This time of the year reminds me of my grandmother’s birthday (October 26) and a final gift she left me that I still treasure. Her funeral was over thirty-five years ago in Somerset, Kentucky where she was born and lived all her life. Her funeral was held at the First Christian Church in Somerset and a reception was held afterwards for her friends which brought an ending to many generations and memorable family vacations in Somerset and Lake Cumberland.
I still had a few more trips from Louisville to Somerset to help Mom empty the house and close it down. It was a weird feeling making the drive and using a key to open my grandmother’s house to a place that was silent. I don’t know if you have ever had this experience, or found it necessary to empty a house of a loved one, but the reality of her death and not being present to welcome us, or calling to us from different parts of the house simply reinforced the end.
I can recall, every now and then, looking for some kind of sign or final gift that would in a way communicate she was alive and bring assurance everything was OK. I know it seems silly—especially for a minister—but part of being human is to allow grief to enter wherever and whenever and however a person is vulnerable and in the midst of experiencing loss.
So, I went from room to room to make certain they were empty and cleaned out which gave me permission to at least let-go of the house and get going back to Louisville where there was my home and plenty of life and excitement with Mary and the boys. As I entered my grandmother’s bedroom, I noticed a shiny object laying on the floor where I guess it had fallen out of a box of stuff to be thrown out.
It is a framed Bible verse that was in a cheap dime-store frame. You can see the blue cardboard matting and the cut-out flowers pasted on. I remember it being on her bedside table and never thought much of it until holding it in my hand. There was no way I could dispose of it. The Bible verse was her gift. As you can probably guess, at the time, I was anything but content. Hassled, stressed, tired, sad, various emotions that way us down. But that verse, in the tin frame, sits on my desk to this day. Contentment comes as we place our confidence and trust in Jesus as Lord of our life. Contentment comes from the Holy Spirit who unites us and relates us to the will of God. Contentment is not about our will being done.
St. Paul continues, “I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” (vs.13) I use to think that meant I can be Superman. Not so. It simply means God gives us grace to do those things we can not normally do on our own—and be content. Like being content for better or worse; richer or poorer; in sickness and in health. Contentment also leads us to what Paul introduces as, “the peace of God that passes all understand,” (vs. 7) This peace passes understanding because it comes from the realm of faith where we learn to be content in God whose glory covers our day, “as the water covers the sea.” (Hymn 534) So, my grandmother’s final gift turns out to be thirty-five years later a gift that keeps on giving.