When I think of my grandpa, my mind fills with images of him in the kitchen- baking bread, shortbread cookies, and his famous lemon meringue pies. He’s wearing a white apron and a warm smile, his fingers are caked with flour. My cousins and I loved watching Garfield on VHS at Grandma and Grandpa’s house. We checked the chicken coop for eggs, hopped the fence in the backyard to put pennies on the train track to be smashed, and “played babies” with the bottles, bibs and glass jars of baby food Grandpa stored in the garage after his decades of working for Gerber Baby Company.
On Grandparents Day at St. Paul’s School, my grandpa served as a surrogate grandpa to two of my best friends, Anna and Jamie. I was proud to have him as a grandpa. I loved sharing him. I knew, even as a child, that every kid deserved to have a grandpa like mine.
Growing up here at Community Presbyterian Church meant sharing him with all of you as well. My grandpa was a mentor to many- a father figure to people my parents’ age and a grandfather figure to those my age. It meant squeezing through crowds on the patio between services to see him. I wouldn’t say I had preferential treatment once I made it to him. It was more like, “Get in line kid, it starts way back there.” Everyone wanted their time with him.
Our family also shared my grandpa on holidays. It was normal to show up at Grandma and Grandpa’s house for a family meal and meet a handful of people for the first time. My grandparents had a way of identifying people who would otherwise spend the holiday alone and inviting them in as part of our family. As I grew up, sharing him meant scheduling time with him between all of his other social gatherings. “Pencil me in two weeks please, Grandpa.” Again, I was happy to share him.
The Bible’s message is often simplified as “Love God and love others.” My grandpa was a prolific man of faith. He loved God and others so well. I think of the apostle Paul’s words throughout the new testament to describe himself, “poured out like a drink offering.” My grandpa was tired at the end of his life, he’d given so much of himself. Like an NFL athlete after the Super Bowl, he left it all on the field.
I’ve always wanted to be like my grandpa- a teacher and leader in the church. He was my inspiration for going to seminary and leading ministries in church just like he did. This church, like many across the nation, is trying to figure out how to best engage the next generation. As ideas were being tossed around, one person said, “We need to do what Dick and Ginger did all those years ago- mentoring the younger generation, investing in them, serving them and loving them with their lives.” Their love is timeless and always a good strategy in ministry and in life.
I spent Christmas Eve at grandpa’s bedside. By then he was mostly unresponsive, but could still hear. I got to thank him for being an incredible grandpa to my brother, cousins and I, husband to my grandma (for 73 years!), father to my dad and his siblings and great-grandpa. I thanked him for giving my family and I the gift of Jesus- the best gift he could ever give us. I thanked him for his example of a life well-lived. It was a difficult but beautiful time.
If I have a fraction of the influence my grandpa had on his family, friends, church, and community, I’ll consider my life a successful one. Well done, good and faithful servant. Your legacy will live on. Let it begin with each one of us.