I was looking forward to the long Labor Day weekend when the phone rang at about 11:00AM Saturday morning. I saw on the caller ID my parents name and number so I knew I was in for either really good news, or the opposite. We generally have scheduled times when we talk and this was not one of them. It was my father, “Todd, I have some really sad news, its grandpa, he passed away a few minutes ago…” ‘Shock’, ‘Bewilderment’, ‘Denial’, ‘Grief’, all feelings that passed through me in a matter of only a few seconds as I reacted to my father’s announcement. It really couldn’t be true, I had just seen him a few weeks ago, and for a moment my childhood flashed through my mind.
My grandfather was an amazing man. You will never find him in any history book, or a Time Life Publishing book of great men and women of our century, but what we find in Kenneth Wachter’s family is a legacy of wisdom, hope, and love that he so consistently and diligently sowed.
A Legacy of Wisdom
As I was remembering my early memories with my grandfather, I was telling my wife that nothing simply “was” with my grandfather. Everything had a story, and everything meant something. A bird was never simply a bird, but that blue colored bird over there was actually a ‘Black Throated Blue Warbler’. At times this was quite frustrating for my brother and me. It was a common occurrence for my brother and I to be sitting at the table and suddenly some weird object or device would be placed in front of us. We would be relegated to making futile guesses as to the object’s purpose until grandpa saw fit that we had become thoroughly confused, and then he would instruct as to its use. Example: have you ever seen a hand cranked apple corer, cutter, and peeler all in one? If so, you can imagine my frustration. Even after a partially paralyzing and debilitating stroke, I remember my grandfather wordlessly tossing a cutting tool he used to cut his food with because of the stroke and challenging me with a look to take a guess at what it was.
As a child this was frustrating but as a young adult it was challenging. My grandfather chose to never look at anything with indifferent thought. But everything had a story, everything had a purpose, whether big or small every little part of our life had significance and was worth considering.
A Legacy of Hope
I remember it very clearly, though I was not old, that my Aunt Lorie, my mom’s sister and my grandparent’s youngest daughter had passed away from leukemia. She had only been in her late twenties and she finally succumbed to the fight she had been fighting for so long. I was young, but old enough to understand the levity of the loss. I saw it in the eyes of my entire family, especially in those of my grandparents. But as I watched them cope with what could possibly be one of the greatest hurts a person can ever experience, the loss of ones child, I saw within my grandpa, a hope, not to move beyond and forget the grief, but a hope in life for what God still had in store for his family. And he took this value and led his family through one of its darkest times.
As I watched the pain of this situation unfold in my family I learned not only how to grieve, but learned how to look forward and accept the hand the had been dealt us with a steady hope that despite what our mind and feelings are telling us, God, the author of all of our lives, is still in control, and still has a plan of hope.
A Legacy of Love
I loved my grandpa so easily, because I saw that he first loved me. His steady instruction, caring and understanding of his careless, ready to get in trouble, grandchild was unwavering. His love for his family, in times that were difficult as well as times that were easy was beautiful. As I watched him I learned how to be a husband (he and my grandmother were married for 56 years). I learned what it meant to be a successful father; my mom is an amazing person. And, how to be a loving grandfather by leaving for his family a legacy that will last forever.
The world offers us many views on what it means to be successful. Whether it is power, wealth, or influence, all of it is centered primarily on selfish ambition. But on the other side is God’s word, which is full of people who left a legacy of their own: David, Joshua, Paul, Peter, and most importantly, Jesus Christ Himself. These were people who chose a selfless path in order that many others might benefit as opposed to simply themselves.
I challenge you today to find and thank those people in your lives that have either left a legacy in your life or are beginning to do so. Whether it is a friend, a family member, or a teacher, The Word of God says that “every good and perfect thing comes from the Father.” He is author of all that is good, only He, so let us also thank the one who has blessed us with so much.
I also challenge you to follow the steps of those people and begin leaving a legacy of your own. For me those steps look like those of my grandpa, as well as many others. Leaving a positive legacy consists of making intentional choices in our lives for the benefit of others. We are all given a choice. A choice not of our circumstances, but a choice on how we react to them. Chuck Swindoll writes that “I am convinced that life is 10% what happens to me, and 90% how I react to it.”
I love you Grandpa, thank you and I’ll miss you.