What a day that will be,
When my Jesus I shall see,
When I look upon His face,
The One who saved me by His grace;
When He takes me by the hand, And leads me through the Promised Land,
What a day, glorious day that will be.
Two weeks ago, my grandfather Wilbur passed away. As a family, we were given the opportunity to share at his memorial service. The following are the notes I wrote to share from, since usually the act of holding a microphone has this nasty effect of making me forget everything except two words: "ah" and "um."
Many people shared about his life; children, grandchildren, and friends. But mostly what we did is sing the beautiful old songs that he relied on all his life. The stanza above is from one of the songs everyone who knew him probably heard at one point. Grandpa was a restless man, but whenever he was singing, he seemed at peace, so it was a very special time with family to sing the same words that always comforted and sustained him.
Some of us got the flaky fingernails, or the double-jointed pinkies, or those blue eyes, and some got his wickedly playful sense of humor. Some inherited his passion and zeal for the gospel and missions. Some got the sweet tooth, the love of coffee or seafood, or the green thumb for gardening. But all of us at one time or another, got one of Grandpa's sloppy kisses.
Looking back, I realize that we grandchildren received a lot of strength from knowing that we were loved by Grandpa, and Grandma, and Great-Aunt Mona.
Any time I looked at scripture over this past week, it seemed like I could hear Grandpa's voice reading it, because if I hadn't heard him read through every scripture myself, I knew that he had read it at some time in his life. Micah 6:8 stood out to me especially
"He has shown you O man,
what is good and what the Lord requires of you:
But to do justly
and to love mercy
and to walk humbly with your God."
I heard a few months ago, and the idea stuck with me, that Justice is really love in action, love at work in the world. We can never love perfectly here, but love covers over a multitude of sins. I'll remember as a granddaughter how Grandpa showed his love for us by being playful, spending time with us, going to every wedding and graduation and celebration in our lives, and by sharing his love for God's word.
To love mercy seems to have a lot to do with being thankful for what we've been given. Grandpa was good at playing with the grandkids because he never lost his sense of wonder at the world. He could always pick up a piece of driftwood or a bird's feather, or any little thing he collected on his many long walks, and be impressed by it.
Grandpa only spoke with pride of his own accomplishments a few times that I remember. One was being a part of his division in WWII, another was finally getting a date with the cutest redhead in town after a lot of hard work asking her out, and the last was giving up smoking when he found out he was going to be a father. He always repeated that more than once when he was telling me about it "and I did...I did stop. That day." as if he couldn't believe he had really done it.
Grandpa showed us what is good and what the Lord requires of us:
Do justly--love those around us as well as we can, trusting to God for help.
Love mercy--live with a thankful and wondering heart
Walk humbly with our God, taking pride, not in our own abilities, but in the work that God has done in transforming our lives.
Grandpa always longed to be part of a great work of the Spirit. Maybe he was, not in exactly the ways he expected, but in these gifts, small and large, that he has left with us.