Enjoying the Journey
Just a few days ago I stood next to the old pond where my grandpa and I spent so much time together. Lots of memories. Good ones. I remember some of the catfish we pulled out of those waters, but mostly I just remember him. His laugh. His instruction. And his constant patience with me.
On this Memorial Day I am thinking about him more than ever. He was the only grandpa that I had the privilege to know personally. What I would give to sit under the old cherry tree in his front yard and just talk to him again. There are so many things I failed to ask him about!
I remember him as a sailor, a WWII veteran. He was a Navy man all the way, stationed at Pearl Harbor just after the attack. We had the privilege to stand with him at the USS Arizona Memorial before he went to Heaven. Grandpa was a quiet patriot. He loved his country.
I remember him as a coal miner. Like many in West Virginia, grandpa was one of those who crawled into those mountain shafts. He served for 43 years with the New River Coal Company. One of my favorite stories was of the day a piece of coal fell and cut off half of his ear. Grandpa picked it up, crawled out of the mine, and drove himself to the emergency room. They reattached the ear but failed to clean the wound thoroughly. Until the day he died there was a faint gray line of coal dust across his ear. To a little boy like me it was a badge of honor! He was a real man. He loved his family and worked hard to provide for them.
I remember him as a farmer. Grandpa bought an old run down farm in the hills of southern West Virginia and carved out a beautiful home place. It was there that he taught me to swing a hammer and to swing a bale of hay. It was in those fields that he taught me to ride a motorcycle and to drive a tractor. It was in that old farm pond that he taught me to catch a fish. He loved the outdoors and he loved to work.
We all remember him differently I suppose – a father, a grandfather, a church trustee, a choir member, a Sunday School teacher, a friend. Most of all, I remember him as a Christian. Grandpa knew God. He was faithful to my grandmother for nearly 65 years. His was a life of honor and integrity. He loved the Lord.
His last morning on this earth found him up and about his regular chores. On his way to the garden to stake his tomato plants he passed from this life to the next. I had the honor of preaching his funeral and someday soon I will sit with him under the shade of a much better tree next to the river of life and have another conversation. For now, I look at his picture in my study each day and pray that God will make me the kind of man that he was.