I look out the airplane window as we approach N’Djamena. There are storms in the area, and lightening lights up the clouds with flashes of brilliance. The desert below me is blocked from view by the dust, which covers the landscape like a layer of fog. Sunset comes, making the sky a brilliant royal blue, casting light on the clouds, and long shadows behind. The beauty, marking the end of the Sabbath, inspires me to quietly sing to God.
“Sweet hour of prayer, sweet hour of prayer,
That calls me from the world of care,
And bids me, at my Father’s throne,
Make all my wants and wishes known.
In seasons of distress and grief,
My soul has often found relief.
And oft escaped the tempers snare,
By thy return, sweet hour of prayer.”
Tears well up in my eyes as my song triggers memories of another flight, not even two weeks before.
It was night, and the lights of towns and cities shone up at me. Water refracted the light of the moon. There were also thunderstorms in the area. But this time, I was not admiring the view. Suspended in the air above southeast Michigan, my heart was 2,000 miles away, beside a bed in Riverside Community Hospital, where my dad, his four siblings and their mother were gathered to sing and celebrate the life of their father and husband, the Honorable Judge Robert D. Macomber.
He served in Europe during World War II, then spent 10 years teaching Chemistry before deciding to go back to school to fulfill a life-long dream to be an attorney. After some time, he became a judge, which he continued in until retirement. Even after he retired, my grandpa would sit in as a visiting or substitute judge in various courthouses throughout Southern California until 2012, when he was 86. He was well-respected by all, and widely regarded as one of the most straight-forward and integrous judges. In appreciation for his service to the city, the La Sierra Branch of the Riverside Public Library was named after him.
My dad emailed me about a month ago that Grandpa was slowing down, and starting to fall regularly. With several other family members in poor health, I had mentioned to Jonathan that I or we may have to leave soon for a funeral. So when Grandpa fell and cracked a vertebra, I was on high alert. A day or two later he was moved to the ICU for reasons unrelated to the fall, so after consulting with my Dad, I left Sarah and Joel at home, and jumped a bus to N’Djamena Monday night, heading back to the US. By the time I reached my last layover in Washington DC on Wednesday night, the decision had been made to remove my grandpa’s life support at 9:30pm and let him pass into the sleep of death, surrounded by his family, singing hymns and sharing stories.
Thus it was, at that set time, that I found myself on the plane, looking out over the Great Lakes, bawling and singing with songs of my own. He died that same night, just an hour after I arrived home to Denver. I then continued on to California to be with the family.
I can’t tell you all the courts where Grandpa Mac served, or the various boards he sat on. But I can tell you he was a man who lived his passion, and loved his family. As kids, we went to their river house in Arizona during the summer. We rode the Colorado River on jet-skis, and boated all over Lake Havasu, my grandpa smiling at the controls the entire time. When we saw each other, he’d often greet us, “Who dat?” The proper reply was always, “who dat who say ‘who dat’?” Then, “who dat who say ‘who dat’ when I say who dat?” He would keep going with more who dats than my young mind could ever process, and laugh as I stuttered through an attempt to add even more. He always had witty little comments that came out at unexpected times. For instance, one day, when we were eating mixed peas and carrots for lunch, he reminded us all to “eat every carrot, and pee on your plate.”
Praise God for the life that he lived, and the example he was. Praise God for the hope and promise of the resurrection. I can’t wait to see him again.