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Grandpa Smiled
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One of my first memories of Grandpa was the time he was hammering in a nail. Missing the mark, like so many of us have done, the hammer quickly slammed down on his fingernail as if it was the intended target. But what happened after the painful hit, though at first it made me cock my eyebrow in a peculiar way, would years later cement his character in my mind.

Clutching his left thumb in his right hand, he kissed it, saying, “Thank God I have a thumb I can hit.” Then he peered over at me though his ancient glasses, smiled brightly and continued on with his project.

This past winter, one of the worst in Georgia’s history, Grandpa fell during a heavy snow accumulation on his sloped driveway, breaking his left clavicle. Yet even with a bone pushing his skin upward, whenever anyone asked him how he was doing, he simply smiled and said, “I’ve never had a bad day in my life.”

Real Character

My wife’s grandfather is a man I truly admire! Tonight when I sauntered into his nursing home room, I had to muster all of my strength to hold back my emotions. I observed his emaciated frame, and his gnarled hands grinding up crackers-—he told me he was breaking up dirt for the garden. Sure, society teaches that men are not supposed to reveal their feelings, but this man, who I had gotten to know over the last few years, caused my throat to constrict, and my eyes to blur with tears. Everyone who knew him in his younger days, says his cheerful attitude is no show, but is his real character. My wife, who lived near her grandparents as a child, cannot recall him ever being mad or upset.

I read to him, as he sat back, looked at me, and smiled. Gone were his youth, vigor, memory, his wife, reasoning, speech, and stability. But the vile and dreaded Alzheimer’s did not claim his personality nor his smile.

The evening news is filled with stories about disappointed people and their failed or fallen idols—Tiger Woods, Ray Lewis, Anthony Weiner—yet I am blessed that I can simply look to my grandfather and be proud. Even while our family struggles to deal with his dementia, I can still look to Grandpa and see a human embodiment of Christ’s character. As Longfellow once penned, “Into each life some rain must fall,” (Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, “The Rainy Day.”).

Rain is falling in Grandpa’s life now, but in his heart, the sun still shines. I know in heaven, Grandpa’s crown will be adorned with stars from many who were able to steal a small glimpse of our Savior’s patient and gentle character through him.

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By Daniel LaFlair. Copyright © 2014 by GraceNotes. All rights reserved. Use of this material is subject to usage guidelines. 

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