Tuesday, September 01, 2009

100 Years

I spent a few hours in Newton tonight.  My father had a City Council meeting and they were surprising him with a proclamation regarding the public service my grandfather, his father, committed to the city of Newton.  Some of you may know that my grandfather passed away in June and this acknowledgement by the city was much appreciated.  

Poppa was 92 when he died and as I was driving home I heard that song "100 Years" by Five for Fighting and, maybe it was because I had had a sentimental trip home or I was filling reminiscent of all my grandfather had accomplished, but, whatever the reason, I took a moment and reflected on his life.  If you will humor me, I would like to share some of it now.

He was born in 1917 on a farm in Newton to sharecroppers.  He was baptized at Beth Eden Lutheran Church when he was a little over a month-old.  This church was the same one in which his mother was baptized and the same one in which my father, my brother, myself, and my nephew were baptized.  

He grew up to be a successful businessman by starting Citizens Savings and Loan Company and at his receiving in June, many of those in attendance were former clients of his -- remarking on how he had helped them own their first home.  He was also a politician.  And I mean that in the simplest of terms.  He was Mayor of Newton from 1971-1977 after many other leadership positions in the community.   I am not sure he enjoyed the "game" of politics, but he certainly noted that it was important to be active in one's community.

These accomplishments are all impressive but I find the most inspiring one to be his marriage to my grandmother.  They were engaged on Valentine's Day of 1935 and married in August of that year, lasting a total of 71 years - a number Robbie and I would only match if we live to be 97, God willing.  She passed away almost a year to the day before Poppa and it is that marriage that created two children and a strong sense of family that has passed down through the generations.  

I have a lot to live up to when I look at the life of Poppa.  I think the main theme through all of his endeavors was an impeccable sense of humility from which we all, and especially myself, can learn.  I only wish I had an ounce of the modesty he showed throughout his life as well as his dedication to those other than himself.  I see it now when I think about how he made it a point to always walk up his street in the morning and throw his neighbors' newspapers on their stoop so they would not have to walk to the sidewalk; or in his boisterous laugh that he so generously gave to everyone's attempts at jokes; or in his weekly letters that came to me after I went to college, DC and Charlotte that only stopped a week before he went into hospice.  

As the song says, "Every day is a new day."  A new day to try to live up to these individuals in our lives that effect us in such a profound manner.  A new day to admire and appreciate those around us whom God has graced with more patience than ourselves.  A new day to try to serve others in a way in which we would want to be served.  A new day to remember people like Poppa while also looking ahead to the future with a renewed sense of humanity.  

I thank Poppa for reminding me of these realities even though he is no longer with us.  His ability to continue to play a role in my life shows proof that he had an even more successful existence on Earth -- far beyond those accomplishments mentioned above.  

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