By: Dennis Bates
One of the greatest blessings I ever received was a full complement of parents, grandparents, and great grandparents. They were all alive when I was born, and to some degree or other I remember something about all of them.
One of my great grandmothers collected donkey figures. She had hundreds of them, and yes that is how she voted. She’s the same woman who fell out of a pear tree in her back yard when she was in her late 80’s and broke her foot. When the doctor asked her what she was doing in the pear tree, she said simply, “Somebody had to pick them and the best ones are always at the top of the tree.”
I learned how to hit a softball because one of my great grandfathers, who was also nearly 80 at the time, took me out to the back yard and pitched to me hour after hour. He taught me how to watch the ball swing level and stay out of grandma’s flowers when the ball went into them. He got the ball then because he said she wouldn’t yell at him as much.
One of my grandmothers taught me how to laugh; she had the best laugh I have ever heard, and the other one taught me not to take myself too seriously. She could tease with the best of them. She also made the best chicken and noodles from scratch I have ever tasted. One of my grandfathers took me to my first major league baseball game more than 50 years ago. The Cubs lost to the Phillies 3-2, but he bought me a Cub’s hat anyway and told me to wear it proudly. I wish I still had it the way they played this year. My other grandfather taught me how to add and subtract in my head and that ice cream tastes better when you pour corn flakes on top of it and have at least two flavors at a time.
My mother taught me to love learning (she taught, of course) and my father taught me how to stick to a job and do it right, even if takes longer that way. He also taught me that sometimes it’s better to be quiet and keep your mouth shut; I’m still working on that one.
All of these people are gone now, except for the memories I have, which are truly priceless, and just as I remember them, I remember the tears I shed when the most important people in my life died one by one. The memories of those tears are just part of our lives here. But there is one Bible verse that has always given me great consolation when the tears came in the past and when they still do from time to time.
Revelation 21:4 says this:
“He will wipe away every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”
I know this isn’t the most theologically correct interpretation of that verse, but here’s what it means to me: laughter, the smell of homemade chicken and noodles in grandma’s kitchen, corn flakes on ice cream, Cub’s baseball caps and holding my grandpa’s hand, the unyielding love of a mother who talked all the time and a father who sometimes didn’t talk at all, and a great grandfather who could get the softball out of the irises without grandma knowing it.
All without tears.