[The following are the words and benediction I gave at my grandmother’s funeral in Temple, New Hampshire. April 16, 2016.]
“Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.”
-Matthew 6:25-34, English Standard Version
When I remember my grandmother, there is just too much to say all at once. But when I really dig into the faint images and emotions of my childhood, I find peanut M&Ms. When I reach into my memory with the outstretched arms of an impatient grandson, I am sitting in the back seat of an old sedan, three years old eating a handful of peanut M&Ms while Grammy drives us back from the old Ames department store in Milford, New Hampshire. My grandmother introduced me to peanut M&Ms. And spearmint Trident gum. After every meal without fail.
Without a doubt, Georgie loved little things. From small trinkets to pieces of gum to tiny dogs, she found joy in small delights.
The small things seemed to worry her too! Towards the end of week of family vacation, she’d express concern that the milk in the fridge had gone bad, or if The Middle was going to be a rerun when she got home on Wednesday.
I say this not to make fun, but remind us that in all ways, she valued little things. If she got home and the milk hadn’t gone bad, it was a victory. And if the milk had turned, then it was an easy fix to go buy another half-gallon despite the previously expressed worry.
She was around for every Christmas. And when my sister and I used to lie overwhelmed and exhausted amidst shredded wrapping paper and boxes, she’d ask “What’s wrong?” to which we of responded “I’m bored.”
“How can you be bored with all these presents?”
She never said it with judgement and condemnation, but always love and maybe a little confusion. Her grandchildren had far more little things to derive joy from than she had growing up. And maybe it took me until adulthood to appreciate that. But she took joy in even watching us say “I’m bored.” Because we were her grandkids.
My wife’s and my wedding reception was held in a barn in August of 2013 outside of Philadelphia. And as the late afternoon turned into evening, the barn became an oven. So we opened the large barn doors and people moved outside, while much of the younger crowd kept sweating and dancing. My father said to my grandmother “Why don’t you come out here where it’s cooler.” And she said “No, I want to sit here and watch the kids dance.” Now the dancing I’m sure was not at all reminiscent in style (or modesty depending on the alcohol consumption by some of our guests) or music to what she had grown up with, but she enjoyed watching these twenty-somethings dance none the less. She took joy in little things.
I want to always take joy in little things. In coffee milkshakes, in sunny walks, in short conversations about nothing on the street corner, at kids dancing. I do not want to let anxiety and worry rule my life, but I want to trust that God has left enough small things to help me smile throughout the day. Enough small things to push through the more trying parts of life so I can go to bed that night anticipating what other small things will spark joy in my soul the next day.
And Christmas and Thanksgivings and birthdays will certainly carry their fare share of tears and grief. But along side those will no doubt be more not-so small joys at her memory.
Good bye Grammy, thank you for so many little things like Peanut M&Ms, and the not-so little things like holidays, birthdays, and long weekends. We all love you so much.
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.”
-Revelation 21:1-5, ESV