The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America


Death, resurrection & 'Bampa'

John 11:25-26 reads: “I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die.”

I learned about faith from my maternal grandfather, “Bampa,” a retired utility — company executive. Donald Faber (that was his name) was a warm and wonderful man. When I was 17 my dear Bampa was dying of leukemia. He moved into our house, into the room next to mine.

I remember him praying and reading his well-thumbed book of Psalms and Proverbs. He was quietly courageous in the face of death, every day of his life. He didn’t preach to anyone. He died as he lived, a quiet and dignified grace coupled with a sense of full living.

This is the man who took me fishing in northern Wisconsin, who taught me to clean fish. He also took me to the zoo and the natural history museum. He reminded me a little of both Bing Crosby and Jimmy Durante. He also made Christmas special—and he could fix anything.

My Bampa was a Lutheran. I was raised in, and confirmed in, what would later become the ELCA. I learned from him that God’s grace and promise of life and resurrection give us courage in death’s face.

Bampa cut a dignified figure: He was more than 6 feet tall and imposing. He had that distinguished air of a doctor or professor. Bampa had a deep interest in all people, both great and small. He once spent hours in a junk shop, talking with the owner. Yet he could also trade insights with my childhood neighbor, world-renowned psychiatrist Will Menninger.

My faith in the power of life’s renewal—now and after death—goes back to my Bampa. He showed me a God I wanted to know, a God in whom I could believe.

God’s grace is real for me, as he shows in his power and the resurrection of his son, Jesus. Thus I know I will see my Bampa again. His Lord loves him more dearly than any of us on this earth could or did.

I also learned the power of prayer for renewal, as one phase of life dies and a new one begins. With my church’s and the pastors’ and congregation’s encouragement, I’m passing from an old life into a new one. As this happens I know Bampa is smiling and watching from heaven.

Check out this week's articles:


A truly political liturgy: Our weekly worship is more socially relevant than we imagine.

Worship wishes & woes: Readers respond to what they want, need in worship

Complaints & suggestions: The Lutheran's readers weigh in on improving worship.

A vote for outdoors: Conservation is a legislator’s passion.

Also: More reader views.

Also: Quality summer read.

Also: Putting faith on the line.

This week on our staff blog:

Amber Leberman blogs about what's new online.

Andrea Pohlmann (right) blogs about the article, "Sermons on the stump"

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Embracing diversity