He was Big Papa.He was Wayne – “wagon maker.”
A man who built up those around him.
My husband bears his name. My son bears his name. His Irish-Scottish-Canadian-American blood runs through the veins of my daughters who have his slim build and long legs.
How do you go on when the wheels of the family wagon don’t just break, but disappear?
The first memory I have of Wayne is unremarkable – an afternoon of swimming in Wayne and Dawn’s pool as a teenager (since I was friends with their grandson). I’m sure I was introduced to these grandparents of a friend, and never thought twice about how these grandparents would become as dear to me as my own over the following 17 years. The last time I talked to Wayne, he looked at my husband and said it wasn’t hard for him to go because he knew that the people he left behind were successful.
“Carry on,” he told us.
Keep that wagon moving.
Three Christmases ago, my girls received a red Radio Flyer wagon from Wayne and Dawn. The evening was spent with wagon parts strewn across G.G.’s floor and four generations of Bernards constructing the wagon together. You don’t really realize that you need a wagon until you really need a wagon.
That wagon has since been pulled through muddy tulip fields, been used in my annual cherry blossom photo of the kids, and even hauled pavers for our recent patio project. It has bolts that have been replaced and wheels that squeak because my kids weigh too much now, but that wagon keeps going. Wagons of old were built to provide support and protection – a way to get the work done and protect those doing it.
Wayne was a wagon maker.
Listening to his funeral service one month ago today, I heard his co-workers and church family tell story after story of a man who crafted support systems for God’s work to get done. He worked tirelessly to protect those he loved and believed in.
On Wayne’s 47th birthday, his first grandchild, Bryan Wayne Bernard, was born.
When we were blessed with a healthy son on June 29, 2016, there was no question about what his middle name would be.
Judah Wayne Bernard joins four others named after B. Wayne Bernard – one of his sons, two of his grandsons, and two of his great-grandsons. These five bear his name, but we all shoulder Wayne’s challenge to “carry on” his legacy of loving others before ourselves.
I remember the first time I noticed that he always did the dishes after the family meals, and how his son (my father-in-law) always helped. He always initiated arms-crossed conversations with Bryan about his work in Corvallis with OSU students. He always thought before he spoke and I never heard him raise his voice. At his funeral service, I learned that Wayne knew plenty about revitalizing churches (since that’s what he helped do at Salem First Baptist), but I never got that impression from him as he would offer bits of encouragement to Bryan when he set out to revitalize our church in Corvallis. Wayne never flaunted his knowledge, but quietly would offer it up for you to take or leave.
My husband is a dreamer – a visionary – a wagon driver. Wayne was always there as one of those people who would help construct the wagon which Bryan drove. When Bryan dreamed of a ministry house on campus, Wayne and Dawn donated money every month to see that it happened. They donated their couches so college students could be comfortable in the house. The house became a hub for the growing college ministry at OSU.
The decisions Wayne made in life were calculated. He was not an impulsive man, not one to jump into things without weighing the pros and cons. I think that’s why his sudden cancer diagnosis and death come at such a shock to us. Wayne’s death seemed to shock everyone but him. He was ready.
Standing to sing “It is Well,” at his service, I tried not to let my mind wander through the origins of the song because I was trying to hold it together.
Of course, I couldn’t keep at bay the “sorrows like sea billows roll” of Heratio Spafford, writing about the loss of his four children in a shipwreck. My eyes rested on my hands clinging to the chair in front of me. On my right hand, rings bearing the names of my children sang out to me and I thought about the two rings that commemorate the babies we’ve lost to miscarriage. Immediately, I knew that those babies were in Wayne’s arms at that moment because his hands were never empty if there was a great grandchild to hold.
My children are blessed to have many grandparents, but only one they named Big Papa. The name fit him – he was tall and had a big hug and a big smile and a big heart. He loved us so well because he loved his Lord so well. We follow in Big Papa’s footsteps because they were always running after Jesus.
The Lord’s work doesn’t stop with him.
The wagon wheels may have disappeared, but it’s up to us to pick up the load and carry on.
SeaKrest will never be the same without his Big Papa greetings.
Corban basketball games will always be missing him in his blue chair.Bryan’s June 5th birthday cakes will never have enough candles.
But we will carry on.
We will make it.
Because we are a family.
We build wagons together.