereo system for his car, a really nice one. You know, the kind with the amplifier and speakers in the trunk, that make the car go thump, thump all the way down the street? I wish he had spent that money fixing his kids’ teeth. A parent who puts his wants above his children’s needs teaches his child that love looks after itself, and cares little for sacrifice. When these children grow up, they often turn into people who think that God abandoned them, especially when they needed him most. Those from broken homes share this problem. Children that have experienced emotional abuse learn that love is manipulative, seeing only its own emotions. Often, these children grow up thinking that Christianity is nothing but a bunch of don’ts. Don’t do this, don’t do that, especially if it is fun. Children who have parents who are disinterested and detached learn that love does not value him or her. These poor souls grow up thinking that they are too unimportant for God to really love.
Then someone like you or like me comes along and tells them that Jesus loves them. Jesus they understand, and they desire a share in Christ and in His Church. Under the surface, however, in the subconscious, trouble is brewing. Inevitably, something bad will happen to them, and their false view of love will spring from their subconscious. Jesus loves you turns into Jesus wants to punish me for my sins, Jesus has abandoned me, or Jesus just wants to control me. They fall away. Jesus loves you has failed, because they do not understand love. When you do not understand love, you cannot see God, for God is love.
What can we do? What does this have to do with Dad anyway? I have seen so much destruction … so much, but that is not all I have seen. All of this time, as I tried to help these kids, the only things that I have ever done for them was what my father did for me. First, love. Plain, simple, and true love. Every act of kindness, every act of love, it sticks in a heart. Over time, these acts of love and kindness build up, like a gathering army, or a mustering militia, if you will. Then, one day, at a time and place of Christ’s choosing, these acts of kindness and love will leap on those demons, and drag them kicking and screaming to the foot of the cross, where Christ will deal with them as He sees fit. Then, for the first time ever, ever, a dirty, bruised, and tear streaked face will look up and see her prophet, priest, king, and … her husband.
Even after this moment, though, we will have times when we cannot see Jesus. This is usually due to the fog of our own sin, and sometimes to the illusions of this perverse world. When I couldn’t see Jesus, do you know who I could see? I could see dad. This was the second thing that my father did for me. He pointed me back to Jesus. J.T., Jacob, Joe [Dad’s elder grandsons], did you know this? Did you know that how a child sees his earthly father is how that child will see his heavenly father. I am going to say this again, because it is important. How a child sees his earthly father is how a child sees his heavenly father. You will likely, in a few years, find yourselves to be fathers. Represent your heavenly father well, because you will be held to account.
Funerals are not just for the dead, they are for the living. So I will conclude my remarks with a few lessons from Dad’s life. Fatherhood is like a torch. Dad took that torch, many years ago, from Richard, who had carried it so long and so well. That torch is now firmly in my hand, and in Jon’s hand. Except it isn’t really that firmly in our hands, is it? Already, that torch begins to pass to you J.T., to you Jacob, and to you Joe. So let’s all of us, by God’s grace, take that torch, and do these things. First, warm those around us that are cold. Next, when those around us can no longer see Jesus due to their own sin or to the illusions of this world, then let us hold that torch high and yell “TO ME, TO ME”. Finally, when those around us are being attacked by hell, then jump between them and hell and say hell, no! HELL NO! And, while we’re at it, since the gates of hell are already kicked in anyway, let’s rush into that breach and with our torch burn that place to the ground. I for one am sick and tired of all the destruction and wounded souls.
It is my hope and prayer, for each and every one of you here, that at the end of your life, there will be nothing left but a hollowed out shell of a man or woman. Not because of cancer, but rather because you will have given away everything. Spend your life giving out acts of kindness and love. Then, at the end of your life, with your last breaths, you will give away yourself, one last time. As you round the next corner, you will see how the master weaver has taken all of your acts of love and kindness, and woven them into a tapestry so beautiful, you will weep at the sight of it. And they say there are no tears in heaven…
All of these things, let us do, for King, for Kingdom, and … for you Dad.