A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to visit with two of my uncles on the Grubbs side of the family: my dad’s brothers, Larry and Dale. My grandparents, J. D. and Inez Grubbs, had four children: Dale (who was married to Betty), Mabel (who was married to Gale), David (who was married to Dolly, then Mindy), and Larry (who was married to Bev). Mabel, Betty, Gale, and David, my dad, now reside in Heaven. Larry has lived in Indianapolis many years and he recently moved my Uncle Dale to a nursing home close by.
Uncle Larry and Aunt Bev were much younger than the other siblings. They definitely brought some fun to our house whenever they visited. Larry is eleven years younger than my dad and when he and Aunt Beverly came to visit, they always found a way to spoil me and my brother Joey. They were fun and they were funny.
I vividly remember their wedding in Anderson, Indiana at the South Meridian Church of God. The main thing I remember is thinking how fun it would be to decorate their car: to fill it with balloons, write messages all over it that said “Just Married,” and think of all the ways we could make their lives miserable on their honeymoon.
After a recent lunch at Cracker Barrel in northeast Indianapolis with Uncle Larry, I drove further north to the nursing home to see Uncle Dale. In some way, I felt I was also closer to my dad in those moments.
Uncle Dale was a very distinguished officer in the United States Navy (as was Uncle Larry). He was a chaplain, and his last place of service was Bethesda Naval Hospital where he once looked into the wellbeing of President Ronald Reagan.
Dale, his wife Betty, and their daughter Cherry lived quite a life. I remember when they moved to Italy. I remember when they lived in San Diego, Virginia Beach, Indiana, and Colorado. Uncle Dale loved cars, and, in particular, older Mercedes Benzes. How I now wish I could have bought the last one he owned. As was the case with every car he owned, it was always impeccable--never dirty, not even dusty. I remember he kept cleaning supplies in the trunk.
As I left the nursing home for my drive on the backroads of Indiana, it was very clear to me that life seems to move quickly. The kind lady pushing Uncle Dale’s wheelchair to his room after lunch was surprised when I mentioned his distinguished career in the Navy. She was especially surprised when I mentioned that his back and shoulder pains were due to his voluntary tour of duty in the Vietnam war, where he chose to serve without a weapon. He volunteered to serve as a chaplain for those putting their lives on the line for their country.
As I sat in the chair in his room, Uncle Dale in his wheelchair, I saw the man I had known all my life, but now with feeble hands and a fading memory. It happened to be his 87th birthday. He knew I was family, but he wasn’t sure how I connected to the family.
It didn’t matter.
He blessed me with his presence. He was a close connection to my father. He was family. The days of family reunions in Georgia, South Carolina, and Florida--or wherever my always-on-the-move grandparents lived--were now distant memories never to be repeated.
Time marches on.
“For we know that when this the earthly tent we live in is taken down, we will have a house in heaven.” -2 Corinthians 5:1
It seems as if I blinked and my parents, aunts, and uncles aged, obviously and gracefully. How did life happen so quickly? What will it look like when I’m in my eighties--if I’m still alive, healthy, and aware--will I still be able to have discussions and take care of myself? Will I be dependent on someone who loves me, someone I may not recognize, someone I may not be capable of telling how thankful I am that they care, that they have not forgotten, that they still find me worthy of a visit?
Now at the ripe old age of fifty-nine, I find myself with three grown kids, two daughters-in-law, and two grandsons. I have two nephews and three nieces. I will introduce you to my wife’s side of the family in the next blog post because you’ve got to meet Roy and Norma Townsdin.
I now wear the titles husband, father, son-in-law, brother, brother-in-law, father-in-law, grandfather, uncle, and cousin. I’m the oldest of the bunch, but only a few years older. And that is important--it makes me feel not quite as old as the titles imply.
It is my continuous privilege to be the pastor of a great church, but I’m aware that the day will come when my tent will be slowly (I hope!) taken down. I intend to keep our family laughing--primarily at me. I hope I can.
I hope my mind is still sharp, and if it isn’t, I hope my family will never hear anything from me but how much I love them. I hope that as I navigate the changing seasons of life, I can be an example to my family on how to do it well. I hope that when I’m gone, my legacy will be strong enough to help them both miss me and yet move forward with exuberance and joy. I hope when they think of me they will grin and remember how goofy, funny, quirky, loving, and generous I was.
The only way we will be remembered for anything--the only way to leave a legacy--is by choosing to live it out long before we are gone. If I want to be remembered as an encourager, I need to be heaping loads of encouragement on them now. The only way I will be remembered for being generous is if I am generous now.
I’ve always approached things with the end in mind. If we needed to build a building at the church, I started with what we needed and what it might look like when we finished it. Each year, when my team establishes the new years goals and initiatives, I start with a clear picture in my mind of what I want it to look like at the end of the year.
God always makes adjustments and enhancements to those goals.
So as I think about my future, especially as a husband, father, grandfather, and uncle, I try to keep a very clear picture in my mind of what I hope to be when that time arrives.
While only God sees the future with 20/20 vision, I intend to do all I can to be the kind of person I want to be when that future arrives. And either way it goes, my hope is that I leave some things behind that others can laugh about or learn from, and I hope they never forget just how loved they were.