Godly grandfathers are simply godly fathers, more grown up. As my Grandpa Wright’s ordinary life nears its end, I am struck by the extraordinary legacy of godliness he will soon leave behind. But what, exactly, does that legacy consist of? What virtues of Christ were visible in Grandpa’s life? Who must I be now, by God’s grace, if I want to reach the end of my life with the same legacy of godliness?
As we near “the house of mourning,” it is wise to consider my own life in light of my grandpa (Ecclesiastes 7:1–4). What follows is a tribute to Don Wright, offered here as a personal, prayerful reflection and a challenge to us fathers who are still in the middle of our race. Our days are numbered; let us redeem them wisely (Psalm 90:12; Ephesians 5:15–17) and pursue virtue in each one.
He kept laughing.
The man laughed well. I remember a few stories from his childhood in particular (one about a snake and an outhouse comes to mind) that he could barely tell without his eyes squinting and gut pounding in laughter. He had a cheerful way of enjoying and recounting events. It was such good medicine for us when we were together (Proverbs 17:22).
While laughter may not be a virtue, joy is. And Grandpa Wright was joyful. As I progress in my adulthood, I see ways that my preoccupation with the “weight of my responsibilities” can stifle laughter that might more easily flow if I were more consciously trusting the goodness of God in all things (Romans 8:28; 35).
I wonder, how often do my daughters and friends hear me laugh? Lord, may I never let anxiety hamper my delight in your daily gifts to me.
He kept marking the “moments.”
Grandpa Wright formed habits with his children and grandchildren. He greeted us at the door every time we arrived at the little white house on the corner. When he would put on an old western or black-and-white movie for us, he would pop popcorn in the same metal bowl and deliver it to the TV room just in time to start the “good show.” When he served you midday coffee, he would warm the mugs in the microwave (with water) before pouring the coffee.
Every Christmas Eve, he had prepared a specific Scripture and devotional reading to set the tone of our gathering. On a larger scale, he facilitated a six-years-running fishing trip with as many of the Wright family men and boys as could join. And before we ever left the house, he would circle us up in a ring, have us join hands, and pray over us before we drove the two-and-a-half hours back to our house.
Now that I look back, part of the impact of those moments was their repetition. Each served as a habit to enact a particular virtue. Popcorn popping and coffee mug-warming: love and kindness. Parting prayers: framing our time together in the fear of the Lord.
Lord of my days, may I mark moments with virtuous habits that guide my love for You and my neighbor into tangible practice.
He kept loving his family.
He said, “I love you.” He hugged tightly. He treasured time together. He was gentle in our family gatherings (1 Thessalonians 2:7–8). His love for his children and grandchildren was evident in his practical affection. Do the people dear to me know it? Lord, may I demonstrate my love for others in outward signs of affection.
He kept growing in grace.
If you spent any length of time in my Grandpa Wright’s little white house, sooner or later, you would hear him share what he had been learning from God. It was not uncommon for me to walk in on him in the living room, Bible open, eyes peering into the pages of Scripture. Sometimes I saw his lips moving. He was whispering God’s words, or whispering words to God, or a mixture of the two. He was pursuing God.
Though an elderly man, Grandpa Wright did not relegate the idea of growing spiritually to a former phase of his life. He was still eager to “grow in grace and in the knowledge of [his] Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 3:18). It strikes me now that to assume this posture of a learner as an older man was an evidence of humility, the posture that opens us to God’s grace in its fullest measure (James 4:6).
Do I hunger for the Word like Grandpa Wright did? Do I engage the word prayerfully like he did?
Lord, keep me in the humble posture of a recipient, a learner, and a delighter in the grace of God. Oh, that I would be thirsty for God till my last breath!
He framed all gratitude in the gospel.
Every Christmas Eve for many years running, our entire extended family would gather at the Wrights’ little white house. After the food but before the gifts, Grandpa would cram the family into the small living room and share Scripture.
I remember he would always add a comment to this effect: “Boy, I sure am so thankful for all of you. So glad you know the Lord. Where I came from, I would have never imagined that there could be a wonderful family like this. But God saved me, and finding Christ just changed everything for me, and now here we all are. I’m just so thankful.”
Grandpa Wright was in essence a first-generation Christian. He really did consider the sum total of the blessings of his life as springing from the gift of salvation through Jesus Christ. And he said it often enough for me to remember it.
Christ, may every temporal and relational blessing in this life point me back to the first Gift: You and the communion with God into which You have invited me forever.
He kept on.
Have you noticed a repeated word in these traits? Kept. While my grandpa was not perfect (and would readily admit it), I grew to rely on these traits. I came to expect his laughter to set a cheerful mood at our gatherings, to expect the popcorn with his “good shows,” to expect to find him with his Bible open.
The Holy Spirit exhibited in Don Wright the fruit of faithfulness (Galatians 5:22). This virtue sustained the others over time—over a life. This virtue, I believe, forms the weight of his legacy.
That observation made me wonder, what virtues of Christ are manifesting in me that my wife, my daughters, my friends, and my colleagues can rely on?
Holy Spirit, make me faithful. Sustain Your graces in me through all my days, one day at a time.
A Christian’s life can be such a beautiful prism for the radiance of Christ. I am grateful that through my Grandpa Wright, I have seen glimpses of my Lord. And I am inspired to keep gazing at His beauty long after Grandpa Wright’s eyes close, then open forever to gaze unhindered upon his Savior.