Kids must listen to their parents! That’s the only way learning will take place…NOT! Occasionally over the years when I have written a column, I have mentioned our oldest son, Greg, who died of an undisclosed heart ailment at the age of 23. This May he would have turned 43. Most years we have celebrated his life by going out as a family for dinner around the time he went to be with the Lord (April) or his birthday (May). This year, we will be going to dinner around his birthday. Barb, my wife, said something recently to me that made me think that Greg not only taught us while he was alive but continues to teach us today. I’d like to share with you several examples.
Many years ago at Christmastime we visited my brother, Steve, and his family in Vermont. For entertainment, we met with other family members (total about 15) and participated in a game of pick a prize. This is when each participant brings a wrapped gift (sometimes desirable to win and other times the gift amounts to a “booby prize”). Each player pulls a numbered slip out of a hat to determine the order of play. The first player selects a gift and opens it. If the second player likes the gift of the first player, he can take the gift and player #1 can again select a wrapped gift. If not, the second player can select his own wrapped gift. Some play that a gift can only be traded a certain number of times and then it must stay with the player who has it. Greg, with his luck, ended up with a beautiful Christmas wreath that was highly sought after. We left that night to travel to Steve’s house that was only a mile away. Greg, in his thoughtful manner beat everyone to Steve’s house and had the wreath hanging on the front door before the rest of us arrived. I learned from Greg. Many years later, the Bible study that Barb and I attended played the same game at a social. I ended up with a flease to keep me warm. The person who brought it actually traded the person who received it to get it back. I then traded her so I ended up with the fleece. When I looked at it, I found out it was brand new and very nice. The next morning before leaving for church, I rewrapped the fleece and wrote a note to the “fleece lady” explaining the above and gave it back to her. Lesson #1 taught by Greg.
Greg’s first semester in college he was on the soccer team and did well in his studies. The second semester he did not play sports and had a 4.0 average. He taught me to do all that you do with gusto and to the best of my ability. I can’t say that I have measured up to Greg in this area, but it was a delight to see. For a reward, we gave him a pair of gold cuff links with “4.0” engraved on them.
The third lesson from Greg was to be persistent (never give up). I wrote in a column some time ago that we bid on a used car at his high school’s auction. We set a limit on what we would bid. He would pay half and we would pay the other half. The bidding came down to one other person and us. I was doing the bidding while holding our auction number. The other person bidding hit our limit. The auctioneer looked and me and I shook my head no. Greg, sitting beside me bid an extra $100, stood up and yelled: “Stop the bidding. I’m a poor college student and need a car.” End of bidding and Greg got the car!
When we bought our first house, we were the “kids” of our block. Many of our neighbors were old enough to be our parents. We got along quiet well with everybody on the block. The two elderly ladies who lived across the street from us were distressed because the man who cut their grass for many years was retiring. For a small fee (possibly less than minimum wage), I offered not just to cut their lawn but to be responsible for all aspects of gardening on their property. Before I knew it, I was responsible for six lawns a week. All went well for two or three years. However, when my sister, Phyllis, died at the age of 44, in 1987, I decided I needed to spend more time with my family. I told the two ladies across the street of my decision to quit at the end of the lawn mowing season so they would have time to hire somebody for the following spring. They were so upset that one of them, although she spoke some to me, her demeanor was very cold. The other lady wouldn’t even talk to me.
Although these ladies were rather old, they insisted on shoveling the snow off their sidewalk and driveway, because they were the only ones who could place each shovel of snow in the proper place! We had a humdinger of a snowstorm and all they could do was stay in their house. Greg never contacted them. He just went across the street and did a fantastic job clearing the snow from their driveway, sidewalks and porch, free of charge. I guess the ladies determined that if Barb and I had raised such an incredible son, we weren’t all bad. We became talking friends again.
Something similar happened when the widow next door confronted Barb and me because the screen on their “bug house” built off the side of their garage had been torn. She even showed us the toy guns she said our boys had left behind the enclosure. Our boys did have toy guns but none of them looked like the ones our neighbor showed us. Oh boy! Another period of the silent treatment. We solved this rather lengthy period by shoveling the snow for her after each snowstorm without consulting her. Sure enough, Greg’s “medicine” worked with this neighbor too and we all returned to our friendly ways.
Finally, the senerio, the “dessert” of which happened in the last month. When Barb and I got married, we were churchgoers but did not have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Therefore, the inner side of our wedding rings were engraved with just our initials and the date. Greg was married about 22 months before he went to be with the Lord. Several years later we received an invitation from Mandy, his widow, and her fiance to attend their wedding. We really did not wish to attend because we knew it would be emotional for us and all attention needed to be on Mandy and her new husband, whom we had previously met and appreciated. We asked Mandy and her fiance out to dinner to explain why we would prefer not to attend the wedding. Our dinner went very well and at the end of it, Mandy pulled a small velvet bag out of her purse and presented us with the wedding ring she had given Greg. What a wonderful gesture! We did not expect the ring. To us, that was an expression of love.
But wait! That’s not the end of the story. I asked permission from Mandy and Barb to wear Greg’s wedding ring along with the one Barb gave me. The answer was a definite yes and I have been wearing two wedding rings ever since. Barb recently asked me if she could clean my rings while she was cleaning her own. If we had known about the inscription on Greg’s ring, we had forgotten about it. Barb read the inscription to me: “Two Become One - June 21, 1997”. This is taken from Genesis 2:24, where it says: “For this reason (refers to 24:23: concerning woman being made from man) a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh.” There are many similar references to this in the Bible. Now, I feel even better since I realize I am not only carrying Greg’s memory with me but I am also carrying scripture on my finger. Thanks Greg and Mandy!
Jeff Hall, Honey Brook, contributes columns.