I mentioned yesterday that it was the three year anniversary of my father's death. When he passed away, I inherited his phone. I can't bear to erase his voicemail message so anytime someone calls me, there hear the frail voice of Roger Hawley four months before his death. What follows is a tribute my niece, Meagan Hawley, penned at Dad's dying. She was in the middle of a four year mission in a Christian orphanage in Zambia and could not come to the funeral. Her thoughts are priceless. This is from April 17, 2008.
If there is one thing that I think makes my grandpa exceptional, that makes him stand out from other people in this world, it is his hunger to know God more. My grandpa, even at the age of 79, was trying to find a closer relationship with God. He was trying new things, open to new ideas, considering new thoughts. Grandpa wasn't content with staying where he was with God; he wanted to move closer. About a year and a half ago, I e-mailed my grandpa asking for some advice. I'd always seen him as a wise man, and I'd gone to him many times in my life for different things, most of which usually centered around boys and relationships! This time, however, it was different. Having been a preacher, a teacher, an elder, and a faithful Christian for such a long time, I was seeking advice on my prayer life. I wanted to know things he did in his life to make him grow closer to God. I wanted to know how he studied, when he studied, what he studied. I asked when he prayed, how he prayed, how he kept praying when he doubted, and a host of other questions. I waited expectantly for a response from him, sure he would be able to tell me the answers to all the questions and doubts I was having. I mean, he was Roger Hawley, one of the wisest men I've known! Surely he would be able to shed light on the frustrating situations I was experiencing. The response I received was far from what I expected.
My grandpa spoke to me about his own struggles in his faith and in his prayer life. He wrote about times when he didn't know how to pray. He wrote about his personal journey to knowing God, and he didn't make me feel like he had it all figured out. He spoke like a man still seeking to know God more and more, after all these years, but also as a man who had definitely found him. He wrote about things he had tried in 2006 to draw closer to God, things he was currently trying in 2007, and what he planned to try in 2008. He wrote about trying to be intentional in his relationship with the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, just like he and Granny had made a decision in their marriage to make it intentional. This might not seem strange to you, or even sound like a man different than any other man. But to me, it was amazing. I can't tell you the relief I felt hearing this wise, old man tell me that he still didn't have everything figured out. It was so humbling to hear him ask me advice in that same letter, as if I had something of benefit to offer him and his faith. He didn't lecture me about what I was doing wrong in my prayer life, or offer unrealistic advice to me on the real questions I was asking. Instead, he got down on my level and gave me down to earth wisdom from a man still seeking to know God better himself.
I write this from Africa, so sad that I can't be there to honor my grandpa whom I love so, so much. He never got to visit me here like he said he wanted to, but he said he prayed for me everyday. And I believe him, too. I am thankful for so many things he gave to me and my family. I'm thankful for the personality he handed down to me (he, my dad, and I are all ENFPs). I'm thankful for the Bible he and Granny gave me for my high school graduation. I'm thankful for all the memories of blueberry pancakes, peggity matches, the word game, going to the art museum and listening to his classical music tapes on the way (I didn't appreciate it at the time!), his TJ Maxx style cooking, sitting on the hump in the car, summers going to Card's games and the Magic House, and many others memories that grandparents and grandchildren share. I'm thankful for the hours he spent listening to me talk about boys and argue with him when he tried to tell me that the boy was just not good enough! I'm thankful for the way he loved people and showed me how to do the same. I'm thankful for the way he loved Granny, and that I was able to watch an incredible marriage grow better even during my lifetime. I'm thankful to my grandpa and granny for raising my dad the way they did and giving me that gift. But more than anything, I'm thankful for his relationship with God. I'm closer to God today because of him, and what greater gift can a grandfather give his grandchild?
E-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org