Family: February 2009 Archives

Service

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It's official: as of last night I no longer can count a single WWII veteran among my acquaintances. I've long used this as an unspoken yardstick against mortality. I've watched these veterans, in our family and social circles, leave this world one by one and now the last one I knew has passed.

G may have been a couple of generations older than me but this didn't impact how my husband and I saw him as a friend. Sadly, we allowed ourselves to be too consumed with work to get to visit him in his final days and I'm aggravated at myself over this. There is no excuse.

When I started going to church again regularly (after years of disillusionment), G was one of the first people I met. I always felt comfortable around him; he had lived too long and seen too much to turn around and view anyone with any sort of spiritual suspicion. He wore his best flannel shirt and took the hat off his head when the opening songs began. 

He was the only man to ever get me a baby shower gift. I remember writing thank yous and poring over the cards I'd saved; amongst the pile of flowery notes in women's script was a simple card with the word "BOY" on the front and inside G's shaky scrawl. I still have this card. I wrote him a thank you note in careful print so that he could read it. After I had Ewan he gave me a framed copy of something he wrote, an essay about how women are a blessing.

He wrote essays every week and made copies on the church's Xerox machine before distributing them to the congregation every Sunday morning before the sermon. Sometimes he gave you two copies. I always missed the first part of the sermon reading them. I think G knew it, too, and after a while I noticed that intentional or not, he gave me my copy after the service. He was a fantastic writer. He wrote with a humility that can only be attained by a long life of trial and error. There was an urgency in his words, through them he tried to gift others the benefit of his experience so that they may see things more clearly, earlier.

After a while he stopped writing due to his failing health. It was always difficult to make out what he said before but even more so at the end of his life. His voice was so quiet that you had to lean in to hear him. He never complained. He was too worried about being of service to others and pleasing God. Most people my age think it's enough just to make getting through the gates your goal. Service to anyone doesn't factor into the journey. This was a lesson G embodied. Isn't it weird how people appear in your life at the precise moment when you need an adjustment to your perspective?

I'm not writing this for condolences; I know that G is in much better company than we here on earth could have ever offered him. We were fortunate to know him and learn from him. He lived a long, beautiful life and while I won't assume to know the inner-workings of Heaven, were I a betting gal, I'd say that G walked through those gates hearing "Well done, my good and faithful servant."
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