But with autumn in the air, and the official first day of the season past, I find myself in a lot of conversations answering, "How was your summer?" It's a bit like the back-to-school obligatory creative writing exercise within the first week of class.
While I stayed in the city for most of the summer, I kept it necessarily simple. Do the work I needed to get done, leisurely enjoy the sun and the city, and focus on my family.
At the beginning of the season, my 97 year old paternal grandfather fell ill and was admitted to the hospital. Amazingly up until that time, he was living with my grandmother on their own in a sweet co-op housing deal near English Bay. I would imagine that one of the most difficult things about the aging process is losing your independence, after having enjoyed it for most of your life. Basically our mobility and independence starts out zilch when we enter the world as babies, and if God grants us a long life, we eventually deteriorate to lose both those treasured abilities in our old age.
So most of the summer was invested in family support, with my parents and other relatives coming in and out of town, as my grandfather remained in hospital, and then eventually when he left us and passed on to the next life.
As the family busied ourselves with preparations for the memorial service, it turned out that my small contribution of sharing a portion of the eulogy, was a blessing in disguise. In the constant-being-with-family, my contemplative soul was hungry for some down time to slow down and simply remember. The assignment of preparing part of the eulogy was just the right accountability to pause and reflect. The process of looking back allowed me to really see, recognize, and receive the hidden gems and miracles of what had just transpired.
As I began to speak at the memorial service, I surprised myself with tears as I struggled to keep control of my words. I had not cried while doing my maternal grandma's eulogy. And I certainly did not expect to cry on this occasion, as I would not classify my relationship with my grandfather as close, warm or fuzzy. This reality of relationship was partly due to language barriers, but was also related to some difficult lessons of hurt and conflict that had occurred in our family in recent years.
As I looked at him and said my last goodbye on this side of heaven, it hit me why the extra emotion in the farewell. With the family drama and conflict that had gone down and dragged on in the last decade of his life, his (and our own) weaknesses were all the more apparent. A battle of pride, self-protection, and our typical Asian inability to truly resolve conflict left us with a painful several-long year gap of non-communication in key family relationships.
Our need was more desperate for God to intervene with his power to bring reconciliation to our seemingly beyond-repair broken relationships. The relational crack was so large and impossible to our doubtful natural human eyes... so when God showed up, it was so obviously supernatural, so evidently clear that it was his power doing the work of reconciliation. It truly was a miracle to see the softened hearts and openness that brought communication and relationship alive again for the last year of his life.
In essence, because of my grandfather's human frailty and weaknesses, I could see God's grace more clearly in him. He wasn't perfect. Nor is anyone in my family perfect. And least of all, I am not perfect. But the more evident our weaknesses and limitations are, the clearer that God's goodness and grace can shine through our cracks.
I am grateful to have gained this rich life lesson in this past season. God will need to help me walk it out in reality, so that I can increasingly embrace my weaknesses and find and share his grace there. The journey continues...