Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Farewell to Grandparents

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.

I will miss Jim. I am glad to have had time to get to know him. I am comforted by the assurance that he is with his Lord, who had blessed him with a living faith in Christ Jesus. I am relieved to know that his time came quickly, without much pain, and that he was spared many of the indignities and disabilities of a long, steady decline. But I am not feeling as joyful as some might urge me to. I regret that we will share no more times like the ones we have shared, for the rest of my earthly life. I grieve with my family, especially my stepmom and her brothers, who were very close to their Dad. Their hurt adds to my hurt.

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.

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