Those my age more fully comprehend the meaning of the preacher’s poignant words. As I near the end of my life I can now look back and see the “beautiful” in my life not possible while living through those trials of my earlier life.
Those “beautiful” blessing now so clearly seen in retrospect began with godly parents who taught me to love God and to keep his commandments. And through their example, I learned the value and necessity of hard work, of self-education and the joys of a loving family.
The wisdom of Ecclesiastes words came flooding back to me during the recent holidays as my wife Joan and I gathered our family around us — four generations gathered together to share the love of family and of God who has richly blessed our lives, but not without the trails and testing common to all.
I saw the “beautiful” in our lives in the lives of our great-grandchildren running through the house and yard, of their dressing up in great-grandma’s hats and parading through the house. In these great-grandchildren, I reflected on those days when our own children and grandchildren were the same age, and were as carefree and happy as these great-grandchildren were on Christmas Day 2013.
I saw the “beautiful in our family” as I conversed with a 36-year-old grandson, whose three children were sitting across the table, who said to me “Grandpa, now I understand what my parents put up with helping me grow up.” This was wisdom coming to a grandson as he experiences the realities of life, not yet seeing the “beautiful” mosaic that is still to be painted of his life as it unfolds before him.
Other “beautiful” family scenes were then remembered: the trials of teaching children to drive; of rushing a child to the hospital; of laying hands on a sick child’s head to give him or her a father’s blessing; of building a tree hut in the back yard; of going to Boy Scout camps with sons; of teaching children to shoot a rifle; of watching each child walk across the graduation stage, high school, university and doctorates; of watching a child or grandchild enter the military to defend America’s freedoms as I and other family members did; of holding a grandchild, or great-grandchild; of receiving pictures of our ever-growing family; of reading the “beautiful” words of talented children and grandchildren; of helping edit a son’s doctoral thesis; of walking hand in hand with my eternal companion Joan while serving our Lord and Savior in Canada building bridges of understanding; of the many times my beautiful wife attended me as I lay in the hospital; and of standing at the altar performing a grandchild’s marriage in accordance with our religious customs; all achievements painted by God into our “beautiful family mosaic,” a mosaic of our family woven together tread by tread over a long fruitful life.
But there is still another memory that brings joy to us in our aging years. In 1981, we took in an 18-year-old boy who had a football scholarship but no home. Joan and I gave him a home. He never left. Now he is one of us along with his beautiful wife and four beautiful children.
He graduated with honors from Georgia Tech, travels the world and has become a renowned author with “My Orange Duffle Bag,” a story of his homeless childhood. Sam Bracken’s book was featured in the Dec. 17 Parade Magazine.
Later he touted his “Orange Duffle Bag” foundation; a Georgia foundation created to help those who like Sam had been abandoned, on national radio. His foundation is doing great work here in Georgia and for those who would like to assist Sam in helping Georgia’s most vulnerable youth they can contribute to this very worthy foundation at http://www.theodbi.org or http://www.orangeduffelbag.org.
The preacher was right, beautiful joyous memories do abound while growing old.
Donald Conkey is a retired agricultural economist in Woodstock.