This is the first week of our new blog series called, “The Wisdom Series: Sharing the Deep Truths of an Elder.” I got this idea from a recent book that my publisher, Loyola Press, released called Sharing the Wisdom of Time, a beautiful book celebrating the wisdom of our elders. This series is in honor of my grandfather, whose wisdom is featured today, and then we’ll continue the series with posts written by friends sharing the stories, truths, and wisdom from the elders in their lives. Read my full introduction to the series here and then follow all the stories at #SharingWisdom.
There were seven stepping stones that separated our home from my grandparents’ home. Almost every day as I child, I skipped or hopped across these stones to make my way to their door. With excitement, I would fling open the screen door and knock our special knock “tat-tat-a-tat-tat” letting them know it was one of their grandchildren at the door. I awaited eagerly to see who would get to the door first…my grandmother or my grandfather. The sound of the doorknob beginning to turn made my excitement build. Then the crescendo moment of the door flying open to see the smiling face of one my grandparents. No matter who it was behind the door, there was a unique welcome when the door flew open. A greeting that reminded me of the words of the prophet Isaiah, “I have called you by name: you are mine.” “Hey, Becky-D!” if it was my grandmother or “Hey, Becksa!” if it was my grandfather. In turn, I would shout out my special names for them, “Hey B-Buddha!” or “Hey Boppy!” From the second their greeting hit my ears, I could feel a welling up of love within me. I knew I was loved, and I knew I loved them.
Once inside, the warmth of their home, the smells of grandmother’s cooking, and their hospitality made me feel welcomed and deeply loved. Often, I would hop up on one of their brown barstools at the white formica counter, speckled with gold flakes, eagerly hoping that one of them might offer me a treat. Rarely, did they disappoint! It might be one of my grandmother’s pralines or her favorite iced oatmeal cookies or veggies with Hidden Valley Ranch Dip. If Granddad was around, he might splurge and offer a sprite float, made in my favorite pink cup with Blue-Bell Vanilla ice cream. While sipping or snacking on the treat before me, they would shower attention on me through their eagerness to listen to my stories and find out about what was going on in my life.
This ritual continued through high school and my adult life where I first understood and embraced the comfort of their white couch with green stripes and pink roses. As we all grew in both age and wisdom, my visits moved from childish hopes for treats to yearning for time to not only talk to them, but listen to their wisdom, advice, and stories.
When the doctors told us it was the end of treatment, I sat down with Boppy in the ER room to share the news and ask him where he wanted to spend his final weeks. His immediate response was their sunporch, which stood right behind their couch. It seems only fitting that Boppy shared his hopes for his lasting wisdom not too far from their couch, where he shared his wisdom with me for decades.
About three weeks before he died, he and I had a long conversation about life, about faith, about what was coming for him, and about our relationship. We shared the depth of love we had for each other, and then I asked him, “ What life lesson do you most want people to understand?” He quickly replied, “Be giving…always be giving!”
These words came out of him with ease and a deep-bone knowing because he modeled this wisdom throughout his life. In the last year since he died, I have reflected on the many number of times I watched him be generous to others. Once he met you, he never forgot your name or what mattered to you. He would find out what matters to people and never forget, whether it be sharing his time and listening ear, inviting you to dinner, shipping you food like boiled peanuts, popcorn balls, satsumas, king cakes, or crawfish. He saw worth in all people, and freely shared his time, his attention, and his resources. In his eyes, by the mere fact he had met you, and he knew you, meant you were the beneficiary of his freely given love and generosity.
Many times during Boppy’s hospital stays and in hospice, we would listen to and sing along to the song, “Why me, Lord?” by Kris Kristofferson. The line that always teared him up, was:
“Why me Lord, what have I ever done to deserve even one of the pleasures I’ve known? Tell me Lord, what did I ever do That was worth loving you Or the kindness you’ve shown?”
Boppy understood that God’s generosity with him was not for him alone. It was meant to be shared and shared abundantly with others. He lived the very wisdom he wanted his legacy to be, and by doing so he birthed one of the fruits of the Holy Spirit, generosity, into the world by being a witness of God’s love and action in the world.
Today, on his one year anniversary today, I invite each of us to live the wisdom Boppy taught and modeled. Let us be giving, always be giving!
- We want to hear your memories and stories! Tell us about your elder and their wisdom or share your wisdom with us. To submit your own story to be featured on social media /or my blog during the “Wisdom Series: Sharing the Death Truths of an Elder,” click here to access the Google Form.
- Loyola Press is offering 25% off Sharing the Wisdom of Time through 3/15/19 when you use promo code 5041.
- Follow #SharingWisdom on social media and read these blogs that are also celebrating Sharing Wisdom: IgnatianSpirituality.com and The Catechist’s Journey.
Cultivating Space for God Together:
- Registration is NOW OPEN for the April 1-4 Online Busy Person’s Retreat, the retreat that comes to you. Don’t delay! The last one filled up quickly!
- Read my book, Busy Lives & Restless Souls, with Our Lady’s Immaculate Heart parish in Ankeny, IA. Follow their blog here with a weekly post on each chapter.
- March 10-12: Parish Mission at St Margaret, Hammond, LA
- March 14: Women of the Well Lenten Evening of Reflection, St John the Baptist, Brusly, LA