Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Letter to my grandpa

Dear friends, please pray for my family. My beloved grandpa has gone to his reward. I sure wish I could have seen him again.

I haven't the heart to write much now, though I will later. Meanwhile I leave you with a letter my mom wrote, which she never got a chance to send to him before he lost consciousness the last time. I thought it was beautiful, and it tells a lot about the kind of person he was.

To explain what she says about his hands: my grandfather lost two and a half fingers in a carpentry accident years ago. Their shape is the ASL sign for "I love you" as well as "airplane."

Dear Dad,
I love you so much. There's probably nothing in this letter I haven't shared with you before, but no one wants to leave the love unspoken. I hope it will give you some consolation now.

Father. To others you are war hero, tender spouse, loyal patriot, pillar of the community, master craftsman, the quintessential pilot. To me, you are Dad! You are my Father on Earth. You are such a beautiful picture God has painted of His own fatherhood. The Bible says we are made in the Image and Likeness of God. Well, I have no doubts, you are! Although Mom taught me in words who God the Father is, you taught me by just being you.

And Who is God the Father? And how do I know from you? He is a generous provider. Always I felt that anything was possible. No dream was burst, no wish impossible. I was treated royally. I won't say like a princess, because somehow that word conveys prissiness: no, you wanted your daughters to be strong. (I remember you giving Sheila the high compliment of being strong, like Mom.) When I had a dream--like to be a famous poet--you made me feel that it was truly attainable. We had big dreams and big adventures. We went to far-off places. Sometimes you forced me to do scary but adventurous things--like ski, skate, and water-ski. You didn't want me to be shy and timid, but hopeful and brave. I remember once my aunt said, "You're spoiling them," and you said, "I think they turn out better that way!" Kevin liked to say you didn't spoil me, you enriched me.

You built a rowboat and a ping-pong table for Tiger, a kitchen in each home for Mom, the treehouse for your grandchildren; you helped Andriette through nursing school; you taught me to save money for college; you let me go to boarding school in Italy. You recently helped Andriette fulfill a dream of climbing Mt. Rainier.

Our Father is Someone you can trust. I don't exactly know why I trusted you so completely, but I did. (I still wish I trusted God as much as I trusted you as a child.) I knew you'd be back from Viet Nam. The other possibility never crossed my mind. I knew if you survived all that, you would survive everything else. I trusted you when we moved, when we got caught on the road in blizzards, when the propeller of our plane iced up, when you were stuck in Iran. I think the reason why is that you trusted God. You even wrote me once that you weren't worried about dying in Viet Nam even though you felt it distinctly probable, because you knew God would look after us. Grandma told me you were fearless. I think you were born with great courage, and great courage is faith and trust.

Our Father is someone who forgives. I think Andriette gives a good example of this. She wasn't doing so well in her studies at the University of Washington. As she confessed to you, you just said, "I guess you won't do that again." I certainly felt strongly your high ideals for us, and the idea of disappointing you filled me with great filial fear. I know exactly what the Bible means about fear of the Lord, that it isn't craven and that it is completely compatible with love and trust. Along with that though, I feel you have a great sense of how uniquely fallible each person is, and you find it easy to forgive.

I remember you commenting humorously about people--people-watching in Iran or New York, or at Kevin's ceremony to become an officer. You would chuckle at people, maybe catch them in a fallible act (like the mullah picking his nose), but it was never unkind. There was a warmth to it.

Dad, you taught a lot of people to fly--including two of us kids--and a few people to drive--including all of us kids. (Or I should say attempted to teach us to drive, as even you didn't succeed in teaching me to drive!) Many of your students wrecked your planes. You always used that as a teachable moment, rather than a time to display anger. In one case, I remember there was some penalty to pay--because disobedience was involved--but even that, I'm sure, was just to teach a lesson. Then, if it was your plane, you would patiently begin the repair process. Now isn't that like our heavenly Father? We damage; He repairs.

Our Father is alive, energetic, creative, and joyful. Our God, the Bible, says, dances with joy over us. I've seen you dance a jig while singing to Mom, "Happy Anniversary," and live a very happy, virtuous, wholesome, healthy life. You are what God delights in: "the human being fully alive." He sees that you have used well the gifts He's given, and earned another thousand talents. You have borne much fruit. You have taken what He gave, and invested it well. I hope you are soon in His Kingdom, hearing Him say, "Well done my good and faithful servant." And then He will surel y give you wings to fly as the Eagle, with your son, with your mom and dad. I hope that when you do, you will also get to look down at us, and pray for us to be able to come up higher, too.


P.S. I did want to say something about your hands. Like Christ's hands, they are wounded. I remember long ago a fortune teller being able to read your hands so accurately--the elk puncture here, the calluses there--your hands told a story. And now they tell even more of a story. Your one hand says both "I love you" and "airplane" permanently. Christ did not lose His wounds in heaven--they are how we recognized Him when He rose from the dead. So even though I hope that there is no actual disability for you in heaven, your resurrection hands will still say love and fly!

Here is a good link about him:

1 comment:

Heather said...

So beautiful, Sheila. So heartfelt and warm. Our hands and hearts are inextricably linked, I think, as they motivate one another to love and trust in kind. Thank you for sharing your mom's words and a glimpse into your grandpa's life and legacy.

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