Last week I flew to Lubbock, Texas to teach a session on the kingdom of God in a Perspectives on World Missions class (thanks to a connection down there through my brother, Andy, and (new) sister-in-law, Alissa). My grandparents just live 45 miles away from Lubbock, so I spent the next afternoon and night at their house.
Let me introduce them to you. There names are Arthur and Mozelle Hedges, or more affectionately, Zanzan and Nanah, respectively. Zanzan is 80 and Nanah is 78. They are both in pretty good health for their age, but they are starting to be conscious of being old and don't travel so much any more. I asked them what had been their very favorite trip, and it was their five-week drive through Canada and Alaska about twelve years ago. They've slowed down a lot since then.
As we visited unhurriedly between "The Big Valley" (every night at 6pm - part of their regular routine), a game of Spades, and over pizza, they talked about Son and Gayle (actually Ed Jr. and Gayle, Nanah's older brother and his wife) who have recently moved into an assisted living home. Nanah and Zanzan have different plans - they would like to hire live-in help when that time comes. My eyes watered and I held back tears and averted my gaze so they wouldn't know how emotional I was feeling. I'm not ready for them to get old or talk about getting old. They've always seemd like they would be there forever, until recent years.
But they are content - really happy, in fact. I think the only grief they feel is grief over the trials their children and grandchildren go through, and the sadness of seeing some family members not walking with Jesus. I think I'm just beginning to realize how much Nanah prays. I really think she is a prayer-warrior, in that she consistently lifts up her family to the Lord.
Zanzan is the most generous man I've ever met. Though he reads the Bible every day, he comments that he really only understands enough to know where's he going after he dies. I think he understands more than that, but in a different way. He's not a theologian. But he's a practitioner. He really loves people. 1 Corinthians 13 is lived out in his attitudes and actions. He gives people the benefit of a doubt and is slow to criticize, quick to see the best. He gives a lot. I'm sure that if someone totalled up how much he has given to needy people - family and friends and strangers and ministers and ministries - over the years, it would be tens of thousands of dollars. But I really don't think he keeps a record. I alluded to one (of many) times when they helped me out, and he didn't seem to remember. I think he forgets quickly and doesn't hold it over someone's head. He gives with no strings attached.
Nanah's gifts are hospitality and serving, and I think it bothers her that she isn't able to do as much as she used to. She always kept visiting preachers and pastors and missions teams over the years. She's always fixed lavish breakfasts for her guests - usually something different for each of the grandchildren, whatever they wanted. And she never seemed to mind. She serves quite happily. Even last Wednesday morning, she wanted to be sure I had everything I wanted - which wasn't much, because I don't eat much for breakfast.
I looked through some old pictures that night at Nanah and Zanzan's house. Pictures of my cousins and me when growing up. Pictures of aunts and uncles from two and three decades ago, that are now not part of the family because of divorces. The pictures made me sad. Sad, because I know the pain that so many people have felt. Sad, because I'm afraid some of my best play-mates from growing up don't know Jesus. I found myself praying as I sifted through the photos. Prayinig for the salvation of some. Praying that my brothers and I would all have marriages that last. Praying for mercy on my loved ones.
Nanah commented that one of my cousins told her that our family was unusual in that it was so loving and accepting. There's a lot of variety in our family - three preachers (my Dad, a cousin, and me), a banker, an actress, a photographer, a coach, etc. - some are Christian and some are not, but everyone is loved and accepted, even where there are disagreements. What some may not realize is where all that love comes from. It comes from this godly set of grandparents who love the Lord and love others, fulfilling the two great commandments of Jesus.
My 18 hours with Nanah and Zanzan made me realize how fast my life is flying by. There house is the one of the only places still in the family that I have memories about that go back to before I was three. And so much of it is still the same - the same drapes in the living room, the same red carpet in Aunt Darla's old bed-room, where I used to pretend it was another planet inhabited by orcs that haunted my Star Wars action figures, the same ping-pong table in the "play room" where my brothers and cousins and I have banged out many a game. And yet, its all changing too. My life is probably almost 1/2 over. Instead of being a little boy with little brothers, I have children of my own now. My grandparents are now great-grand parents, and my own parents are beginning to take their role. Life is fleeting and fragile.
Little episodes to reminisce like this are good for me, because they make me eternity conscious. It was especially good to be with Nanah and Zanzan again. They are two of the dearest people on earth. I never know when it may be my last time to see them. I pray they'll have another twenty years (I don't think they want to be around that long, though!), but for them or for me, today could be our last. How I want to live these days well - loving Jesus and loving others.