Faith is a principle of action and of power. By faith one obtains a remission of sins and eventually can stand in the presence of God. -Bible Dictionary
As I study and research faith, the above definition impacts me deeply as it defines faith to be the direct pathway to an individual being able to stand in the presence of God. Along that path we must act in faith, use the power of faith and apply faith to obtain a remission of our sins. Following are some of my experiences engaging with faith as I cared for my grandfather.
Act in Faith
An Assignment of Faith
I had been on the phone on and off for days with my mom and dad, hearing the updates of Grandpa Greene’s decline in health and mental ability with his progressing Alzheimer’s disease. Mom and Dad had been championing his and Grandma Violet’s care. Grandma Violet had passed away, and now Mom’s health was going to require Dad to be her caregiver for a time, and continuing the care of Grandpa Dave would be too much. They were seeking solutions. Looking into nursing homes, family options, any possibilities. I lamented the fact that I was in Utah and they were in Washington. It appeared that I couldn’t help with the distance between us.
Then one morning as I showered, the faith assignment of my lifetime came into my mind: “Bring Grandpa Dave to Utah.” I was taken aback by the impression, yet it was clear and undeniable … I was the one in our family in a clear position to help. Could I? Should I? Would they let me? I had received a clear prompting and an invitation to act. So I did act on that prompting, and days later I flew to the SeaTac airport to meet my parents and Grandpa Dave, returning home with my new 24-hour-a-day companion, Grandpa Dave. This was the man in my family line who first accepted the gospel and brought the knowledge and opportunity to know the truths of the restoration to my father, to me and to my children. This was the greatest gift he passed on to his posterity. Now it was my turn to serve him and to act in faith in responding to the prompting I received days earlier.
Remembering Grandpa Dave’s Generous Heart
He carried it around like our children carried their blankies. Everywhere he went, the plastic box went with him, providing safety, security and sanity. Grandpa had grown up so poor during the depression that he told us he even collected “stinging nettle greens” to contribute to his mother’s near-empty pot of boiling soup water for supper. Working double shifts and graveyards, he never knew wealth as he raised his children a generation later. His boy would recall that getting “store botten” bread was a treat they longed for. Now as he mingled amidst the third and fourth generations of his posterity, he was indeed a rich man. Secure with his pension, all of his needs and wants cared for and his treasure box of gold that went everywhere he did. He enjoyed fingering through his gold and reassuring himself of his wealth and security after a lifetime of too little. His treasure box of golden nuggets went with him as a silent guest of honor riding on his walker seat, then resting in his lap at every destination.
Until one day, when he decided to give it all away to pass along a greater future to his posterity that he had known in his past. Four-year-old Ben shared a kitchen table with his gentle giant of a grandpa. The younger worked on forming letters in his writing book while the elder worked on his favorite snack, a banana. The old mind worked and watched as he witnessed the beginning seeds of education seven decades after his own attempts at learning were cut short to contribute financially to his family’s needs. As always, Grandpa clutched his box of gold in his lap while he finished his treat. After a long pause and what seemed to be a familiar blank stare, he became alert and alive as he pushed the box of gold over to Ben. Opening the lid, shaky, wrinkled and worn fingers began removing one golden nugget at a time and placing them next to Ben’s writing notebook. As he continued removing his treasure and presenting one after another to Ben, he explained, “This is real gold and I want you to have it. There should be enough here to pay for a fine education.” He had a moment of emotion as he pushed forward the entire gold collection towards his great-grandson before moving back into his chair at the head of the kitchen table, resting in resumed silence. Watching from a distance, I had witnessed a great sacrifice and an emotional moment that showed the greatness of Grandpa’s heart, as well as the bond that had been formed between generations from each caring for the other over time. Ben played with his new gift for a while and then went back to his writing, inquiring later, “Mom … why does Grandpa always say that his rocks are gold?
A Trial of my Faith:
Remembering the hardest day with Grandpa Dave
Covered in shame and filthy with confusion, he had tried to help himself, yet only proved his helplessness. His face showed fear, embarrassment and bewilderment simultaneously. I tried to mask my own bewilderment as I looked at the depth of the situation. The signs of his failed attempt at achieving normality with a simple task were not only covering him, his clothes and his immediate surroundings, but they had been trailed and smeared throughout his bedroom.
Coaxing him into the bathroom to begin the journey back to his happy fantasy land of imagined independence was delayed by a temporary cognition of reality. He cried and begged me to leave him alone as I guided him to the purity of water that could wash away the signs of this failure. “You shouldn’t have to do this,” he interspersed with, “I shouldn’t be here.” For the first time, I longed for his mind to escape into his bizarre dreamland where he spent so many of his days to escape this painful reality. Attempts at distraction failed; we would both just need to endure this moment to successfully prove that our familial bond of love, separated by two generations, would pull us through this event. His head hung drooping in tortured shame as I worked to assist him with my head held high in an awake state of pleading prayer, “Dear God, bless this dear man that I love to forget this moment quickly and bless me to remember it forever.”
