The following is something I wrote in August, when I was giving a eulogy for my Grandpa. I post it today in honor of the Feast of All Saints and the eve of All Souls (Day of the Dead).
Over the past few days I’ve been taking more time to notice Grandpa’s carpentry work. I think over the years I started to take it for granted—I got so used to seeing it everywhere. But now I’m taking a closer look, and in the works that Grandpa has left us, I feel like I’m learning more about Grandpa and more about the person I want to be.
Grandpa’s most obvious creations are the bigger things, the entertainment centers, the big bookshelves, the chests of drawers. Even this lectern that I’m standing behind. Grandpa made some really extraordinary pieces of furniture, and he had an amazing talent and shared that talent with all of us.
But besides the big pieces of furniture, Grandpa also made some really simple and ordinary things. It’s these little things I’ve been noticing more and more. The candy dispenser (that last night at the wake provided enough sugar to keep some of the great grandkids good and hyper!). The picture frames. Even the toilet paper holder and laundry hamper in my family’s bathroom! And again, in this church, it’s not just the lectern that he made, it’s the little things…[visual aid]
This box holds the numbers for the display of songs for the service. I remember when the container was a cheap cardboard box, and Grandpa instead made this elegant little box that most people never even noticed. Our whole family has these little things, these everyday objects that we could’ve bought at the store, but instead of a mass-produced piece of molded plastic or fake wood, we have little handcrafted works of art.
As I look at all these ordinary objects that Grandpa left us, I see a lesson that he’s also leaving behind for us to learn. It’s as if he’s saying: “Don’t overlook the little things, don’t go about your ordinary day to day life as if it’s not important.”
As I’ve listened to and talked with my cousins and aunts and uncles these past few days, I’m seeing that it’s the little things that matter the most when we remember Grandpa. It’s the everyday events of Grandpa’s life that stand out the most. Yes, he had the grander, more momentous events, like his travels to places like New Zealand and Venezuela, or catching a 7 foot sailfish off the gulf of Mexico. But in the end, we remember the ordinary things that made up the routine of his life. Teaching us grandkids how to play crazy 8s and cribbage. Baling hay on the farm. Going out to the lake to fish. It was in the ordinary routine of his life that we got to know him best. We knew that with each spring he’d be back to the farm and helping out in the fields, with each winter in his ice house fishing, with each Sunday afternoon a chance to play cards. Or that we could stop by the house at any given day and find him in his workshop, busy with another new creation.
Most of us don’t live grand lives and become famous for what we do, but we make our mark (to paraphrase Mother Theresa) in the ordinary things that we do with great love for the people around us. In every one of his creations Grandpa leaves us a reminder to look for beauty in ordinary things. How wonderful that we have these reminders of Grandpa as we go about our day to day lives!
I like to think Grandpa was a lot like the wood he worked with; it’s as if the wood was an expression of who he was and who he wanted to be. Especially the wood that came from the farm, the oak that was sturdy and strong (you might even say stubborn!). In the workshop it started out a bit rough around the edges, maybe needing a little extra sanding, or sometimes there was a knot that made the wood hard to deal with. But a Master Carpenter was able to transform the raw wood into something beautiful. After a lot of hard work and a great deal of love, we’re now left with a beautiful gift of loving service.
And maybe we’re all a little bit like the wood: works in progress, on our way to being shaped into something beautiful.
May we all keep doing our own version of woodworking: sanding away our rough edges, doing all we can to serve others with whatever talent we’ve been blessed with.