Today, I spent the afternoon and evening with family; specifically, with my grandparents. My grandfather, you see, is 93 years old. He is dying. The process is a slow one, fraught with pain and worry; the pain is his, and the worry his and ours; worry caused by the pain, worry on his part that his children are burdened, worry on his children’s part that he is in too much suffering, and wondering when it will happen. But there is no fear of death itself – only a concern for the suffering as it approaches.
As I sat in their house, talking with my grandmother, grandfather, sister, aunts, and uncles, the memories played through my mind of the time I have spent there, and in their company. My grandmother, wishing to share with her grandchildren her own memories, brought out her notebook, full of pictures of the things she has made: beautifully sewn dolls with excellent dresses, amazingly done paintings, pencils, and pastels, pieces of art that have been fixtures in my life, and pieces she did when she was in junior high. She has a gift for art.
Then Grandpa suggested she show us his notebook as well. It was never his trade, but he had a gift for art as well, as expressed through his carpentry. In his basement workshop, he has created absolutely beautiful works; dressers, cabinets, benches, rocking chairs, birdhouses, wooden cars, clocks, candle and lamp holders, rocking horses, a cradle, a mailbox cabinet for his local church, and the list goes on. For every kid, grandkid, and great-grandkid, he made something. Presents from Grandpa were almost without exception (and I only say almost because I cannot trust my memory completely) hand-made. The mantel over the fireplace in my parents’ home was made by him – the absolutely gorgeous wooden model of a 1920’s era Cadillac that sits on the mantel was made by him. The pendulum clock is his work as well, save for the timepiece itself.
Both my grandpa and grandma have created things that have touched the lives of people around the world. Little wooden toy cars have made children in Cote d’Ivoire, Somalia, and other countries very happy. His skill and kindness have blessed his church and his neighbors. My grandmother’s quilts and dolls have blessed families around the world. I knew all this already. Today, I realized it again. And I discovered just how prolific they have been in their creating and giving.
They have given less tangible things as well, and perhaps that is even more important. They had six children, you see, and those children went on to have their own children. Those children learned how to live, take care of themselves, and how to care for their children from my grandparents. They learned to love unconditionally. They learned to help people, not coddle them. They learned that a full life is a giving one. I don’t know all that my aunt and uncles have done, but I know they have lived well. I know that my parents have devoted their lives to the service of God and the good of the world. And I know that without their example to guide me, I would be much more of a wreck than a person.
My grandmother, in the process of going through everything in their house, a house that they have lived the great majority, if not all of, their married life in, found the cake topper from their wedding. The beautiful bell, with a little man and woman inside of it, adorned their wedding cake 71 years ago. They have been an example of a wonderful, working marriage for longer than the majority of the citizens of the US have been alive.
In tribute to them, and all they have done, this is my thanks. Grandpa, I love you. God keep you, always.