Your descendants shall gather your fruits. – Virgil
To use my dad’s words, my Grandpa Jones, my dad’s dad, is “passing away” and by the time you read this, his time with us in this life will most likely have come to an end. He isn’t sick, he doesn’t have a disease, he isn’t suffering any more so than anyone else would who is spending their final days confined to a bed after spending 80+ years in full pursuit of a joyous life. There is no specific cause that we are aware of, but his body is ever-so-slowly shutting itself off – he is too weak to eat, too weak to talk, can hardly open his eyes, his blood pressure is dropping, and his body is turning cold, starting at the feet and working its way up. Having made the decision to refuse a feeding tube some time ago, the hospice nurses are simply doing what they can to make my grandpa comfortable and to help him be at ease as he seems to be resisting his mind’s instincts for self-preservation and by sheer will, I believe, is forcing his body to let go. Grandpa is not battling to stay alive; he is tearing himself away from this life and delicately tipping his toes into the next, encouraged no doubt by the sound of his life’s love’s tender voice calling him home…
My grandpa’s biography is the type of biography we won’t be reading much more of in the obituaries of our times ahead. His life, as I said, is passing away and along with it, so is his breed. His life’s story represents a history of 20th century middle America, a history that was once the family portrait of a country on the rise, but that now, though it is still with us, hanging on to the fringes of a modern society, seems more like a relic of a time long forgotten.
Carve your name on hearts, not tombstones. A legacy is etched into the minds of others and the stories they share about you. – Shannon L. Alder
Born at the start of the Great Depression; raised in Centerville, Iowa, small town America that had its population peak in the early 1900’s. Son of a coal miner living in a coal mining town, a town which never regained its pulse once the country it helped support for so long found a new vein for its energy needs. Raised by a man who believed that indoor plumbing was for women and children – men’s place was outdoors, no matter the temperature or the depth of the snow on the ground.
Got his first job working on the railroads when he was 18, married at the age of 19, went to work in the factories for Alcoa at age 20, and bought his first home at the age of 31. The marriage lasted 44 years (cancer brought it to an early end), the job at Alcoa lasted 38, and that home was the only home he ever knew until fading health forced a move to an assisted care facility nearly 50 years later.
Maybe not. But maybe that’s how the world changes, Isaiah. One father, one child, at a time. – Barbara Samuel>The Sleeping Night
I was born in Iowa, but as the saying goes, I got to Texas as fast as I could. I was 4 years old when we moved to Texas and so my memories of Grandpas and Grandmas and aunts, uncles, and cousins were shaped by holiday and summer trips back home, RV visits from both sets of grandparents, and occasional connections at points in between when campouts, fishing trips, and other adventures brought our now separate families together again and again. My memories of Grandpa Jones were also crafted in the bleachers, on the sidelines, and under the Friday night lights of my youth – he and Grandma were there at soccer games, baseball tournaments, football games, and at whatever other activities my brother and I were engaged in.
But my best thoughts of Grandpa come from when we were up there – our summer trips to Iowa. For a couple of rambunctious little boys who loved adventure, there was no greater joy for me and my brother than running around in “the back forty,” RV trips to granny’s farm to chase the cows (which got us in deep trouble with Grandpa!), fishing on the banks of the Mississippi River, and ending our days on the front porch swing, sucking down as many red, blue, and purple Flavor Ice Pops as my mom would allow.
My grandpa and I were separated by at least 900 miles for most of my life, but I never felt the distance between us. I never felt it, that is, until much later in life when college took me further south and the start of a career in homebuilding and my own efforts at starting a family took the time that was at one time reserved for my Iowa family.
The songs of our ancestors are also the songs of our children - Philip Carr-Gomm
My grandpa loved Christ since before anyone can remember and he carried Christ’s joy with him wherever he went and in doing whatever it was he was doing. He shared this joy with anyone who would listen and oftentimes when I wanted to do anything but listen…every Sunday morning, the silence was broken early in the day by Grandpa walking through the house, singing in his booming baritone, “Oooohhh, it’s nice to get up in the morning, but it’s nicer to stay in bed…!” Didn’t matter that he was tone deaf (literally), the man loved to sing…just be careful not to sit next to him in church when the hymns are being sung! He loved the old time gospels, he loved his church, he loved his family…he loved and he loved and he loved and when he was happiest, he was on that porch swing taking it all in before proclaiming with loving pride that, “This is nniiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiicccee!!!!”
The mass of men worry themselves into nameless graves while here and there a great unselfish soul forgets himself into immortality. - Ralph Waldo Emerson
Take a moment to consider this life I just described. Do you see the same things I see? Railroad and factory worker, son of a coal miner…hard work, grit, determination. Kept a job for 38 years, a home for nearly 50, and a marriage for 44…loyal, principled. Didn’t allow the miles between us to stand against him being involved in the lives of his kids and grandkids…caring, engaged, committed. Christ follower…faithful, joyful, loving.
My dad likes to quote my grandpa as always saying, “Don’t tell me what you are going to do, show me. Talk is cheap, actions speak louder.” This is, I think, the enduring part of the legacy he leaves behind – Grandpa showed us a lot in his generation. Work hard and love fully. Keep your commitments. Work through your problems, don’t run from them. Commit to a cause and stand behind those commitments. Be faithful in Christ, faithful in marriage, faithful in love of your kids and family, and faithful in the way you live every part of your life. Live a life of significance, live a life that matters in the generation you have been given.
These aren’t just words, these aren’t empty platitudes he would use to lecture us with – my grandpa lived this life…he showed us. He showed us how to live, he showed us how to love. He showed us how to work and commit, to persevere and to stand strong. He showed us what it meant to follow Christ, how to love your wife, how to care for your family. He showed us what it means to live a life that matters, to live a life of significance. The picture of the way he lived his life is not just a fading photograph of a time gone by; the principles upon which he chose to stand – those aren’t just relics of a lost way of living. He showed us that generations, his and yours and mine………generations matter.
If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants. – Isaac Newton
And this is, I believe, what I am trying to say most of all about my grandpa; rather, this is, I believe, what his life is telling me – generations matter, principles matter, choices matter. His generation and the way he chose to live it mattered to his kids, matters to me…it will matter to my kids and it will matter to theirs. So it is also with you – your generation matters and what you choose to do today with your life matters to the generations that follow behind.
And the question for me is the same as it is for everyone, I think – what will I choose to do with the generation I have been given? What will I stand for and what will my generation tell the next…about love and life and faith and family and hard work and loyalty and commitment and care and joy…?
My grandpa lived a life of significance, he lived a life that mattered. My grandpa did well with the generation he was given. My life’s prayer is that I can honor his generation with the one that I have been given………………
*When I began writing this post, my grandpa had not yet passed away; before I finished it, he completed his journey home. Rest in peace, Carl Jones – you have fought the good fight, you have finished the course, you have kept the faith: February 2, 1930-November 10, 2012.