catapult magazine

catapult magazine

Vol 3, Num 11 :: 2004.05.21 — 2004.06.03


Passing on love

I didn?t realize immediately the most serious loss the world would suffer when I found out a couple of weeks ago that one of my grandfathers had died.

My first response was a deep sorrow for my grandma. In my mind, I walked through their house, seeing all there was to remind her of him. I imagined a closet full of clothes that still smelled like Hank, cartons of ice cream that would go to waste, a pantry and a refrigerator stocked for two, a bed far too large for one. I imagined how big and devastating the empty space would be if something were to happen to my husband and, compared to our three, grandpa and grandma had over fifty years practice at being of one flesh.

Arriving at the house in Sun City, Arizona, I found more artifacts of him: his last word-search book, his Bible, his glasses, his tapioca pudding, the orange juice he squeezed just hours before he collapsed. But I realized these were just the tangible things left behind by a grandfather who lived thousands of miles away from me almost all of my life. I realized there was so much I couldn?t possibly know about him, like the fact that Walgreens was his favorite store or that he had made breakfast every morning for my grandma.

What I did know was his smile, a goofy, squinty-eyed smile that was so easy to turn on and so difficult to turn off. Often, it accompanied a strong, one-armed squeeze as he laughed his silly inhaling laugh at a joke or just because he was happy to see me. This smile had no shade of sarcasm, no doubtful uncertainty lingering in the eyes, just joy. This smile became my clue to who he was to so many people.

At the funeral, my cousin did what I could not by getting up to say something about grandpa. He read the passage about love from I Corinthians 13 as an introduction to what a loving man our grandfather was. As we mourned and reminisced in various clusters of family and friends that weekend, it became perfectly clear what my grandfather?s greatest gift was: the ability to love others without condition. I don?t know how many times people brought up the fact that on road trips, or even just trips to the store, whoever was with grandpa would end up waiting in the car while he found out the names, destinations, backgrounds and dreams of every person in range. My uncle said at the funeral, ?If he were here at the luncheon today, he would talk to every person in the room, telling each one what he had found out about the person before.?

While I will forever be in awe of the amazing legacy of love my grandfather left, I realize at the same time that loving others is one of the things I don?t do very well. I find myself avoiding and despising people for no reason or for insignificant reasons. I catch myself wishing people could see themselves from my perspective so they could change those annoying habits and make ?better? decisions. I rarely, like my grandfather did every day, find myself wanting to interact with someone simply because he or she is human.

Whether my grandfather consciously knew that he was treating strangers like people made in the image of God, like he would treat Christ, or whether he simply enjoyed conversation and felt claustrophobic trapped in walls of civilized silence, I won?t know anytime soon. But I do know that if I am to continue his good work and fill the space he left in the world, I have to learn to start a conversation and to recognize God all around me.

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