I gently tapped the bowl with my finger. It was plastic, as I had expected, instead of glass. The time had come for the grandkids to go through what had belonged to our grandparents and request our favorite things. There were some things that I wanted, but not very many. In my love for my grandparents, I looked at the material items and realized part of the sacrifices they willing endured for their family.
My grandparents grew up during the Depression. They understood not having much and carried that mentality into the rest of their lives. My grandpa said that his family never went hungry, but then he also told my dad, without complaint, that there were times when they ate potatoes for every meal of the day.
Some people lived through the Depression and then spent much of their lives trying to live in luxury so as to make up for their time of poverty. My grandparents embraced the lifestyle of simplicity that was taught to them through the difficulties of the 1930s followed by the war of the 1940s. By the time they both died (my grandma in 2004 and my grandpa in 2013), they had stored up for themselves what probably seemed like amazing wealth to the 1930s versions of themselves.
Yet they did not live as though they were wealthy. My grandparents were generous with us but did not seek to spoil us. The overall impression was that family, not money, would be the source of happiness. As I got older, the number of family functions seemed only to increase. We would gather for a long weekend at a lake, spend a weekend in a hotel in town as a family, and once a group of us took a trip to Ireland and Scotland for a couple weeks.
The simplicity of their lifestyle is something that is good for me to remember. They turned off lights, used no air conditioning, ate simply, and did without many luxuries. Without great wealth to begin with, they gave birth to ten children and ushered nine of them into adulthood. My grandma would replace the elastic in her pants when it gave out and my grandpa would wear the same overalls for decades. Their happiness did not rest in their bank accounts but in the family they were raising. And if family is an indicator of wealth, they were abundantly wealthy. Nine children lived to adulthood and between 30-40 grandchildren were born as a result of that.
This week my dad and his siblings are selling my grandparent’s land. I’m sure that it is a difficult experience, something that seems to finalize things that one wants to pretend didn’t happen. While my grandparents are no longer here on earth, their memory remains rooted in our hearts. Yet far from wish they could remain here with us forever, I pray they are in Heaven. In Heaven, there is no need to conserve money or live simply. Heaven is an overflow of abundance, a rich banquet for all to join in, lavish goodness poured into the lap of each person there. That is what I desire for them. Not money or great material wealth, but the richness of belonging entirely to the family of God, to the Body of Christ.
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (Mt. 5:3)