Tomorrow my family bids farewell to my last surviving grandparent, James Straiton of Richfield, Minnesota, who fell asleep in Christ yesterday morning after collapsing at a family get-together the day before. He was my stepmother's father and a good friend of mine, all the way back to my teenaged years in the mid-1980s. I have many warm memories of times spent together fishing, playing card games, enjoying good food and company. He was always very kind and supportive toward me. His home was often a haven of hospitality for me, my family, and my friends.
Having grandparents has been, in my experience, a wonderful thing. I have been more blessed than most people in that regard. And now that chapter of my life is closed. I will miss that too: the particular blend of wise warmth and almost recklessly indulgent love that a young person is most likely to receive from a Grandma and/or Grandpa; the direct connection to how the world was before one's parents were born, and the opportunity to explore that connection by listening to them tell stories about that world.
I had the privilege of knowing not only all four of my parents' parents, but also four of my stepparents' parents, plus several great-grandparents who at least lived to see me enter the world. I remember most of them. I enjoyed listening to several of them tell stories of their youth, connecting me to that time. And though I had a different relationship with each of them—some closer than others—today I mourn not only the one who died yesterday, but the whole lot of them. Until the day Christ calls me home, or comes to raise all the dead, I will never see any of their faces again except in photographs and memories.