Patriarchs. You don’t see them every day, but when you do, you know them. And so does everyone around them.

Lloyd “Buzz” Busby was a patriarch, and I had the privilege to see him in action. He wasn’t alone. Not by any stretch of the imagination. His family surrounded him. Rose, his wife of 52 years, a stunning and gracious woman, was there. His three children were there: Gary, Linda, and Tim. So were their spouses. There were grandchildren all over the place. A sterile hospital waiting room transfigured into a homespun sanctuary.

It was a few days before Christmas, and Buzz was getting ready to go home to be with Jesus. For all of eternity. And God allowed me to spend a few precious hours with a patriarch and his family exhibiting the ultimate example of unconditional love: a husband, father, and grandfather finishing the race strong and loving his family during his last hours on earth.

Buzz met Rose on a blind date; six months later they married in The Little Brown Church in Nashua, Iowa. He was a golden gloves boxer, a wrestler, and a floor and tile man. He did auctioneering on the side and raised up a family that came to Christ and are still walking alongside Him. All of them. And this memorable day, his family showed up in force as Buzz Busby was preparing to go home. He was a powerhouse of a man. I knew him as one of many of the men I’ve had the joy to teach in a men’s meeting each Wednesday—but he stuck out. Patriarchs usually do in their own way.

At his ICU bedside with Rose, the kids, and grandkids, we held each other’s hands and prayed. We celebrated a man who has lived an upright life and served the Lord and his family well. Unconditionally. After the prayer I asked to have a few minutes alone with my friend. We read Scripture. He shared his undying love for Rose and his family. I reminded him that he had raised up a godly family and served them and that they would be okay and see him soon. He is just doing what a loving dad does, going before to scout out the land. He beamed through tubes and monitors.

After some private time between Buzz, the Lord, and me, I began to leave and he held my hand tightly. I leaned over and kissed his forehead. Then I returned to his family for a few hours of tears, laughter, and just plain being a family. The grandkids told great stories about their grandpa. There were stories of Buzz and Rose’s first date, hotel retreats, anniversary parties, hunting adventures.

Moments of periodic silence allowed all of us to drink in the memories. His daughter, Linda, beamed with pride and poise as she talked about her dad. The boys shared glances across the room with their wives as Buzz’s grown grandkids cuddled with spouses and young ones with parents and uncles. There were runs for pop, Chex mix being passed, and blankets being shared. The grandkids used “Aunt Linda” and “Uncle Gary” and “Uncle Tim” rather than just their first names. You don’t hear that much anymore.

Even Buzz’s nurse, who was feeding him ice chips, broke down and had to call for relief—later apologizing for losing her professionalism. “Buzz is just different. I am going to miss him in the dialysis unit. You are all different,” she told Rose. That was clear. We all could see that.

Here I was just a visitor, yet I became part of Buzz’s family for a few special hours. And I saw a patriarch in action. A patriarch who has loved unconditionally. He has provided and protected. He has sacrificed for his family and stood upright as a believer in Jesus Christ. He has served his community and is honored by all of us who know him.

As Rose and I took a walk before I left, she talked about the unbelievable calm she was experiencing. The calm that “surpasses all understanding.” She talked about how he had served her and loved her. Buzz is a one-woman kind of man. If you have a patriarch in training, love him well. Someday he will go home. Buzz did at 10:30 p.m., Tuesday night. And he left behind a great marriage, a great family, a great legacy.

Copyright © 2001 by Gary Rosberg. All rights reserved. Used by permission.