An Unexpected Trip

In the midst of the crazy weather, crazy days in late January, early February a phone call came that Justin's precious grandfather PawPaw - Joe Riley who lives in Alabama had a stroke. A couple of weeks later, he passed away.  

We were of course, heart broken, but grateful that Justin got to go home and spend some precious time with him.  Grateful for Facetime that the boys were able to tell him that they love him and overwhelmingly grateful for his long, Christ filled heart.

We made an unexpected trip home to Alabama on Sunday, February 9th to celebrate his life.  

gorgeous sunrise over the swamp 

Most of the family had already arrived or made their way in the same day.   PawPaw and Nana have a beautiful family that includes 6 grandchildren that made it in and 10 great grandchildren (with one on the way).  The Riley cabin has been in Justin's family for decades and his parents currently have it as  weekend home with plans to retire there soon.  It is a beautiful peaceful place that has been loved by many Riley generations.. including the littlest ones. 

Cousin Emmaline 

Cousins Deidre and Silas 

All the littles 4 and under playing on the "beach" 
We had sweet time swapping memories, wiping tears, catching up, and loving on one another.

Bonfire fun 

Uh-oh. Emmaline is not impressed with boy cousin antics
And I know I have blogged and shared many times about their cousin Hadley who is a week or so older than them.  All the way to Alabama, when will we see Hadley? When we got there.. when is Hadley getting here?  No matter how much time passes, they never miss a beat.  These 3.  Best friends. 

High heels, reclined.  This girl knows how to fish 

Yep. Rubbing his back.  I melt. 


Could they be any cuter together?? 

or sillier?
The visitation brought so many familiar faces.  My grandparents and Justin's grandparents have been friends in the same small town for years so many people that I knew came by to say hello and tell us what Joe Riley meant to them.  I think the most special part was hearing all the stories people had from him growing up or how he touched their life.  

The morning of the funeral my devotional was Hebrews 12:1 - Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us.   I can't help but think of Joe Riley.  The good race he ran for 85 years.  How he has now joined the cloud of witnesses that have come before us and how grateful I am that he was a believer and instrumental in instilling Christ's love to the generations of Riley's in his family.. especially my precious husband.  

The service was beautiful as well.  The pastor that had led their church for many many years spoke as did the current pastor.  As I have said before, Justin and I are both in discipleship.  On the way to Alabama I worked through part of the current chapter that we are in.  The memory verse and bible study section for the week was Psalm 1.  I had my bible out and I talked to Justin about the scripture as we drove along that early foggy morning.  

Blessed is the man[a]
    who walks not in the counsel of the wicked,
nor stands in the way of sinners,
    nor sits in the seat of scoffers;
but his delight is in the law[b] of the Lord,
    and on his law he meditates day and night.
He is like a tree
    planted by streams of water
that yields its fruit in its season,
    and its leaf does not wither.
In all that he does, he prospers.
The wicked are not so,
    but are like chaff that the wind drives away.
Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment,
    nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous;
for the Lord knows the way of the righteous,
    but the way of the wicked will perish.

The long time pastor gets up and begins his tribute.  He says that when preparing for today, he began to pray and ask God what scripture He would have him share to honor the life of Joe.   He said that in all his 40 years he had never used this verse.  And then he began reading Psalm 1.  I looked over at Justin and he squeezed my hand, a single tear fell down his face.  See, it's in these moments that even though you may not always hear the audible, direct voice of God, He reveals himself, comforts you, and let's you know that He is always there.

Joe was a military veteran.  Husband of 65 years to Rachel, father of 3, grandfather of 8, great grandfather to 10, but so much more to even so many people.  The stories of how he always had a child on his lap, a smile on his face, and twinkle in his eye were told over and over.  His mischievous nature is well known in this house as my 3 Riley boys got it honest.  I am grateful they knew him.  Life has no promises of tomorrow and we enjoyed many but never enough with this precious man.

When I come to the end of the road
And the sun has set for me
I want no rites in a gloom-filled room.
Why cry for a soul set free?
Miss me a littlebut not too long
And not with your head bowed low.
Remember the love that we once shared,
Miss mebut let me go.
For this is a journey that we all must take
And each must go alone.
It's all a part of the Master's plan,
A step on the road to home.
When you are lonely and sick of heart
Go to the friends we know
And bury your sorrows in doing good deeds.
Miss MeBut Let me Go!

And so we said good bye knowing that we would see that sweet smile and hear that funny laugh again one day.  

 And you know what legacy I love the most?  The love of humor, comedy, jokes, and pranks.  His young great grandson inherited a full dose.  I can just hear his big belly laugh and kick he would have gotten out of this picture?  The moment when Beckett decided to drop his pants in the family photo in front of the church!  Now that is something PawPaw would have loved.  He would have shown that picture to everyone he met! 

A race well run.  A legacy left.  The life of Joe Riley.  Blessed to have called him family.

The Riley's 

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