It is just over 9 years ago since I ﬁrst met in person my Grandpa, Virgil Nedium Hale. Through the miraculous intervention of God, we were able to connect.
There are more than 6 _ billion people on this planet. Finding Grandpa amongst them was a seemingly impossible task. Without the assistance of the internet, my Father had fruitlessly searched through many different organizations and after a few years of effort had given up.
I half-heartedly prayed that if it were God’s will, a reunion would take place……… and then I forgot and gave up too.
Sometime later there was a boy riding his bike around Australia. Choosing an unlikely inland route, he had the misfortune of a ﬂat tire. This happened right outside my parents place 5 kilometres south of Nanango, Queensland. He almost went unnoticed when he walked into their little wood-working gallery but by chance my sister Karla caught him as he walked back out the door. She drove him into town to have his bike repaired, and as he had to wait overnight he camped in her back yard.
The boy was American and for some unknown reason my sister asked him, “Do you know Virgil Nedium Hale?” His surprising response - “Yes…I do believe he is the minister at my Grandmother’s church in Lebanon, Virginia.”
Time passed. Courage failed us. But eventually I came home from Sydney and plucked up the nerve to phone international directories to seek out Rev Virgil Nedium Hale of Lebanon, Virginia. Only seconds went by before we had a phone number.
Months went by before that much stared at number was called by my Mother, Denise. It was him! More months went by and my Mother called him again, this time for his birthday. After that, letters were exchanged, the story told and a trip for Denise, Virgil and my little brother Beau was arranged through the generosity of Jim, Tommy, Gerry and Janie. Most of you were probably around for that ﬁrst, emotional meeting and you were probably as astonished as we were at their resemblance to one another. A few years later in 1999 my sister Karla and I made the twenty hour ﬂight to meet our Grandpa too.
Let me take you back a little bit to give you a picture of how signiﬁcant that meeting was for me. When I was 10 years old, Dad told me about Grandpa - that he was an American soldier who lived a long way away, and whom he did not know. From that point on I would day dream about him, shaping him in my imagination to be the Grandfather I would have loved to have had. Every American man beyond 40 that we met, I would somehow hope was ‘him’!
And then came the day that we met. That time was a period of immense turmoil for me. My husband Blair and I were in the process of moving from Australia to New Zealand and I had just lost my darling Aunty Jan to a brain tumour. Everywhere I turned God was speaking to me through Ecclesiastes 3:1-11 which reminds that there is a time for everything…. This was my time for mourning, my time for moving on and my time for connecting with my long-lost Grandfather and his welcoming family.
Over the years of knowing him, my Grandfather has not disappointed me. He deﬁned what a Grandpa should be like- kind, loving, interested in our lives. He made us know that he was proud of us and at every point of contact would tell us that he loved us. He was gentle and so much like my Dad.
I feel so very blessed to have been made to feel like a cherished Granddaughter, if only ‘for a time’. I am so thankful for his Christian legacy, for the opportunity to be a part of his life and for the memories that we were able to make. I will really miss my Grandpa but I am thankful for what he has left behind too, in his wonderful children and wonderful wife.
Grandpa has left me a special gift that I will cherish forever. Tobias and Lachlan, my little sons, have hands that are shaped in just the same way as their Grandfather and Great-grandfather. Big strong hands that I hope will be used as gently and skillfully as their forefathers. —Cherie