I was very fortunate to know 4 of my great-grandparents, all on my mom's side. I knew each of them well enough that I remember conversations we had, meals we shared, holidays at their homes, stories they told. My mom's maternal grandfather was PaPaw Wance (short for Lorance). I asked him once if he ever fought in the war, and he told me he was too young for WW1 and too old for WW2. That means he was a young man with a young family during the Great Depression. He was a Texas farmer from a long line of Texas farmers. He worked really hard, from what I remember, even after he had retired from farming. I'm pretty sure that what he considered to be "all in a good day's work," would bring me and most of the people I know to our knees. He had a huge garden that always yielded much more than he and Nanny could eat. He loved animals, and was especially keen at training horses and dogs to do tricks. He stopped going to school after 6th grade, yet he was able to manage the books for his farm, buy and sell several cars and other pieces of farm equipment, and he read the paper everyday. I'm pretty sure he never took a standardized state test for math and reading. When I was 12, PaPaw suffered a stroke and stopped being able to do many of the things he loved. He was still able to get around and visit with people, but I remember him being much quieter than he used to be. During Christmas of my 7th grade year, we spent the Holidays in Texas with family. This was our first Christmas in Texas in several years, and I was really excited to spend it with our large extended family. Junior high had been a huge eye-opener for me in so many ways, and traveling South just added to the magic of this very transformational year. We spent our time in Texas and Louisiana going from place to place, seeing this or that group of people or exchanging gifts with some different part of the family. It was exciting and exhausting, and I didn't want it to end.
One evening of the trip was devoted to "doing Christmas" with PaPaw and Nanny. My family, my aunts and uncles and cousins, and my grandparents all met at Nanny and PaPaw's old farmhouse early in the evening and proceeded to to what we always did when we got together. We ate, we laughed, we told stories, we ate some more, and unfortunately for me during this particular era in my life, I breakdanced (brokedanced?) for the entire family. But before any of these events had commenced, we gathered together as a family to pray. We stood in a circle holding hands, and my grandfather (Big Daddy) asked PaPaw to pray for the food and our time together. I remember him getting one or two words out before he got choked up and was unable to continue. This moment was profound for me. This was one of those heavy moments that left a massive wake, and the waves still wash up on my shores from time to time. I didn't understand this at the time, but PaPaw showed me what it looked like to truly be thankful. He was at the end of his time on Earth, and he had the only thing that can truly make you happy. Acceptance, belonging, love. He was surrounded by it, and it was overwhelming.
There seems to be a lot of attention these days on acquiring stuff. Some people even cut their day of Thanks short to stand in line and get the best deals on more stuff. It's all stuff that will get old, break, slow down, become outdated, be sold. Even so, we can't get enough. We even buy stuff to help organize our stuff, then rent space to store it. I'm thankful to have memories like the one with my PaPaw that help me cut through the fog and see things as they really are. More than that, I want to live with a thankful heart for what I have found in the Lord and through the people he has put in my life. Acceptance, belonging and love. I want to see what PaPaw saw: To be surrounded by those things that truly fill my cup and bring peace to my soul, and to be left speechless.