I had the honor of speaking at my granddad’s celebration of life yesterday. He passed away just after midnight on Sunday morning. I went to church and I knew then that God was calling me to speak at his service. I kept praying that maybe I heard Him wrong. When I realized I didn’t, I sat down with my grandmother and asked her to pray about it too. My grandmother asked me to speak on behalf of the grandchildren. At first that was really hard, trying to speak for eight people. I didn’t know how to recount memories, quote lessons and rightly speak for every thought. It was actually pretty stressful and I couldn’t figure out why God had called me to do this. I just kept praying and then God reminded me that I was speaking on his legacy. The legacy he left us as his grandchildren. Something nobody on earth knows how it feels except the eight people who had the honor to call him PoPaw, Pawpaw and Papaw. (Same name that we all spelled differently.. haha) So I wanted to share with you what the Lord led me to say. Though, my granddad impacted thousands, he lived to impact one and I pray today that this impacts one.
For Taylor, Emily, Andy, Lauren, Matt, Chris, John David and me, being Danny Harrison’s grandchildren is one of our highest honors. He lived his life humbly for Christ which showed in his love for our family and his quiet gentleness in every situation.
I’ve gathered thoughts from all of us to share
with you today about the legacy our granddad left us as his eight grandchildren. With this legacy, I have prayed that we can all walk away challenged to live more like Christ, more like our granddad.
Our granddad was a Jesus man. He loved the Word. He loved studying it, teaching it and living it. He taught us how to love by living out his love for Christ and living out Christ’s Love for others. Because of his life and his love, we learned to love Christ and to trust Him in every situation. We learned that family is love and commitment, in the good times and the bad times. Even in the hardest times, he loved us completely, he fully relied on God’s faithfulness and he always left us knowing his love, God’s Love and the peace that every thing would be okay, no matter what. He was pure love all the time and he showed us how to love in the face of all things.
At the beginning of his sickness, PaPaw would pick up his walker as he walked when he was supposed to be leaning on it for support. It reminded me that the world will give us all we think we need to lean on, but Jesus is our ultimate “walker” of strength. This is something our granddad taught us every day of our lives; he taught us to always lean on Jesus.
He wasn’t the big loud hero; he was the quiet soft protector. He didn’t swoop in, make a scene and take charge. For many months after his diagnosis, he thought I didn’t know about the severity of the situation. Every time it would get brought up or asked about, he would ask me to leave the room. He was always protecting us. He had a genuine, loving smile no matter what was happening and always wanted us to know that Jesus would take care of us. He was the one who would hug us, sit with us and support us through every good and bad thing, always supporting us with a happy “That’s the way!”
He was patient always. He would discipline us, cause we all know we needed it, but he would guide us; he would teach us the way to go, and he always would support us. We could always walk away feeling better, stronger and confident not in him, but confident in Christ and who we are because of Christ.
PaPaw taught us how to talk to God. Every meal, every holiday, every hard time and every occasion, our granddad prayed for us. We know he prayed for us even when we weren’t with him. He led every family prayer, and the words would flow from him when he blessed our meals with no hesitation. We have learned through him that it doesn’t matter where you are, what you say, or who you’re around, talking to God is simple. And God wants us to talk to Him daily.
He had a sense of humor to the end. Not many months ago, I told him he was the best grandad I could ever have and I loved him more than any other man in my life. He quickly replied, “I appreciate that, but you don’t have many.”
Our granddad loved fiercely and gently in a way that could never be replaced. His love was quiet and always present. He loved us most by always being there and always spending time with us. In other words, he just loved spending time with his grandchildren. He loved taking us to Chappy’s, and he loved McDonald’s breakfast. He loved playing catch phrase. He would get very competitive. The buzzer would go off, and he’d try his best to push it off into the hands of the person next to him. After the game would finish, he would keep the catch phrase in his hand and want everyone to guess his clues for every word. He also loved playing Yahtzee with us and beating us very badly every time. No matter the game, he was always determined to win. If he wasn’t winning, the game wasn’t over. Our granddad loved us by spending time with us, always being there for us, and always supporting us.
PaPaw was always humble, in all things. He had no clue how many people he impacted throughout his life. He lived his life to just impact one, and he impacted thousands. He was also humble in rooting for his Mississippi State Bulldogs. One year when State and Auburn were playing, and we were unable to go to Starkville, we watched it with the Auburn fans in our family. Mississippi State was winning, and PaPaw and I were so happy when everyone else was not. Our granddad didn’t say a word; he sat quietly, taking it in. Only when State would make a big play, he’d clap his hands once and quietly say “That’s the way!” Comments would be made about Auburn losing, and he would just humbly say, “It’s not over yet,” all the way until the end of the game. But of course, then I ran around the house ringing my cowbell. Most of us Mississippi State fans are pretty humble not winning much, but we were winning that one! (But we were #1 for a couple weeks one time) Our granddad taught us to be humble in all things, whether it’s impacting others, winning sports, or simply living daily life. He always lived his life humbly for Christ.
Our granddad loved teaching, speaking and leading Bible studies. He loved Frazer where he was a member for over 40 years. He has helped me so much in my speaking and writing Bible studies over the last serval years as I followed him in ministry. He was the one I called when I had a question, needed biblical wisdom or insight on a Bible study I was writing or advice about speaking. He always told me to trust the Holy Spirit inside of me. It is an honor to follow in his footsteps in ministry and teaching. As his grandchildren, we all called on him with questions about the Bible and wisdom on living out the Word. He knew, studied and loved the entire Bible, and he taught us to do the same. He loved Mrs. Virginia’s Sunday school class where he soaked up every word she would teach. He had questions that the majority of people don’t think to ask, and I loved watching him take in every word, write notes in his Bible and always learn something new. He was an incredible Bible teacher and amazing speaker, but he still took the time to learn and loved sitting under the teaching of so many amazing Bible teachers. He taught us that we can never know too much; there is always something we can learn. He taught us to love the Bible, read the Bible, study the Bible, learn the Bible and to never stop.
In Jay and Katherine Wolf’s book Hope Heals they say,
“I can give God the glory, and it can still hurt.”
It hurts. But we hurt with ope today because we are anchored to Christ. Even in our devastation, we have Hope that Christ is here, His Path is perfect, and He is always taking care of us. That’s what our PaPaw taught us. I pray today that you have that Hope.
Our earthly devastations, grief, and mournings don’t have to mean we are not hoping in Christ, or we’re low on our faith, or we don’t trust God.. It doesn’t mean that at all. But in those things- in our devastation, grief, and mourning- we know the Hope of Christ and we know joy comes in the morning.
Romans 8:18 say , “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.”
Jesus Christ is HERE! He is HOPE! He is VICTORY! He is JOY!
This is what our granddad taught us. This is the way he lived his life, and this is the way he lived his last year. Our PaPaw is already incredibly missed, and the house feels really empty, but his legacy will forever live in our hearts and forever through our lives. I pray that you will allow his legacy to live forever through your life, as well.