Friday, November 22, 2013

Three Deaths in Retrospect

I was five, fifty years ago when my grandfather, John Pierce Richardson died. I would eventually understand that president John F Kennedy, nicknamed, "Jack" was shot and killed the same day. Later in life I would discover the writings of Clive Staples Lewis, also known as "Jack" and realize that he too passed to his Maker on that day. Ironically, my grandfather resided in Washington DC and  is buried in Arlington Cemetery, a burial that had to be delayed because of the president's burial.

President Kennedy's death had no immediate impact on me but his shocking murder left an indelible mark on the nation that no one can escape; to encapsulate in contrast - a glorification of the Oval Office and the tragic sense that even the leader of the free world is mortal.

The world is richer because of the scholarly and brutally honest writings of Lewis, and I personally have considered him a 'faith and doubt mentor' of the finest order. His untimely death was certainly a sad day.

All of these men affected parts of my life, and of the three, as you might expect, my grandfather's life has had the biggest impact on mine, but not for the obvious reason that I was his grandchild. While the words of Lewis have both soothed and troubled my soul, the words of my grandfather have had a far different impact.

I never knew my grandfather; I only saw him once, and that one time is just a vague memory, aided by my mother's account of the visit, and a photograph I've seen in which he stands behind the bending form of my grandmother, a silent observer. I only know that he was a resourceful man and talented musically, trained as a concert pianist. For some reason, he suffered from either mental illness, or a consistently negative outlook. My mother recalls mostly angry profane words directed towards herself and her brother. That sad fact led to her glorious conversion to Christianity, to the Heavenly Father who speaks peace and love towards his children, when she was a young child.

Several months before her father died she felt a strong compulsion to write him a letter telling him of her faith and reaching out to him in a way she never had. It was a difficult choice, but she made it, not knowing of his illness and consequent death at fifty five (my current age).

There had been no form of faith in her home. Yet, it is from her that I receive the example of faith in living form, and my grandfather's model notwithstanding, a steady stream of loving and affirming words. She epitomizes the opposite of what she received.

So on this day I mourn three, but rejoice in the day, and what it has brought me.

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