Whoever pursues righteousness and kindness will find life and honor. Proverbs 21:21
This Spring has been a difficult one of loss for my family. This past week, Lara’s grandfather, Harvey Smith (whom she called “Papa,” passed away with Pneumonia. (He’s the sailor who’s pictured, and served on the USS Auburn as a radar technician and assisted in the invasion of Iwo Jima and Okinawa) He had recurrent Pneumonia, but died peacefully in his own home. Sometimes, the dying have insight into the fact that their time has come, and it was this way with Harvey. The day he died, he dictated his own obituary to Lara’s mother, and after he finished said, “Well that was fun. It’s been a good life, and if I got to live it again, I wouldn’t change a thing.” I think that God intends for all of us to live such a life, but in the day to day “living” of it, I unfortunately find myself regretting and wringing my hands over this and that. I hope I’m able to make it to an age where I have the kind of perspective that Harvey had.
Since the last two weekends of May have special occasions where we honor the living and the dead of the Armed Forces, we are putting together a slideshow that will be on display in the welcome center of servicemen and women from our church’s heritage. Harvey and L.F. (my grandfather who passed away in March, pictured in the Army Air Corps uniform) served this country in different theaters of WWII, and they would both say that they were lucky to survive the war to come back and enjoy marrying, starting a family, and seeing grandchildren and great-grandchildren come into the world. In the past few days, Lara told me her Papa had always carried the memory of his fallen comrades with him. In fact, after Pearl Harbor Harvey enlisted with some classmates. One of those friends was killed in the war, and after the young man’s family passed away, Harvey continued to place flowers on his grave every memorial day, since there was no-one else to do so. He felt fortunate and blessed that unlike his friend, he got to live a full life—so it was a small thing for him to pay tribute to a young man who took on the same responsibilities with courage as he did, but didn’t have the chance to do all that he had done. It is this this sense of honor and responsibility that characterizes many in what Tom Brokaw calls “the Greatest Generation.” I will be conducting the funeral for Harvey as I did for his wife, Patty, and in it I plan to speak about this simple act of honor and how we surviving family members can carry on his legacy by continuing to look for ways to show honor in our own lives. It is in this same way that we as “Christ-bearers” embody the “Living Christ” in our own lives. His was a life of compassion and justice and grace and valuing the disenfranchised. By seeking out ways to show these same characteristics to the world, Christ lives in us.