On Friday night my uncle passed away. His three-year battle with cancer ended peacefully, slipping away as he slept in his favorite recliner.
Uncle Jerry, you will be missed.
Jerald, as he’s come to be known in recent years, could fix anything. If it had a motor, he could take it apart and put it back together. If it was mechanical, he seemed to know how it worked without even thinking about it. After a few minutes with the Quad that wouldn’t run or tinkering with the furnace, it was basically better than the one you bought.
He was a gentle man and he longed for a world that was gentle and that worked the way that it should. He saw life the same way. I don’t think he ever forced anything. Whether it’s a machine, a motor, or something else, there’s a way that things go together and work right. If you’re forcing it, you’re going to break it.
All it took was a phone call and he was on the way. He was as helpful as helpful could be. He had a true servant’s heart and if he could do anything about anything, he would.
It wasn’t hard to see how God blessed Jerald. Early in my teenage years, Uncle Jerry married Arlynn (As we knew them then). Arlynn is one of the sweetest and most genuine people in the world. That brought two families together and a new story began. That story continues in my cousins and their families. I still see blessing. I see hope. I see love written in their lives. It has not been easy, but it has been deep and good and beautiful.
Jerald and Lynn have a homestead. It’s a nice parcel of wooded land north of Grand Rapids, Michigan, where they have farmed their own food, made their own maple syrup, and raised chickens. They have worked hard to make their way in this world.
A few years ago I was in the area for a speaking engagement and my dad and I went over to their house to help chop some firewood. We drove around the property in Jerald’s pickup truck, ran chainsaws until our hands lost feeling, felled trees and filled the bed of that pickup twice. We said “Timber!” just for fun and almost hit the pickup once and my dad another time. (Sorry, Dad… I will never forget the look on Jerald’s face as you took one step sideways to dodge the tree and then, totally un-phased, looked for whatever bird you had been watching.)
I was a lumberjack for a day and it’s not one I will soon forget. We didn’t have deep conversations or discuss the meaning of life. We didn’t talk about work or politics or religion or the market. We talked about maple syrup. We laughed about the animals running around the property. We worked together to accomplish something and that is a conversation in itself. Hard work is as fulfilling a conversation as you can find. To stand side by side with another person and spend sweat, energy and time with them is a spiritual experience.
I slept well that night. I had lived well that day. It was hard work, but it was deep and good and beautiful.
Jerald, you lived well. Thank you for the lessons. Thank you for putting others first. Thank you for the way that you lived your life and the way it makes us want to live ours.
It was hard work. But it was deep and good and beautiful.