Everybody has a Yoda, the wise teacher that gives you the answer you sometimes don’t want to hear but need to. I have had many “Yoda’s” throughout my life. Most of my Yoda’s have moved on to the church eternal, the most recent being my Grandmother last week. Unlike many of the wise teachers I have had through my life, my grandparents were a team in their wisdom and their examples. The great gift of wisdom that my grandparents had was a sense of love that they witnessed together.
If there was anything that drove them it was love, the love that they had for each other and the love that they always showed toward me. You could tell the love they had for each other, as my grandfather would often look at my grandmother as if they were teenagers. Though more than that their example of love was interesting in that they could accept and love people that they did not always agree with on the issues of the day. I witnessed this as my grandfather, a staunch conservative, adored the incredibly liberal Clergy couple he worked for as visitation pastor at Immanuel Presbyterian Church in Albuquerque.
While I was in High School and spending my summers with them, before declaring my call, or even inclination to ministry, I remember my grandfather talking about his life as a minister. My Grandmother would smile as he talked; it was her goal to stay as uninvolved as she could in the churches. However, while she did not get involved, you knew that they were a team as she would be his support and confidant. She often found that when she got involved, people would use her as a go-between, which she quickly learned was not healthy for their relationship, but she knew everything that went on, even if she did not let on her knowledge.
Grandpa once said that the problem with the church is that we continue to battle over how many angels can dance on the head of a pin, rather than how we can get people to be more faithful. This was the greatest frustration of my grandfather’s ministry: the church focused on diversions rather than on God. Which helped me to understand my grandmother’s faith as she, who was always very private about her faith, would often open little glimpses into it as she would be thankful for all that she had.
One summer, the three of us went to vacation in Sedona, Arizona. Before we left they had their house painted, and when we returned we found that their house had been burglarized. Almost everything of value had been taken, including my grandfather’s collection of bicentennial quarters. They were not happy! Though as unhappy as they were they kept going. The fear that they had was not about losing the “stuff” again, but was the violation of their physical safety and while we had a pretty good idea of who did it, beyond seeking justice, they did not seek vengeance. I know a minor distinction, but it was interesting to see how they acted more from a place of frustration and inconvenience than from a place of hate or anger.
They were a funny couple, after everything settled and they replaced much of what was stolen, though they did not replace much of it at the same quality as what they had. The funniest was the tea set that was replaced with a very nice pewter one that my grandmother handwrote on a tiny ceramic sign “NOT SILVER.” Grandpa said, “Things can always be replaced, but people can't, and we are just glad it did not happen when we were home and someone might have gotten hurt.”
The thing is that with the Alzheimer’s and illness, for the last couple of years my grandparents just seemed different, as their states were weakened by this life. While I am thankful that they are out of their pain and living into their lives of glory, I will never forget them and they cannot ever be replaced. I am just so very thankful that God gave them to me to share their wisdom and show me their faith.
I wrote this in celebration of Grandma who passed away last week and my Grandpa who passed last year, I am thankful that God made them part of my life.
Rev. Dr. Bryan James Franzen