Saturday, November 16, 2013

An Open Letter to My Grandpa

Dear Grandpa,

I miss you.

For your sake, I could never wish you away from the beauty, joy, freedom and glory you are now experiencing in the presence of our Lord and Savior, but this one difficult reality still remains - I miss you and I always will until I, too, am in glory.

Many friends my age don't have any surviving grandparents and I feel so blessed to have had you in my life as long as I did.  I have so many fond memories with you from my childhood - watching you lead the congregation in worship every Sunday morning and evening; playing in your backyard with Tony and Hannah, running in and out of the sliding glass door in the basement while you watched baseball (or, more often, slept) in your recliner always tolerating our noisy childhood ruckus without a single word of annoyance or correction; the PILE of presents surrounding your Christmas tree every year; the smell of your suits as I would snuggle in underneath your arm during the Sunday evening sermons; trying to figure out why some of my relatives looked nothing like me and not really understanding the connection - just knowing it had something to do you with you and Grandma and how well you loved people and welcomed them into your home; seeing you at nearly every one of my athletic events whether it was sitting on the sidelines of the tennis court, cheering in the basketball stands or standing around the shot & disc rings at the track meets; and riding home from St. Cloud in that terrible fall storm while Hannah drove and you prayed us home.

I have even sweeter - and clearer - memories of you from my adult years.  I SO treasured our times together in Yuma - waking up every morning to "pre-cut" grapefruit that grew on that "special" tree in your backyard; taking the leisurely stroll with you down to Lois Haaland's house for dinner and a few rounds of Black Queen; strolling the aisles of the flea market with you, never quite "getting" it but knowing you were happy to be there; and going to dinner at 4:30 most nights (and still getting put on a waiting list!). I especially treasure the year I got to come to Yuma by myself to help you and Grandma fly home.  Our LONG dinner at Red Lobster will forever be one of the most meaningful and memorable conversations of my life as you and Grandma indulged all of my questions about how you each came to know the Lord, your journeys of faith, your understanding of who God is, your experience in the pastorate, and your relationship with each other.

But my most precious memories specifically with you, Grandpa, are from the past 3.5 years.  After Grandma passed away, I committed to calling you every Sunday.  I thought I was doing it for your sake, but I have been blessed by those conversations beyond what I could have ever imagined.  I loved our quick check-ins when you reviewed all of the Gophers, Twins and Vikings scores from the previous week and I filled you in on my travels and activities.  But even more so, I loved the occasional extended conversation when I would seek your wisdom and you would routinely tell me to pray.  I remember one conversation in particular when we spoke for over 40 minutes - I kept hashing and re-hashing a difficult decision I was making while you listened patiently and encouraged me to be in prayer.  In your wisdom, you refused to make a decision for me, repeatedly pointing me to Christ instead.  I didn't come away from that conversation with my mind made up, but I DID come away with a better understanding of what it means to seek God's wisdom before man's and to trust Him to care for me no matter what I decided to do.  I was seeking direction regarding a specific decision; you offered wisdom that applied to my whole life.

Your heart, which was always tender, has been especially visible ever since Grandma died.  Your voice cracked every week when you were trying to tell me you loved me.  Every. Single. Week.  Some days you were so moved you couldn't even speak and I would eventually just say I loved you, too, and bid goodbye to the silence.  During some of the darker days of 2011 and 2012, it meant the world to have a weekly reminder that I was loved to tears.  Our simple little routine was a consistent joy in the midst of my pervasive darkness.

I know you and Grandma would have so loved to see us girls get married and all I can say is - you set an example of godly manhood that is hard for anybody to live up to!  Our standards are high and I blame that largely on you. :-)  Your love, service and faithfulness to Grandma was a model to all of us of what a biblical marriage looks like.  67 years together - what a testament to a marriage dependent on Christ!  

The legacy of faith you have left for our family is rich - beyond my ability to ever express in words.  You were humble, gracious, generous, steadfast, dependent on the Lord, a man of conviction who knew the Word and longed for others to know it, too.  You had a love for and commitment to missions that has extended itself through each generation of our family.  You started Camp Lebanon which became one of the single greatest influences on my understanding of faith and the development of my Christian community.  You birthed my love for hymns and to this day there is nothing that speaks to my soul the way hymnody does.  You led by example, always displaying integrity in your words and actions.  You showed constant support and interest in my life, loving me unconditionally and truly enjoying my presence; you have always been one of the clearest earthly examples of how deeply and genuinely I am loved by my Heavenly Father.  I could go on and on and on.  The influence you have had on me and my family is beyond comprehension.

And it is for these reasons, and more, that I express this sentiment: I miss you.

But even more so, I rejoice because of you.  I rejoice over the blanket of blessing God put on my life when he placed me in this family.  I rejoice over the time we had with you (which was longer than most!).  I rejoice over Christ's faithfulness to you throughout a life full of joy and sorrow and the praise you gave Him in response to both.  I rejoice because that is part of what you taught me through your life - to trust God's sovereign hand, to know he cares for me and to believe he will be faithful through all of the joys and sorrows of life.

I love you to tears,
Eva Joy