Tuesday, September 20, 2011

In Memoriam of Erich Höllein

This past Thursday, my grandfather would have turned 90. This had actually been one of his goals; as he loved life - especially after his retirement in 1986.

In the summer of 2008, when he was admitted to the hospital because of a quite aggressive and fast developing type of cancer, he said to the doctor: "I would like to live three more years!" They were discussing how they should proceed with treatments, but I'm so thankful that they never even had the opportunity to start chemotherapy on him. He went to his rest during the night of July 14 of 2008 - while I was waiting to board my plane at the airport in Denver, Colorado. I was volunteering at Eden Valley that summer, and a couple of days before, I was told that grandfather was dying. It was a traumatizing experience. I remember getting out of the train at the railway station in my home city. I had only expected my father to pick me up, but it turned out a whole delegation waiting for me, as my aunt and uncle were also present. Then my aunt shared the bad news with me. Well, I found comfort in the Lord. Maybe it was actually the best that could have happened (question is if he had recognized me at all if I had come a few hours earlier). At least he knew that I was on my way, and he was looking forward to seeing me. And he was also looking forward to the "new Heaven and the new Earth", as pointed out in Revelation 21. This made me think about resurrection morning; when the dead in Christ will wake up from their sleep. I will have to make sure to find him quickly then!

Grandfather was a believer, however he didn't talk much about it with others (indeed, this topic has always been kind of a taboo in my family). I remember at about age 19, when I was a baby Christian and didn't know anything about the Adventist church yet, I once spent a few days with my grandparents at their vacation appartment in the Black Forest. On Sunday, I wanted to go to the Lutheran church in this small village, and since grandfather was Lutheran, he would come with me (grandmother is Catholic, so she would attend her church in the meantime). I remember an interesting question the pastor asked the congregation that morning: "Would you like your sins to be forgiven?" It came as a surprise to me, because a Lutheran pastor wouldn't usually ask such questions to their flock (they would rather tell them: "All your sins are forgiven now" or something like that), so I was hesitant to give an answer - all the more Germans are not really used to interacting with the pastor or whoever is speaking up front at church. However, my grandfather affirmed loud and clearly: "Yes".

Anyway, the experience of losing him taught me a very important lesson, i. e. that we should never take things for granted. If you say good-bye to somebody close to you today (no matter who that person is or in what kind of health condition they are in), how can you know that you will ever see them again? When I came for a visit from the US in the summer of 2007, I had no clue that this would be the last opportunity to see my grandfather alive. When we departed, I was sure I would see him the following year when I would come visit again. Well, I did get to see him, but his body was cold, and he couldn't see me anymore.

The very last picture I took of both of my grandparents in the summer of 2007
during my last visit in Germany before grandfather got ill

Yesterday, grandmother turned 87. I'm so thankful how she has been able to cope after this loss. They had been married for 63 years after all, so in the beginning it must have been really difficult for her. Nevertheless, she is doing just great considering her age.

My grandfather's death was the second loss in my family that I experienced. In 1990, it was my great grandmother who went to sleep (also due to cancer). Another dear person I look forward to seeing again.

Indeed, the more people pass away whom I have appreciated, the more I look forward to Heaven. As difficult it may be to lose them for a time, the happier the reunion will be on that great day when we all meet again!

Now this hymn comes into my mind:

  1. Sing the wondrous love of Jesus,
    Sing His mercy and His grace;
    In the mansions bright and blessed
    He’ll prepare for us a place.
    • Refrain:
      When we all get to heaven,
      What a day of rejoicing that will be!
      When we all see Jesus,
      We’ll sing and shout the victory!
  2. While we walk the pilgrim pathway,
    Clouds will overspread the sky;
    But when trav’ling days are over,
    Not a shadow, not a sigh.
  3. Let us then be true and faithful,
    Trusting, serving every day;
    Just one glimpse of Him in glory
    Will the toils of life repay.
  4. Onward to the prize before us!
    Soon His beauty we’ll behold;
    Soon the pearly gates will open;
    We shall tread the streets of gold.

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