Tomorrow, Friday the 13th, 2017, marks the 51st anniversary of the death of my paternal grandfather, Jacob Toussaint. I really hadn’t given this much consideration until earlier this month, but for the past week or so, I have been reminded time and again of how life has changed in the half century since his passing.
My brothers and I didn’t know our Grandpa as well as our cousins did – they lived much closer to him – but we were only about an hour away and every several months or so we would travel to the northwestern suburbs of Chicago to visit. It seemed like a different world to us. Grandpa and Grandma were big into gardening and canning; and I remember each summer Grandpa’s garden was full of vegetables and neat rows of plants that seemed to be beyond my ability to comprehend.
He was always hard at work in the garden (with a hat on) and wasn’t much for conversation. Most of the time, I watched, almost in silence, as he tended the earth and harvested crops for Grandma to preserve or can – or, as she used to say, “put up.” Each meal we had fresh greens from the garden and now it seems odd that this is my most memorable remembrance of Grandpa.
What struck me much more was my Dad’s relationship with his father. Although I know that Dad loved his father, it doesn’t seem like they were all that close. I know that they worked together, but Dad seemed to be much more fun-loving and relational than Grandpa. But then, when I was perhaps 10 years old, Grandpa started suffering the effects of Alzheimer’s and I could see his decline during the periodic visits we made to see him.
Eventually, Grandma had to come to the realization that it was time for Grandpa to move into an assisted living facility. I remember what a sad day that was for Dad – continuing to watch his father’s mental decay. Through the next months, Dad watched his father refer to him as Bruce (his name), eventually replaced by “son”, (recognizing Dad but not knowing his name), to finally referring to his as “son” (realizing Dad was a younger generation but not knowing him at all).
By the time Grandpa passed away, it was probably a blessing, but I was only 12 at the time and didn’t realize the intensity of all that had happened. What I do remember is that when Dad entered the funeral home, he broke down in tears and cried uncontrollably. It was the first time I ever saw Dad so emotionally devastated and I have never forgotten it. It impacted me far beyond words. Dad never really demonstrated his affection for his father in front of me so I never expected his response to his father’s death.
That was all 51 years ago. Now, I am older than my own father was when he passed away. And I am within 8 years or so of my grandfather’s age when he died. I see life so differently than I did back when I was 12. All my grandparents are gone now – as are my father, mother, aunts and uncles. My cousins and brothers – the youngest generation back then – now represent the oldest generation still living. Now, I am the grandfather… My, how things change in the course of half a century.
But this is the circle of life. Unless we are raptured to heaven before then, we will all go through the process of change and eventual death. Yet, through it all, I can’t help but feel that God has saved the best part of my life for now – the next season. I don’t know if I could feel more fulfilled and at peace than I am now. I have worked most of my life and am now just waiting for God to reveal to me the next steps in my journey.
The thing that strikes me this evening is that we grow older, we visit more doctors, fight more health battles and still time marches on. Many people in my life, who have gone before, have come to the end of their lives in a shell of their former selves. Yet they have come to depend on God and His will for their lives.
The verse for tonight demonstrates Paul’s hope for the future. We are told, in 2 Corinthians 5:1, “Now we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands.” Isn’t that an awesome prospect? My encouragement this evening is that God will eventually give every Christian a new body and eternal home. My prayer is that those family members who have gone on before are at peace with the Lord and await our being reunited with them. Have a great day in the Lord, grace and peace…