Last night Pete and I came to Durham so that we could attend the funeral of Jimmy Harward. Jimmy lived a long and full life – 90 years if you round a little. He and his wife Dorothy lived in the same house for 65 years. They have three adult children, three grandchildren, and two great grandchildren. If you want a mental image of him, imagine a Normal Rockwell painting of a tall string bean of a man with glasses and a pipe, a warm smile, and twinkling eyes. I would think twinkling eyes aren’t really a thing – but he had them, so I know they’re real.
I’ve never not known him, as his daughter Beth and I are a few weeks apart in age – yes, she is younger – and our first picture together was taken while we lay on a blanket in the backyard kicking our chubby little feet in the air.
While my family acted like rolling stones gathering no moss, this family was sinking their roots deep into the community. And the lovely thing about them is that each summer when I came to visit my grandparents who lived next door – they just scooped me up and folded me into the family.
I’ve always appreciated and known that I was a lucky duck to have time with them, but what I realized in the middle of the night in the hotel, waiting to attend Jimmy’s funeral the next day, was that they were God’s answer to my prayer for roots.
Once this thought came to me in the middle of the night – unbidden but welcomed – I got up and cracked open my computer. I did some research on roots, and it was there that I found words for my answered prayer. It turns out that there is this thing called a taproot. (Am I the only one who didn’t know this?) A taproot is a straight root that grows vertically downward from which subsidiary rootlets develop. Ruby Street was the soil in which my taproot grew. At Jimmy’s funeral his son Scott spoke of his father’s humility, grace, loyalty to country and family, humor, harmonica playing antics, total lack of concern for material possessions, 90 year membership in the SAME CHURCH and more. Every single word was true. I know because I am in many ways the product of having known that people like this exist, and I wanted to be like them some day – God willing. I am still a work in process, but I know this: without this man’s influence, I’m not sure I would have even known that this way of loving was possible.
Maybe you’re like me, and life hasn’t always made sense to you. Or maybe you’ve sometimes wished for parts of your life to be different. I just want to encourage you today to look a little deeper. Sometimes God answers our prayers so creatively that we’ll miss the opportunity for gratitude if we aren’t alert.
Don’t be misled, my dear brothers and sisters. 17 Every good gift, every perfect gift, comes from above. These gifts come down from the Father, the creator of the heavenly lights, in whose character there is no change at all. James 1:16-17 CEB