My maternal grandfather was born 130 years ago today. This post, in honor of his birthday, is a meditation on enduring love and includes some reflections published in previous posts.
Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends . . . So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three, but the greatest of these is love (1 Corinthians 13:7-8a; 13, emphasis mine).
Death has visited my family often in October. Three of my four grandparents, a beloved aunt, a cherished uncle – all six passed away during the tenth month of different years.
October 2017 found us bereaved once again, as son-in-law Justin’s grandfather completed his earthly sojourn. His memorial service was a celebration of a life well-lived, a race faithfully run, a servant safely Home. As Justin and his brother and cousin shared memories of their grandfather, it was clear he made a lasting, positive impact on their lives.
Though their memories won’t be as distinct or numerous, “Papa” touched the lives of the next generation as well. Great-grandson, Joshua, six at the time, comforted himself and others with truth: “He’s not sick anymore. He’s in heaven!” “In heaven, guess what? You can’t die again! Papa is there waiting for us!” And, possibly my favorite, “Papa doesn’t have to pray anymore. He can walk right up and talk to Jesus!”
Oh, the beauty and simplicity of child-like faith, the kind of faith Jesus commended (Matthew 19:13-14), the kind God tells us to pass on to our offspring (Deuteronomy 4:9). It’s apparent Papa followed that mandate, modeling a godly walk for his children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren.
I think of my own dear Papa, called Home in October 1965, when I was six. A life-long farmer, he was short and wiry, yet mighty in his faith. According to Mom, he was present at the tiny country church, where he served as a deacon, every time the doors were open. My memories of him are few but precious – sitting on his lap eating apple slices, walking to the small general store, stopping at the post office, waving to the train conductor and counting the cars. I still feel his love over five decades later.
Likewise, during my husband’s graveside service, one of the pastors told daughters Mary and Jessie, their lives would be forever blessed by having a godly father. Even though he was with us for a relatively short time, we continue to experience the impact of Ray’s unconditional love and steadfast faith some 23 years hence.
Other loved ones people my heritage of faith: A great-aunt, poor by worldly standards, but exceedingly wealthy in grace and kindness. Aunts who didn’t think a visit was complete until they’d fed me, physically and spiritually. Grandmothers with well-worn Bibles and “Jesus Loves Me” on their lips. All of them have long-since joined the great cloud of witnesses mentioned in Hebrews, but their influence lives on (Hebrews 12:1).
I’ve pondered these relationships, marveling how love can reach beyond death, undimmed by the passage of time. Though I cherish tangible reminders of departed loved ones, the lasting connections aren’t based on material gifts. They’re woven together from shared experiences undergirded by loving acceptance and encouragement. Love grounded in faith and hope is the greatest legacy any of us can bestow, far more valuable than any earthly treasures we might bequeath. It’s the legacy I most want to leave.
O Lord, your word has much to say about love. We love because You first loved us, unconditionally and sacrificially (1 John 4:10-11). May we live in such a way that our love and faith are evident, hallmarks of our relationship with You (John 13:35). Please help us to love others as You love us so that the effects linger long after You’ve called us Home, connecting one generation to another.
 Please see “Eating Apples (reprise)” in Archives October 2018.