There were eleven of us around the table yesterday, feasting on a meal I did almost nothing to prepare except offer some well-oiled recipes that have served us well over the years (or at least one!). This whole recovering-from-surgery thing has worked pretty well for me...except that I actually find it difficult NOT to be in the kitchen in my own home when there's work to be done and a table to be set and people to be served. Other than that, it was relaxing.
But we got to the table, the food was as tasty as it always is and E, who will be a far better cook than I am when she's my age because she's a better cook than me now, fed us well. We passed the platters and bowls and gravy boats and homemade roll basket and butter dish, then Beve had the girls read two different things to remind us what we were doing there. And we spoke (as we always do!) of the things for which we give God thanks. It was sweet, as always, and those first bites tasted better for the true thankfulness I felt for all the thankfulness we'd shared.
But moments into the meal, Beve noticed that at the other end of the table, Grampie was beginning to hiccup. So I raced down the long bowling-alley of our hallway to our bathroom to retrieve the TUMS for him. Unfortunately I couldn't quite prevent a spitting-up episode right there at our Thanksgiving table. I grabbed a bowl, Beve grabbed a wet washcloth and we rolled his wheelchair away from the table, to give him a bit of privacy and everyone else a bit of space from what might affect their appetites. Between us, the TUMS, a medication we have on hand because I'm in charge of dispensing his pills each week, we got this episode under control pretty quickly. It lasted only five minutes, when they've been known to extend hours (particularly when we aren't around and the elders are trying to figure them out between them--Grampie always thinks it's the first time he's done such a thing).
Why do I tell you such an unappetizing story? Because of how it shocked a few of Grampie's grandchildren who have heard of his decline but until yesterday had not been in close proximity to it. This episode painted his frailty in sharp relief. Their once giant of a Grampie, the man who stood like a mountain over their lives, is no longer in control--even of himself. These grandchildren watched three of us move him from his wheelchair to the couch in order to take a family photo, because he seems to have forgotten how to make his feet move of their own accord, and noticed that even a trip to the bathroom required help from Beve. This is the sadness on the other side of the coin of their thankfulness on this Thanksgiving holiday. What Grampie was most thankful for was his family, particularly the three grandsons who were sitting in a row on one side of the table. Later, one of those grandsons said, "Life is only a fragment."
That grandson is right, of course. Life is only a fragment--on this earth, that is. But Grampie lives it so well. even now. As I was holding that bowl for him at dinner, I asked, "What can I do for you?" He answered, "You already do everything for me." He wasn't whining when he said those words, as some might have been, wasn't bemoaning his lot. He was simply thankful. Really.
I want to have such a heart as my father-in-law. His body is broken. He can do nothing for himself now. Nothing. But he continues to live gladly and well. And when he leaves this broken-down body, and stands up straight in the new one waiting for him, he'll continue to live that one well, too.
This is what I'm thankful for this Thanksgiving. I'm thankful for what I'm being taught about living well from the most broken in my life. His model continues to humble me. As he is being broken daily, He continues to make him whole.
And that, my friends, is what I desire for my own life.