“Every lament is a love-song.” –Nick Wolterstorff, Lament for a Son, pg. 6
I’ve been crying a lot in the last few days. Its a little awkward sometime, because Chinese people don’t express their emotions through tears as much as I do. Friends want to comfort me, to get me to stop crying and be happy again. These words show their care, but I’m not ready to stop the tears yet. My tears are a form of lament—I am expressing grief that my beloved grandfather has joined his Savior and I will not see him again on this earth. And my tears are a love-song—they say that I love my grandpa, that his life mattered to me and shaped me, that I will miss him.
Grandpa and I Enjoying Our New Granddaughter/Sister
My Grandpa and Grandma were masters at showing up. School programs, piano recitals, sports games, violin recitals, school plays, graduations, supply preaching, ordination, the airport when I left for China—Grandpa was there. Unless they were traveling, they were there. Their presence said this is important, and you are important. Grandpa showed us incarnational love, he came to where we were, whether or not he actually wanted to sit through several hours of kids playing simple piano pieces just to hear his granddaughters play for a minute or two. This is the kind of person I want to be: someone who shows up, who shows Love by being present. Someone who puts others needs above my own.
(I am behind the girl holding the baby, wearing a giant hat, and Grandpa is in the bright green shirt)
Grandpa embodied service and showing the love of Christ in tangible ways. His “faith expressed itself in love” (Galatians 5:6). When my mom was born, they were living in Muskegon, MI, and he was teaching in a public school. He was making a lot more money in the public school than he could in the Christian school system, but he felt called to serve in the Christian school system. They took the decrease in salary and moved home to serve in the Christian school. He continued in the Christian schools as teacher and principal for the rest of his career. I don’t really have memories of him while he was working, but from the many people I have met who had him as a teacher (or whose kids had him), he was a beloved and respected educator. For a few summers, he taught drivers education and a number of people have told me, “your grandpa taught me how to drive.”
After he retired, Grandpa and Grandma were able to serve in new ways. They frequently served with Word Renew’s Disaster Response Services, traveling around North America to assist people rebuilding homes after hurricanes, floods, and tornadoes. One year during Spring Break, our whole family travelled together to South Carolina to work for a week. I was 9 or 10 at the time, which my mom (wisely) decided was not old enough to help paint in the houses, even though my 12 or 13 year old cousin got to. I was assigned to help clean up the work site and help Mom and Grandma sew curtains and cook for everyone (none of which seemed as cool as painting). Even though I didn’t get to paint, I learned from my family that “faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead”(James 2:17). The travelling stopped as he aged, but he began serving as a day manager for the Bibles for Mexico Thrift Store. He usually got more calls on his cell phone than I did on mine, because of his work at the store. The week before he died, he worked three days (instead of the usual one or two).
January 1, 2012
Grandpa loved the church, the Body of Christ. He was faithful and active in a number of congregations over the years, and served a term as elder when he was in his 80s. In all my years, the times I remember him complaining about the church or the pastor are few and far between. With his dry sense of humor, he called his long-time church the “reprobate church” in their classis (evidence: they let me preach). And he was so supportive of my journey to follow my God’s calling on my life. I didn’t become the black sheep of the family or the granddaughter whose occupation he tried not to mention. He made connections and looked for opportunities for me. I am so thankful. Grandpa’s lived faith shaped us all. Our family is a statistical anomaly—my sisters and cousins (Gen Xers and Millenials) are all active Believers, involved in local churches, and most of us have served in some sort of leadership role. This is the grace of God, and a testament to faithful grandparents and parents.
The last time I saw Grandpa on this earth, February 2016
Grandpa was faithful in little and big things. He lived his life “decently and in good order.” He maintained his home and car, and helped everyone else in the family with home maintenance projects, too. I’ve never owned a house, but he spent a day helping hang curtain rods and assemble a dresser in my apartment. He once organized the garden tools at my parents house and traced outlines of the various rakes and shovels and added labels to the pegboard, to show the proper place for each thing. He managed his money well so he could be generous to many different causes. He prayed for all of us at least once every day.
A friend of mine, who doesn’t know anyone else in my family, was watching the tribute video with me, and she commented that she could tell that his was a life well lived, and that she hopes that at the end of her life people will be able to remember her in the same way. I, too, hope that my life will be the sort of blessing to others that Grandpa’s life has been. And at the end, I will hear, and I know he did, “Well done, good and faithful servant” (Matthew 25:23).