I’ve always been a little apprehensive about claiming prophet status. Between a suspicion that my dreams are primarily a result of too much Egg Nog and an inkling that camel-hair clothing would cause a rash, I tend to shy away from titles such as seer, magus or prognosticator.
The closest I ever got to telling the future was a few years ago when I blogged about my grandfather’s imminent death. Even then I included a loophole by highlighting his indefatigable spirit, and it’s a good thing I did – the jolly old geezer is still cracking jokes today, even as his kidneys begin failing.
This is what I wrote more than three years ago, when he was flirting with his centennial birthday:
They say that the cancer has spread. There are a lot of things I don’t know: how far it has reached, how long he has, how much pain he’s in. The only thing I do know is that my grandpa is dying.
In all honesty, he’s been playing tug-o-war with the black angel for quite a while. Being a stubborn Welshman, the spectre of death has had to settle for taking him a bit at a time. Tooth by broken tooth, his mobility, and his eyesight in stages, the grave never had so much trouble getting someone to lie down as with gramps (and to this day his quick wit is intact, even if his hips ain’t.) There have been more than a fair number of winters pass that we thought might be his last, but spring always came; like a coal miner at the end of another shift, he’d poke his head out of the bleakness and head back home to his family.
William Francis Scarrott is not a large man, if you are counting inches. If I was half the man he is today, I’d be really quite small. It’s hard to tell because he rarely gets out of his chair anymore (he may give it a try though, just to give me a whoopin’!), but nobody ever comments on his size because it’s his heart that really stands tall.
From a grandson’s perspective, he has always been larger than life. His good humour was always present at the dinner table when he’d generously dole out a couple peas to each grandkid; the best game was getting into his favourite chair and staying there until he’d pour a glass of water on your head to get you out.
He wasn’t all tickles and giggles, though. Thirty years after the fact, I can see the fire in his eyes when I told him that he couldn’t spank me because he wasn’t my dad. I remember going hunting with him, and feeling the lump of coal form in my heart when I wasn’t silent enough, and I received that look of disappointment.
There are so many ways in which I’ll never do his name justice; so many aspects of who he is that I’ll never measure up to. The impression he left on that old favourite chair isn’t comfortable for me. I can’t weld, or gut a deer. Farming…? Uh… no. I may be named after him, but I’m under no illusions when it comes to comparing resumes.
The thing that makes my eyes all sweaty, is that I’m not sure he minds anymore that I can’t do all those things. You see, the last couple times I’ve gone to visit I’ve made a point to thank him for deciding to follow Jesus all those years ago. I’ve had the chance to express my gratitude for a heritage that has eternal value. Invariably I get a response that includes an, “ohhhhh, Bill.” As if he could have or should have been more.
Time takes a lot of things away from us. My grandpa can’t see, can hardly walk, and eats his meals with something less than a full set of teeth. He’s not the mighty hunter anymore. He’s just the one man that loved my grandma for all her life. He’s the man whose blind eyes tear up when we talk about Jesus.
Time will take my gramps away soon, but it can’t take away that. Whatever time takes away, eternity gives back in the hands of Jesus.
Three years later I’m even more careful about predicting his passing, but like I said, it appears that his kidneys are failing. The whole scenario got me thinking again this week about his legacy and how that compares to the priorities that I’ve made.
The heady spiritual mountaintop is where I’d like to be, while the steady faithfulness that God has demonstrated in my grandfather’s life is the bedrock that holds it all together. I’d still like to change the world; Gramps made one quiet decision that altered the spiritual destiny of most of his descendants.
Am I a prophet? It’s a question I’ll answer with silence and a shrug of the shoulders. All I’ll say is this: We are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses, and it is a company that my intrepid grandfather will one day be a part of. Not because he travelled the globe like Billy Graham, ended slavery like William Wilberforce or parted the seas like Moses, but because he put one spiritual foot in front of the other.
Sometimes with the help of a cane, not always seeing the way clearly, but primarily in the direction of Jesus, trusting that there is grace for the detours.
If that’s all we can do, it is enough.