The man had many names and titles.
Loren Glenn Waller. Glenn. Occasionally “Glenn E. Waller”. Son. Brother. Husband. Dad. Uncle. Grandpa. G-Pa. Lieutenant. Captain. Major. Colonel. Pledge Brother. Big Red. Entrepreneur. Navigator. Guardsman. Veteran. Advisor. Mentor. Investor. Surveyor. Conservationist. Hunter. Neighbor. Friend. Colleague. Gardener. Philanthropist. Methodist.
I could go on and on, couldn’t I? The truth is, each of us had a different set of names for my grandfather.As a young boy, I grew up with this image of my grandfather as a half-god, half-monster. I was always small for my age, and he always seemed colossal. He always seemed larger-than-life. And he always seemed immortal.
About five years ago, when he first got cancer, something changed. I was in my twenties, right smack dab in the middle of the age where I considered myself an immortal too. We went to visit my grandparents here in Oregon for Thanksgiving, and Grandpa was different. All my life he’d had a straight back and a razor-sharp gaze. Now his back was hunched as he sat in a soft padded chair, and he’d look at me with soft, misty eyes. I’d grown up watching him push a lawnmower around the yard like it was a toy. Now he pushed a walker around like it was hard work. As a kid he had often given me advice – about girls, about saving money, and about life in general. After he got cancer his advice took on a flavor of urgency, as though the wisdom he wanted to impart was more than his time would allow.
What had happened was my grandfather had become mortal like the rest of us. And seeing him like that: smaller, weaker, more human…it dawned on me that I was a mortal too. “Grandpa is going to die someday,” I realized, “and someday I’ll die too.” But even during his first bout of cancer…even when he had his heart problems a couple years ago…he never seemed afraid of his fate. It wasn’t like he was embracing his death. On the contrary, perhaps the truth was that he was embracing his afterlife.
Because of all the words I could use to describe my grandfather, of all the titles anyone has ever given him, the one he would want me to use today is “Christian.” Glenn Waller, Christian. He’d want me to point out that the long span of his life was marked by two constants: his love for his family and his love for Jesus. Glenn wouldn’t want us to worry about remembering how he fought in the war, or how he worked at a grain elevator, or how well he’d done in the stock market, or how he was a member of Alpha Gamma Sigma in college. Those were important events in his life, certainly. But they were just the small stuff. What he wants us to remember is that he was a Christian.
A month ago I wrote in an article for the Kansas City Star, in which I discussed how I did not feel connected to God when I prayed. But while out in nature, while hunting, while spending time with my family, and when I am at church…the Holy Spirit is evident to me.
It occurs to me now that the times I feel close to God are the times I am doing something that I’d done with Grandpa. Growing up I hunted with him, spent time outdoors with him, saw him at family gatherings, and went to church with him. Is it a coincidence? Or could it be that the one important, lasting contribution that my grandfather made to my life is that he connected me to God? If that is so, I find it extremely satisfying.I want to tell one story and then I’ll stop talking. Actually, Glenn is going to tell the story. A couple years ago grandpa sent me the working draft of his “memoirs”, and at the time it went from 1924 to 1972. Here’s an excerpt he wrote about a Boy Scout trip he took with Jeff and Steve to Philmont, New Mexico:A couple of days later we visited a site where the rangers gave the boys instruction and experience in rappelling down a rock face. The location was high on the side of a mountain looking several miles across a beautiful alpine valley. While we were there a small thunderstorm formed and proceeded to drift down the valley on the prevailing winds. It was several miles from us and we were in position on the side of the mountain to see the entire storm from a side view that you do not have in the plains country where we lived. You could see the lacy ice clouds at the top of the storm and the rain falling from the cloud base as it drifted along. It was a unique chance to see the Lord's world at work and we watched it for some 45 minutes as it drifted past.That’s what he did. He spent 87 years watching the Lord’s world at work. It was a pleasure to know him.
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