Sunday, January 25, 2009


Last week I traveled to Oklahoma to do my Grandma’s funeral. It reminded me of the Summer a few years ago when I still had three grandparents. Now I have none. The grief this time around feels hollow, like I’m losing a bit of my mooring to history. So I’d like to share this bit about my grandparents. Maybe it will encourage you to call yours…drop them a line…or just to thank Jesus for the gift of a couple of people in the world who love you unconditionally…who spoiled you every chance they got. Enjoy them. They won’t be around forever…

My Lord Jesus,

I’m in tears today as I write, having just come from the hospital.

I visited my grandma today, and just “visited” as my grandma and grandpa shared their lunch. They are so beautiful.

So beautiful.

My grandma with her thin skin, her shaky hands, her words that stumble over a mini-stroke she had a few years back, and her gentle brown eyes amplified by her coke-bottle glasses I’ve never known her to be without. Wearing those, a visual world is opened up to this wonderful lady, Ellen Soft, my grandma and one of my favorite people on the planet. Beautiful.

And if that isn’t beautiful enough, there’s my grandpa too, mouse-like thin and hunched, with strong brown hands bent with years of a painters trade; his hair white, well oiled and combed the same way I’ve seen it all of my life; his smile quick, with dentures that mostly stay where their supposed to. So beautiful.

A myriad of wrinkles between them.

And as they share a meal, slow, slower than most people retain interest in a meal, they forget that they are sharing a meal, and instead share memories. Today they shared how my grandma was sleepwalking during her recent visit back to Kansas, so now when she gets up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom, my granddad goes with her. Making sure she stays indoors.

What amazes me is how well they know each other. They both traverse across the years to share stories that the other knows exactly…they track to the year, the situation, the significance…with just a few words.

I was telling them how Alex kicks the covers off in bed, and my grandma said, “Well, Nancy and Janet used to come in bed with us…Chester, what did Nancy say that one time?” To which my grandpa replies, “Oh, shoot.” Which is just a filler statement, and all he needs to get a handle on the framework of the story. He then tells the tale of a Christmas past, of how he had purchased a wrist-watch for Ellen, no doubt a major purchase for this humble painter. The gift was wrapped and under the tree, waiting impatiently for Christmas morn, as were two little girls, both very excited about this gift. And as they were all in bed one morning, my grandma asked, with honest intent, “I wonder what time it is?” Quick as she could, a giggling Nancy replied, “If you look under the tree you’ll know what time it is!”

At the punchline of the story both of them erupt in laughter, and I laugh right along, because they are just so dang beautiful.

They are the salt of the earth.

The righteous poor.

My grandparents lost their first boy, Jackie, when he was five, and it seems that this devastation haunts them mildly, like the smallest of pebbles rattling in the toe of a walking shoe. They have such great memories of this joy-filled, amazing boy, and a true confusion about the illness that stole his life, that most days, I’m sure, Jackie makes his way into their waking thoughts.

They discussed the assisted living home that my mother had taken them to, in hushed tones…it’s just so big…a mansion…it does have a big room to watch Monday Night Football in (grandpa grinning)…two meals a day and you order right from a menu…not just a cafeteria…a reading area and sitting room to have people over. But it’s just so nice! Rich people live there. It would probably cost more than two thousand dollars a month, and we just couldn’t let your Dad pay…we don’t deserve…surely we couldn’t…

What these humble, beautiful people don’t realize is that they deserve the best there is. They will probably be embarrassed to discover, on that day when the Lord calls them home, that the largest Mansion on the top of the hill is theirs, bought and paid for far in advance by their Christian kindness, painted and maintained by those hundreds my grandparents served in this lifetime, visited daily by their friends, robust and dear, and by their beloved Jackie. The joy that they will dwell in for eternity the best of our writers can only hint at.

“I thank God everyday for my family,” my grandpa said today.

So do I grandpa. So do I.
For my beautiful, beautiful family.


Lisa said...

um ... wow.

this sure hit home.

i am thankful for the timing of this post, as i am mourning the loss of an aging, grandpa.

thank you mike.

thank you for your post, your thoughts, your reflection, your heart.

and sorry for your loss.


Sarah Hager said...

What a lovely tribute to you grandparents. And how blessed you are to have had them in your life for so many years. Thank you for sharing your heart with all of us, Mike Howerton.

Jen said...

Thanks for sharing your beautiful and heartfelt thoughts. May the blessing of our grandparents in our lives continue on. I lost my last grandparent (and very beloved) in 2001 and not a day goes by that I don't miss her. But I Praise God that she is HOME!!

Lisa Davis said...

Hey Mike, your cousin Lisa from Tennessee here - thanks for writing this. Your grandparents were the best and they were my favorite Great Aunt Ellen and Uncle Checker ever!! I have the best childhood memories of them growing up. Aunt Ellen had the most contagious laugh and always made you feel so welcome and special each and everytime that you were at their home. I will never forget one time, Uncle Checker, gave me a shower in the yard with the hose !! I just hope that I am bringing half the joy to my nieces and nephews that they did to me! The world is a better place because of them!