Grandpa's Garden

Each Sunday we get together at my aunt's house and as we eat dinner, her husband asks around the table what each person learned at church today. I love this tradition and it is so fun to hear everything - from the three-year-old who learned that Heavenly Father gave us our ears, to the adults, who gained a great new doctrinal insight. It gives a nice spirit to the meal and we all learn something from each other.

I've been thinking a lot about my Grandpa for the last few weeks. He died suddenly, ten years ago this month, and sometimes I can still hear his voice or see his smile in my mind, and my heart aches, I miss him so much. For a few years after his death, I would catch myself thinking as I drove home from a school break, "Oh, I can't wait to see Grandpa! I haven't talked to him for a while." And then I would remember that it would be a long time before I can talk to him again.

But often on these Sunday afternoons and evenings, I think of letters he wrote to me just a few weeks before he died (I was in Ukraine, serving a mission). I get them out sometimes and read them, along with his obituaries and the myriad of newspaper clippings about him that people sent from home. He was faithful at letter-writing, and always anxious to know how I fared. Most often his letters were about the everyday happenings at his lumber yard and in the family - cousins playing basketball, someone in a fenderbender, my mom making a lovely dinner for everyone and inviting him and Grandma over. Almost always, he included a brief spiritual thought or mentioned what he had learned or taught at Church that week.

My favorite letter is on a sheet of graph paper with a window vendor's logo at the top - The letter is in pencil, and I know that he wrote it quickly one afternoon at work, tucked it into one of the lumber company's envelopes and sent it out with the company mail so I could have it from him that week. This is what it says:

In the summer of '94, your mom...gave me a little metal sign to put at the entrance to my garden. It said on it, "Grandpa's Garden." Maybe it came from Camelot where you worked. Anyway, I secured it to my garden fence near the entrance and I see it every time I go into the garden. It always reminds me of your family and it also recalls one of my favorite...hymns, "In the Garden"... I enjoy my garden very much, and I lay almost exclusive claim to it, since your Grandma is not much of an outdoor, work in the garden type. I find many pleasant moments out there and it gives me lots of opportunity to collect and organize my thoughts. I have prepared lots of wonderful lessons and eloquent sermons out there, not that any of them get presented in a classroom or delivered across the pulpit. I feel a certain closeness to the Lord out there. I am enclosing once again a "Family Circus" that says how I feel so often in the garden.

Grandpa was a thinker. When he was a Sunday School teacher, he always had a unique way of bringing a spiritual principle to light, making it apply to the lives of those who listened. In his other work as a church leader, he served so conscientiously, always with a mind not on how to impress people, but how to bless them. I know that in his humility, he likely never realized how much people listened and admired him, and perhaps thought that some of his best sermons never made it over the pulpit, but I loved his way of thinking and studying scripture, and the way he lived what he knew to be true. His life itself was a sermon to me.

I treasure the way he could share a verse or even a "Family Circus" or "Born Loser" and make it mean something valuable and spiritual, with a little wry smile tucked into it somehow. I often wish he was at our Sunday dinner table, telling us what he learned today or what he thought about this week out in his garden.

I like to think that I share his penchant for seeing the gospel truth in lots of things, and like him, I don't get to give many wonderful lessons or stand behind a pulpit, but maybe that's a little bit what this blog is for. Perhaps every now and then on a Sunday afternoon, I'll put away my dull drum whine and you can have a look at some of the beautiful things he came up with in his garden and even a thought or two that I get ahold of in my own garden moments. I'll try not to be too preachy, and I think he'd really enjoy them, even if you don't.

P.S. I loved my Grandpa's Garden so much that my wedding reception was there...My mom decorated it so beautifully with tea-lights in the little orchard and pink tulle on the white chairs around the garden tables, and a Colorado sunset behind the Uncompahgre Plateau. It made me feel close to all my favorite people - the Lord, David, my family, and Grandpa.


Angela said...

Wiping the tears from my eyes. What a good picture of your grandpa!I don't think there are any words good enough or true enough to describe what a great man he was or how much you loved him, but WOW this came close! Thanks for sharing. I'm certain he is happily gardening away and looking forward to chatting with you again "soon".

Nettie said...

What a dear post! Thank you for sharing your thoughts about your Grandpa. What a great patriarch he was for his family! And, as I believe heaven is full of gardens, I'm also sure he is happily gardening away, preparing for many more special receptions!

someone else said...

What a wonderful, tender post. Thanks for sharing that with us!

Katherine@Raising Five said...

What a sweet memory. I am so thankful for my grandparents, almost more so now that I see my kids' attachment to theirs. They probably won't appreciate the spiritual heritage for a while, but it's worth more than any fortune they could ever inherit. You have been blessed!