I grew up in the South, so the heat of summer always takes me back to my childhood. Summer’s heat sets me smack-dab in the blackberry patch at my grandfather’s farm where we’d sweat, fill our buckets with fruit and eat a picnic lunch. Grandpappy would pick blackberries, put them in his hat and eat them all. We children were supposed to save our berries for a cobbler. But we knew Grandpappy could do anything he wanted — including eating all the berries he picked.
In July our entire extended family would gather to celebrate the birthday of our country and Grandpappy, all rolled into one. The menu might vary, but we would always have watermelon and seed-spitting contests over the pasture fence. Grandpappy was forever old to me and forever alone. My grandmother had died before my parents were married. One of my cherished memories was when Grandpappy said I looked like his only love. He never remarried.
Words of affection from Grandpappy were few — he was from a German family, after all. A first generation American, my grandfather grew up along with the Lutheran church in Tennessee. When the weather was too bad to trek to church by horse and buggy, my great-grandfather would read the family sermons from Lutheran pastor C.F.W. Walther. If you could live through that, you would be a Lutheran for life. And he was. Those German farmers stuck together and created a church and parochial school where generations praised God and learned, including me. Both church and school are still there today.
It didn’t surprise me that the passage chosen for Grandpappy’s funeral was Lamentations 3:22-23: “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning ….” At 94, Grandpappy had experienced many mercies. The white funeral pall over the casket was exactly what he would have wanted to symbolize his leaving of this world — the Spirit sign so prominent that it was all you saw. No open casket, no sentimental songs, only a recognition that Grandpappy John Meyer now lives right in the middle of God’s mercies through the power of the Spirit that raised Jesus from the dead and raised John from death to life in Christ.
Growing up in the South wasn’t all blackberries and watermelon, but that is a story for another day and another reason for God’s mercies. Today, I soak in the heat of summer.
© 2014 Augsburg Fortress, Publishers