States time, Tuesday, May 29, 2012, I received word from my mom that my grandfather, my dad’s dad, had passed away. He has been struggling for life and in life for the past several years, and on Tuesday, his body finally gave way. Wednesday morning for me, we made the decision to go, to be with the family, to support and show our highest respect to a man whose life touched so much. I would go and leave D and little T home. So, Thursday morning, I left my daily routine, my man, and my little girl to fly half way around the world.
There, I was greeted by one of the most meaningful weekends of my life. 11 of the 12 grandkids were there, 7 from out of town. All 4 kids and their spouses. It was a weekend of remembering and honoring, of tears and laughter, of family.
On the long but somewhat relaxing transpacific flight to Michigan, my mind sifted through stories and emotions and memories. Among them all was a theme—legacy. And so I wrote, from my heart and mind, avoiding the landmines of clichés and putting to paper only what really rings true about my grandpa. This is what I wrote, and later read to our family.
Legacy, that’s the word that has come to both David and my minds as we think of grandpa Beals. What does it mean? It’s something left behind, when the physical body is gone, it’s what remains. Everyone has one, actually. They just vary in scale and depth and significance. Grandpa’s legacy was large and deep and eternally meaningful. I know only the surface of all he’s done for others, for people, students, and nations. But all I can truly know is what he’s left for me.
A man of humor and voices and stories. Of patience to sit with us over and over as he recited, probably from memory, the stories of a terrible horrible no good very bad day, or the adventures of an exuberant woe Joey woe Joey woe, or the simple tune I thought for sure was the one Johnny Appleseed actually sang. A man of prayer around an increasingly crowded kitchen table. A man of the word before Sunday morning breakfast, drawn out and long for young ears, but such a valuable gift in legacy. A man with a past full of riveting accounts that grandkids can’t even begin to imagine an old man could do, like hunting elephants and the shock of a shot gun inches from his ear. A man so revered by those he touched that those strangers were elated to meet us, too. A man who, each year, handed out each perfectly wrapped gift with care, 12 in all, each name spoken with his own emphasis and warmth.
And then we see him in our parents. Not perfect, just as they are not perfect. But solid and strong, skilled, often silent. Humble in their vast achievements, mirroring the posture of their own example. Meticulously and mindlessly positioning silverware around their plate, spacing off into thought, sharing Truth with their own children.
And the pride with which he spoke of his bride. The object of his affection at a young age. A partner and most resolute supporter, even to his final days. Sustaining him, living daily her vows made decades before. And he respectfully and good naturedly acquiesced, since an argument could never be won. Her knowing smile and unwavering resolve was all he needed to succumb to her purposed care.
Even more personally, I’ve cried for him. Wept at his physical loss, praying somehow for its reversal. Rejoicing in small victories. And yet, he remained the man we knew, a sense of humor, love of sports, feisty yet playful resistance. An example of purpose. Broken and battered, demonstrating knowledge of continued kingdom purpose so long he was still on earth.
As we mourn, we mourn for our loss. As we celebrate, we celebrate a life Well-Lived. And we can almost hear it from here, “Well done, my good and faithful servant.” Matthew 25:23