Engulfed in pain as a witness to his suffering, my mind fought to focus on his dignity and greatness as the father of my father, the man who had introduced our family to the Kingdom of God. Cleansed by the soap and water, he was dressed and free to return to his innocent world of make believe. Quietly entering into his safe haven of the living room sofa, he rested and fell peacefully asleep, never again to remember the moments that I would never forget. As he slumbered, I labored. I prayed and prayed while I sprayed and cleaned, my soul becoming purified and cleansed as I worked to remove the signs of aging and the loss of independence. The difficulty of the task brought me to a sense of my dependance on Him whom I was serving by serving dear Grandpa Dave.
Continuing in prayer, I wondered how I could continue this overwhelming labor I had felt guided to volunteer for. Not just these hours of cleaning, but the years of caretaking. Then He taught me the key to enduring not just this episode, but of embracing the entire experience. “Love is the key” was spoken to my mind as I looked up above Grandpa’s blinds and saw the over-sized brass key that adorned his one remaining window to the world. “Love is the key,” I repeated back aloud to the voice that had delivered the message. As I finished the labor of love, Grandpa awoke, unaware of any of the days’ events … cheerful, full of life and eager to pursue his dreams. “How about a banana and then I’ll call the Governor about starting that restaurant.” “Sounds good Grandpa … let’s go get that banana.”
My Faith Rewarded:
Remembering the best day with Grandpa Dave-Independence Day
It was a day to celebrate Independence. We piled into the minivan to get the kids to their parade route meeting place and us to claim our patch of lawn to enjoy the festivities. Amidst the hustle and bustle of a busy young family, Grandpa was always content and smiling, happy to go with the flow and enjoy whatever outing we had to offer that day. After dropping the older two kids at their cruising parade float, the younger one and Grandpa were set up on their wheels to maneuver the crowds. Both baby and elder were happy to be seated together in Grandpa’s wheelchair, rolling along, engaged in the sights and sounds, both of them seeing so many things for the first time, yet for different reasons. Both baby and Grandpa cheered repeatedly as the firetrucks, clowns, trucks, performers and floats rolled by. Both got excited when thrown candy was retrieved and gifted to their anxious hands. Both threw their wrappers to the ground as if they hadn’t yet learned, or for one, had forgotten. Grandpa showed up baby, though, when he even forgot to remove the wrapper before enjoying a taffy. Such details were insignificant to the joy of watching the intergenerational bonds of the day that were occurring two and three generations apart. Moments like these made the trouble of daily care a trifle in comparison to the tribute I felt we offered in having Grandpa live with us instead of in a care center. He was cared for at the center of our lives each day. This particular day, we read his red, white and blue shirt to him over and over throughout that Independence day, reminding him that he was our “#1 Grandpa.” Then Abby and Ben came passing by on their parade float amidst a sea of red white and blue children in crazy hats, celebrating the freedom of our country. Grandpa felt free for a time as he enjoyed his sunny independence. He clapped his hands and gathered more candy, stuffing his pockets for later. Later came all too soon as the day drew near to a close as the sun began to head to the horizon. This time, Grandpa had his walker and independently walked himself around our backyard as tiny hands began to unwrap the fireworks packages. His walker had become the kids’ favorite for getting rides around the house, around the yard and (as an especially coveted seat of honor) for the walk into church each Sunday. Today’s walk took him to a spot near the garden to sit and watch, perched on his throne. A few minutes later, he would mosey on over to the willow tree and sit there in the shade for a different perspective on the backyard happenings. Then he came back to the center of the festivities to try out the fun for himself. With a wrinkled smile coming from deep inside, he twirled and danced his sparkler, watching the fire drops leap and fade as they shot off his glowing stick. At this stage of life, he could celebrate just glowing moments of freedom that would quickly fade into the reality of relinquished independence. Nonetheless, the joy was real, and the squeals of delight heard from children spinning around him was much more enjoyable than the alternative, the silent solitude of a rest home. He was loved, so loved, and he added so much spark and a glowing warmth to our home and family. His presence in our lives required 24-hour care that limited our freedom to come and go spontaneously. Yet relinquishing a bit of our independance to provide for his dependence brought our family an abundance of unanticipated rewards, memories and teaching moments that have lingered long after his passing. Our interdependence as families and the intergenerational bonds that solidify in such times of need were sparked by my parents caring for previous torch bearers, and they have created a flame that will burn bright with our posterity through their memories of our #1 Grandpa, Grandpa Dave.
We said goodbye to Grandpa Dave about 10 days before Brig Jr. arrived. My parents entered into retirement and were able to take over his full-time care. We think about him, though, every time we eat bananas and ice cream. The kids often bring him up and have good memories about “when Grandpa Dave lived with us.” Serving him taught us all so much and was a positive gift we will always be grateful for. A great reward of faith in action.