There were many times when I complained about going to their house. I was and am a city kid, and they live on a farm. They did not love me in tangible ways like my other grandma who always tucked me in at night. They gave me an antique bed once, and a few quilts at other times, but they never spoiled me with surprises. I never heard the words, "I love you," until just a few years ago. When my parents went through a divorce I wrongly concluded that I did not need them in my life, and I kept distance between us for ten years - creating a gulf that was wide enough to promote the sale of the bed and prevent even a phone call.
I then preached my first sermon, "I Never Knew How Heavy It Was Until I Stopped Carrying My Luggage" - a sermon on forgiveness. I was going off to seminary, getting my life in order, and the sermon was inspired by them. I had carried around all kinds of hurt and resentment for years, and I knew I needed to be reconciled with them. I knew I needed to stop turning away from them and somehow turn back towards them. And like a prodigal child, they welcomed me. No questions were asked. No fingers were pointed. They simply welcomed me, and then they started loving me - even telling me that they loved me.
We celebrated their 70th wedding anniversary two years ago, and they sat on a swing holding hands as if they were newlyweds. And as I look at these pictures I realize again how simple they are as they are each wearing the same shirts in different photos taken on different days. I wonder if they ever owned more than five shirts at a time, come to think of it.
Grandpa Archie died on Monday after a battle with Alzheimer's and the pain of shingles. I shall miss his one-of-a-kind voice and remarkable sense of humor. But I am at peace. I know that what was once separated was brought together. I know that what was broken was healed. And I am thankful.
Thank you, Grandpa Archie, for the million memories you gave to me. You told me the world was going to hell in a hand basket before telling me to always vote Democratic. You made me love the FDR Memorial more than any other memorial in Washington because he was your favorite President. You have made me smile when I see cigars because you often had half-chewed cigars all over the house. You instilled within me a love of the newspaper and a hot cup of coffee with a cookie on the side. You helped me to appreciate the land and know the gift of just enough rain mixed with an appropriate amount of sunshine. You gave me permission to splurge every once in a while because only God knows how much you spent on collecting antiques and baseball cards. And you taught me the gift of holding on to your partner for life, even making sure that she was still sitting right by your bed 72 years later holding your hand through the night because you did not want to be alone in the end.
I did not always understand you, and I certainly did not always appreciate you. But I now appreciate you more than you'll ever know. You've taught me a lot about the good life.
Well done, thy good and faithful servant. May you rest in peace and rise in glory. I promise to try to call Grandma more often until you're together again.