Monday, January 14, 2013

A legacy of laughter, kindness, and prayer

Vancouver BC from space: Chris Hadfield NASA
There's remarkable unity in God's creativity. This week, Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield tweeted incredible photos from his NASA space mission. I thought some of them were pictures of underwater coral formations. Nope, that's the ferry dock on the BC shoreline. From small to huge, the signature of God is beautifully consistent.

Waldemar's family buried his 99-year-old Uncle Ferdinand last weekend. That old man lived a live of consistent laughter, kindness, and prayer. (Obituary here.)

Uncle Ferdinand at 99
Uncle Ferdinand Hirch grew up in Poland and German. He was a hard worker, whether as a laborer or in his eventual profession as a baker of exquisite German breads and pastries. (Oh those marzipan rolls and cream horns!)

Parts of Uncle Ferdinand's life can only be described as difficult and miserable. His family was so poor that he had to leave home at an early age to look for work. As a young father, he was conscripted into the Russian army. He lost track of his wife and baby for nearly 2 years. He survived being shot through the face -- a bullet went through his nose and out his ear. "That bullet saved my life. I got out of the army!" he said, rejoicing in his life rather than complaining about his deafness. A German pastor happened to read the Red Cross missing persons bulletin after WWII, leading to the family being reunited.

Uncle Ferdinand and Aunt Lydia's only child became a missionary, a great hardship of distance between close-knit parents and child. Uncle F and Auntie L made a point of traveling to Brazil to help build churches, pray over each new grandchild (all five of them!), and sacrificially supporting their son's ministry. They prayed long hours, lived simply so they could be generous, and hosted hundreds of people in their home over the years. They tended a lush garden brimming with basics and exotics like asparagus in the spring, berries and potatoes throughout the summer, and cabbage and horseradish in the fall. They canned and cooked, baked and cleaned in the old European tradition.

Uncle Ferdinand suffered many physical crises through his 99 years. His baker's hours were a brutal 3am - afternoon. (My brother, who worked for him one year, exclaimed about the physical exertion as well as the extreme hours.) Yet Uncle Ferdinand never complained. He and Auntie L greeted every bakery customer with a cheerful hello or word of kindly advice.

He was a joker, telling simple stories from life with a laugh and viewing human interactions as a funny series of possibilities. He attributed his long life to the goodness of God.

Waldemar's uncle never missed a morning or evening church meeting he could get to, even after Auntie Lydia died nearly 10 years ago. The church's sanctuary was only accessible by a long flight of stairs but he climbed them, service after service. Before reaching those stairs, it took a great effort to cross the church parking lot from his senior apartment after a knee replacement in his 90s. Then a car hit him in a crosswalk, hurling his 95-year-old body into a heap on the ground. He was in the hospital for a while but kept his good humor and happy outlook. And he went back to sit in his pew as soon as he could.

At 99, he still rode his scooter to town to shop for groceries. He cooked his own food, kept a neat apartment, did his laundry, and shrugged off "too much help" even when climbing stairs. He shopped in town on a recent Friday, howdy-ed with people who knew him, and died when his heart stopped that evening. He was almost halfway through the year toward his 100th birthday.

"He was always glad to see us!" According to his grandkids, he was cheerful as he ate, sang, and prayed with them last Christmas. He didn't complain about the noise of his 12 great-grandkids, nor the effort it took to get to his grandson's house for Christmas dinner, nor about having to Skype greetings to his son and daughter-in-law in faraway Brazil rather than hugging them in person.

Flying over Key Largo: Chris Hatfield, NASA
The consistency of Uncle Ferdinand's life reminds me of what only God can do in us. From his creativity and wholeness in micro to macro worlds, life with God is stunning in its integrity and beauty.

Over 100 people attended the funeral on Saturday, many in their 20s, 30s, and 40s. The memorial was that "small" only because most of his traveling companions have already died.

Who do you know with a similar legacy? Are you leaving similar good memories behind for your friends and family?

Read more:
*The Lord God is a sun and shield. Psalm 84:11

*Solomon also made all the furnishings of the Temple of the LORD: the gold altar; the gold table for the Bread of the Presence; the lampstands of solid gold, five on the south and five on the north, in front of the Most Holy Place; the flower decorations, lamps, and tongs—all of gold; … the doors for the entrances to the Most Holy Place and the main room of the Temple, with their fronts overlaid with gold.

So King Solomon finished all his work on the Temple of the LORD. Then he brought all the gifts his father, David, had dedicated—the silver, the gold, and the various articles—and he stored them in the treasuries of the LORD's Temple. 1 Kings 7:48–51

*It is the God who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. 2 Corinthians 4:6

Moravian Prayer: Dear Father of light, thank you for shielding us so we can worship you another day. Continue to remove darkness from our souls and spirits so we may be beacon lights in your name for others to follow. Amen.

No comments:

Post a Comment