When I close my eyes and think about my grandfather, my memories are cloaked in a deep sense of contentment and warmth. I remember his gentle chuckle, the twinkle in his eye and never feeling like I was a nuisance in his presence. A feisty middle child, I often felt overlooked and misunderstood in my family. But never while in grandpa’s lap.
As a little girl, he’d let me play a game where I would pretend to inject an imaginary sleeping potion into his arm and he’d feign drifting off to sleep. I held my breath in anticipation then he’d jerk awake to my peals of giggles begging, “Again, Grandpa! Again!”
Weary from working in the fields, this strong thoughtful farmer would patiently brush my gnarled, knotty and wild blonde curls one strand at a time. And his gentle hand always stayed my impatience for the task.
I loved listening to grandpa sing, especially with his barbershop quartet. And I credit him for gifting me with a deep appreciation for vocal harmony. This developed into my lifelong joy of singing in madrigals, vocal ensembles, gospel choirs and worship teams. In my mind, God created human voices to blend together. I am guessing grandpa thought so, too.
The truth is, my memories are relegated to these bits and pieces. Because this grandfather, who I adored, was peeled from my life in one whole layer after his divorce from my grandmother. From that point on, I saw him only through the looking glass. I knew he was there, but I did not really know him anymore.
At a tender age, I experienced first-hand but didn’t fully understand the unyielding aftershocks of a family torn apart. I lost both my father and grandfather to divorce in the same year. And countless other family marriages collapsed as well during my childhood. If divorce is a family curse, we had it on all sides, beating the national average handily.
Yet I love my family wholly, including all of our flaws and scars. We have walked through vast fields of forgiveness and emerged knowing that the messy work of reconciliation is always worth it in the end.
So I am not bitter or angry. Instead, I am acutely aware of God’s incredible ability to breathe life and beauty into ashes. And I am proud that I come from a family that places a high value on forgiveness. Because it is woven into the very fabric of our story.
But I’d be lying if I didn’t admit my sadness that I was robbed of a chance to spend more time with such a wonderful grandfather.
Grandpa was funny and kind and thoughtful. He lived life simply but was by no means simple. God places a high value on humility, hard work and quiet service. In 1 Thessalonians 4:11, we are instructed, “Make it your goal to live a quiet life, minding your own business and working with your hands, just as we instructed you before.” My grandfather did just that, diligently loving his family and working hard to provide food for others. It is an incredible legacy that honored God.
Happy memories of my grandparents’ farm influenced my desire to raise my children in the country. And this farm connection is what ultimately brought him back into my life. Grandpa got a kick out of the fact that Dave and I purchased a hobby farm after fifteen years of living in the city. And my mother and aunt kept him abreast of our many foibles and occasional victories as we learned to manage our five acre menagerie.
This farmer’s granddaughter didn’t inherit the chicken keeping gene. Mine just kept dying. So he wrote me a hilarious and winsome letter reassuring me that sometimes chickens just drop dead for no apparent reason – he figured they die from heart attacks. Who knew? I will treasure this letter always as well as our many conversations about my little hobby farm adventure.
My great comfort and joy is that though I didn’t see him often on earth, my grandfather knew the Lord. He placed his faith in Jesus so I have assurance that I will get spend eternity with him in Heaven. I am sure he is now singing for the Lord in perfect harmony. And I bet it is amazing.
I will sing to the Lord all my life; I will sing praise to my God as long as I live. Psalm 104:33