Clair Robert Hayward (1931-2008)
Thursday morning my Grandpa woke up with new good legs, new strong arms, a new full voice, and newfound joys. He sees God in His glory. He’s singing again today and adjusting to his eternal home. His joy is beginning to bud and will always increase.
“But just think of stepping on shore and finding it Heaven,
of touching a hand and finding it God’s,
of breathing new air and finding it celestial,
of waking up in glory and finding it home.”
He was a wonderful, warm, generous, loving, gentle man of real, lively faith. He was a real example of “love with shoes on” in that he lived what he believed and it affected everything.
God laid him low three autumns ago with a stroke that limited his speech and slowed his body. Those days were arduous for us and him. In the hours after that first stroke, when his speech was starting to slur, he was offering me instructions for the moment and for life. I wish I could have understood all of his words. His clearest speech that day was the mandate to take care of grandma. I spent several nights with him in ICU, and he shocked the doctors and his family by surviving. He was mostly silent for the last three years, but we loved birthdays when we knew that grandpa would sing Happy Birthday along with the rest of us [singing and talking are generated in different parts of the brain]. In the waning years, as my boys were growing up, I cherished the way that he cherished them. Through his physical want, he always put on a happy, loving smile and gentle hands when my boys walked through the door. He lost his physical capabilities, but not his cheery, loving heart.
He was a teacher of the best sorts of things. He taught me how to read a map and be his navigator. From the backseat, I learned to give the best sorts of directions and location declarations. I think I traveled with grandma and him to Florida probably six times, Colorado twice and Grand Marais bunches.
He taught me how to spit like a man when I was very young sitting in the back seat of their Dodge Omni tooling down to Florida. Whenever he rolled down his window to spit, I was sure to do the same. I learned that to avoid a wet face, you had to spit hard from the back of your mouth when you were traveling 65 miles an hour.
He taught me to be faithful, steady and quiet. You always knew where he was going to be on Sunday. No questions. I always knew he would be working hard on every job he was given or that he gave himself. He was a first-rate mechanic, wise deacon, knowledgeable Sunday School teacher. He was always in his place. Grandma remembers that he only ever missed one day of work (the road was blocked both ways during a snowstorm). He was always where he should be. I knew to look for him in the barn when we arrived every Friday evening for spaghetti, Pepsi, popcorn and fudge.
One sunny Saturday, grandpa opened the barn doors and brought out the old ’73 Charger. He told me to get in. I remember the feel of the white vinyl and the stale smell of having been sitting in storage. He showed me she could still move fast. I remember holding on for dear life as we flew through the countryside. He looked over at me, saw my expression and slowed way down. He said, “We should put on our seatbelts. It would be really embarrassing if we were killed in an accident.” We did, and he was off again.
“A faithful man shall abound with blessings.”
He could be stern and calm at the same time. I found that out every time I was foolish with the motorbike, go-kart or BB gun.
One of the coolest days of my life was when, as a 12 year old, I flew from Kalamazoo to Chicago to Jacksonville all by myself. It was a ton of fun and part of the enjoyment was that on every leg of the journey, the stewardesses and the airport hosts were calling me Clair Hayward. I was using his ticket.
“No man was ever shot by a woman while he was washing dishes.” — Grandpa had this motto hanging at eye level by the kitchen sink
Some would travel the world for him. Grandma did. At 17 years old, she took a ship to England to marry him (he was stationed at Ipswich in the Air Force). Grandma was his faithful and dear wife who cared for him gently and respectfully in all his travails. She was a wonderful example of a sweet, patient helpmeet. They made a wonderful pair for 56 years.
Today was a wonderful day. Nearly 500 people gathered together and shared wonderful memories that made us roar with love. We sang heartily. We wept real sorrow. We belly-laughed. We were thankful together to have known him.
And now I live happy with my memories of him, glad that my oldest boys will remember him and that he was a man who loved his God, family and church entirely. I can unashamedly seek to emulate him and point my boys to his example and, like him, strive to be faithful to the end.
UPDATE: On 9/3/09, after four boys, Christie and I welcomed a little girl into our home. She is a sweet and precious gift. We named her Claire.
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