Thursday, June 17, 2010


Remembering Harry

At some point early in my life, I decided to call my grandfather Harry, "papa". I called him that for 34 years. He died suddenly two weeks ago, and his death has led to a lot of thinking. The thing most disquieting about death is its unpredictability. Since we never know who it will strike or when, the very ground beneath our feet feels unstable. I am glad that papa's life was built on a rock, but that doesn't seem to ease my grandmother's pain right now. The loss of a presence that she had for 62 years cannot be easy. My love and prayers are with her constantly.

As I made my way back to my home in Southern California last week, I did it with reservations. How would this all feel? Would I sob the whole time? Would I be able to enjoy the presence of family, some of whom I had not seen in decades? The answer? I did not sob the whole time. I felt rushes of nostalgia and heartache, and I did enjoy seeing the family. It was a four day affair, which made for lots of storytelling, great laughter, old and new photographs, and food. The thing that impressed me so much was the direct impact that he had on so many, while his impact on me was more one of influence. He raised a family on the Rock, and his son in turn raised me on the Rock. This is the greatest gift he could have given. Grandparents are often thought of as mindless gift fountains, dispensing candy, money and toys to greedy grandchildren. Papa knew that the greatest gift he could give us was an understanding of who Jesus Christ is.

Last weekend, I heard the same old stories, I saw many of the same old photos, and I sang the same old hymns. I also contemplated some of the arguments I had with my grandfather, and some of the ways I just didn't connect with him. But it occurs to me that the photos, the hymns and the stories (which all serve a meaningful purpose) are actually quite trite compared with the one thing that mattered most to him. This one thing we shared, and it eclipses anything else. Our sins were washed in the blood of the great Passover Lamb, and we have given Him our hearts. I will be conformed to Christ's image for as many days as I have left on this earth. That is the best way I can remember him.

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