I read this today, then jumped to the full article here. Check 'em out if you've ever mumbled through the words to the classic New Year's song or wondered what the heck it's all about. I know I have. Anyway, Miss Noonan's helpful little essay solidified my desire to take a quick break from my series on Jesus' Birthday and write my final post of the year in honor of Cubby. So here I go.
I did not know Grandpa Wilcox very well; in fact, I only met him once. When Margie died, I wanted desperately to write something in her honor. I tried; I filled up pages with notes about her life and my memories of her. But I just couldn't write anything cohesive. When Grandma died this winter, I fully expected to be able to write about her. I didn't know her as well as Margie, my own mom's mother, but I did know her. I felt I had plenty to say too, but... it wouldn't come.
But with Cubby, I knew exactly what I wanted to write before he even died. He went in for a chancy surgery, then spent six precarious weeks in the hospital. Sometime early in those six weeks I remember telling my friend Jess, "I know exactly what I want to say at his memorial service if he doesn't make it." And somehow, miraculously, I did it.
Here's what I wrote and shared.
I have so many precious memories of my Cubby—memories that span 30 years and range from mundane daily car trips to and from summer camp to the day when my grandparents met and held my first child four and-a-half years ago. Many of my fondest memories relate to beach trips with Margie and Cubby during my middle and high-school years. There’s Cubby body surfing the waves at the New Jersey shore; Cubby floating on his back in the quiet evening surf, toes poking up out of the water like little fish; Cubby leading us in after-dinner games of Yahztee, pretending to spit on the dice to increase his odds of a high roll.
But the memories I most want to share with you today are from our last two beach trips with Cubby, in the summers of 2008 and 2009. The setting was the dining room of our rental house in the Outer Banks. I’m going to read to you from a journal entry that I penned the morning of August 24, 2009. We’ll call this “A Tale of Two Dinners.”
“What wonderful fellowship we had around the table last night. Cubby is trying to learn more about the fear of God, after being touched by this concept for the first time during a recent sermon by Josh (our senior pastor here at Covenant Life). As we discussed various attributes of God, as we pondered together what it means to fear and revere God, Cub participated so humbly, so joyfully. He even expressed wonder over concepts that were new to him, like the communicable attributes of God vs. incommunicable attributes. As we talked, I couldn’t help but contrast this with a conversation we had just last year around the very same table. On that night too there were some rather heady theological matters under discussion. As Cubby listened to Dave and Asher (my husband and brother-in-law), these much younger men whose knowledge seemed to surpass his own, he expressed frustration that he didn’t know more of God. Then he grew quiet, withdrawing and ultimately collapsing into what I might describe as a “funk”. Mom spent a long time that night caring for Cub and trying to draw him out of the funk—not to much avail, as I recall.”
Two different years. Same dinner table, same family, similar topics of conversation, same Cubby… totally different reaction. The first year, there seemed to be… pride? Maybe some self-pity? The second year, all that was replaced with awe, gratefulness, humility, delight. Frustration was replaced with hunger, the holy hunger of a heart that has tasted God’s goodness and wants more.
What I learned through this Tale of Two Dinners is that God keeps working in the hearts of his people all the way through their lives. Apparently, the process of sanctification doesn’t end when you hit 80! Now, Cubby had walked with the Lord for many years before he moved to Maryland. But I believe that God kindly arranged the details of Cubby’s last few years so that Cubby would become aware of his need to know God more. Part of that was taking Margie home first. Another part was bringing Cubby to a place where he would have opportunities to learn of God in fresh ways—to my parents’ home, and to this dear church.
And by God’s grace, Cubby was able to respond to God’s work in his life. He read. He watched sermons over and over again on DVD. He started taking classes here at the church, he became a member, he had many challenging conversations with my mom. He stepped outside of his comfort zone so that he could know His Savior more. It was such a joy for me to watch. And he loved it. He loved being part of a care group and making new friends there. He loved learning from our pastors and endlessly marveled over the rich bible teaching we receive here. He grew to love talking about God. I think he loved meeting with God privately each day. One of my last memories of Cubby is of being outside, in Mom and Dad’s back yard, playing with Meg and Matthew. I looked up, and there through the glass of the sliding door was Cubby, in his big recliner, hunched over his great, thick Bible. Occasionally he would look up to watch us for a few minutes. He would wave, or one of the kids would go over to the door and show him a bug they found in the grass. Then he would go back to reading.
In Matthew 5, Jesus promised that those who hunger and thirst for righteousness will be satisfied. In His great mercy, God gave my Cubby an increased hunger for righteousness in his final years on earth. God gave him an increased hunger for Jesus. And now, because Jesus died for sinful people like me and Cubby, Cubby is with Jesus, and he is satisfied forever.