Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Lament for a Grandfather


I am attempting to go through all the unread books on my shelves and make them read books. Currently I am concentrating on my preaching section. Once I flipped open the cover though I noticed I was not the first person to have read this book. In my grandfather’s handwriting was the date he received the book, 3-24-49. This is peculiar because the book doesn’t look that old and it states the current copyright was in 1988. The book is Imagination of the Heart, New Understandings in Preaching by Paul Scott Wilson. Paul Scott Wilson was born in 1949, according to the copyright page. I think my grandfather was confused.

That is a good possibility because currently he is sitting in the locked down third floor of a nursing facility in Charlotte. My grandfather has Alzheimer’s disease. William (Bill) Matthews is a brilliant man. He was an engineer for GM and helped design many aspects of our cars that we take for granted. The only thing I know he helped engineer is the locking gas cap we all are accustomed too. I wish I knew more about his work. Growing up I knew he was a smart man and once I entered high school and college I caught on to keen mind. He loved doing the crossword puzzle and sketching. I remember clearly him visiting us in Charlotte, they use to live in Huron, OH, and he was reading Alice in Quantumland by Robert Gilmore. This is what he called light reading.

He was also a very active member in his UMC in Huron. Thus I was not surprised to find this book on my shelf with his notes, sketches, and highlights included. My parents have been trying to slim down my grandparents ‘stuff’ for quite a while. Every so often I will show up at their house to find another box of things I am welcome to if I want. One day they had a box of books and went through it and took what I thought might be interesting, including Imagination of the Heart. Yet as I started to read it years later I am finding out I can’t bring myself to do it.

At my last sermon in my pervious appointment I had a lot of my family show up. Since it was in their hometown they thought it would be an ideal time to hear me preach since I and they don’t know if I’ll ever be appointed near them again. After the service my aunt, my mom’s sister, came up to me with tears in her eyes. It wasn’t that my sermon was so spectacular but she was lamenting the loss of possible conversations. She told me, “Grandpa would be so proud of you and oh the things you two could have talked about.” That comment rang in my ears as I leafed through the pages to see Grandpa’s notes in this book.

My grandfather was never a minister although I think he was a lay speaker or at least a lay leader. His notes tell me that he was really into the idea of preaching and telling people God’s Word. I wonder what he would say about my sermons, my style, and my presence behind the pulpit? As I looked through the book I lamented loss conversations.

As I type this my grandfather is trapped within is own body and mind. He is physically alive and healthy but this horrible disease has moved his body back to infancy. This brilliant mind holds so much knowledge and wisdom but I’ll never learn from it. I will never get a chance to sit down over a beer and a football game and ask him why he wrote We were left hanging by our thumbs – where was the hope?

I may be able to learn more if I could bring myself to read the words of the author but I can’t. The book will be going back up on my shelf to be dusted off sometime in the future. I cannot concentrate on the words typed on the pages because my mind is sucked away to the lost conversations. I lament for my grandfather who is not yet gone but has already retreated to a place only God knows and can go.

4 comments:

GroovyG said...

Hi your blog is really cool!

Rev. J said...

Thank you groovyg. I am glad you enjoy it.

Michael said...

I'm speechless. This is probably one of the most moving, most profound posts I've ever had the pleasure of reading. My heart and my prayers are with you as you journey through this period in your life.

Blessings and Christ's Peace to you and yours.

revjfletcher said...

Thank you for sharing with us such a personal sentiment.

You have been God's reminder for me today to be cherish, nurture and be thankful for the close relationships I have.

I want to spend time with those elders who are important to me--to learn what they have learned and appreciate what God has done for them. I also want to ensure the younger people in my life they have, in me, someone to look to as well.

Stay blessed...john