My grandfather, Robert Manes, passed away several months ago. Last week my family had his memorial. There are times that missionary life means missing out on important events, and this was one of those times. But I know that my grandfather loved the Nahuatl people and fully supported my ministry here. I wanted to share what I wrote for the memorial here, in his honor.
In early childhood, I learned to love my grandpa for his affectionate ways. He loved to tease us grandkids about “getting our sugarneck,” which we were supposed to pretend to dread, but secretly enjoyed. We also spent time curled up in the “cubbyhole,” the cozy spot made between his bent knees and the back of the couch when he was relaxing.
When I was a little bit older, I learned to love my grandpa for his generosity. There was always some special gift, found at a garage sale, or at least a sugar daddy lollipop or a soda from the fridge in the garage. You couldn’t leave without taking something with you for the road.
In college I learned to love my grandpa for his heart for service. He would come pick me up from the dorm, waiting patiently if I was running late, and carrying my stuff to the car. Several times my friends commented on how sweet my father was, and he got a big kick out of that. They were wrong in thinking he was my dad, but right about the other: he would selflessly take me around to run errands and was willing to help with whatever I needed, no complaint.
It was during this time that I also learned to love my grandfather for his mind and his knowledge about theology. At first awkward with him in the car on our drives, I eventually started asking his opinion about things I was hearing in my classes. He had a keen memory for quotes and for Scripture (and for theology-related jokes). He looked things up for me and gave me books he thought I would benefit from.
As an adult, I learned to love my grandfather for his heart for the lost. Some of the things that had only seemed funny to me in my youth, like his trunk full of tracts, or the recording on his answering machine, I began to see as an outpouring of his desire for everyone to know what he knew so well: that God had sent his son Jesus to seek and to save those who are lost.
As he began to struggle with his health, I learned to love my grandfather for his firmly grounded hope for the future. He knew that this world is a lost cause—a fact that was at times only exacerbated by Fox News—and that getting old is no fun. He knew that there are only two solutions. One solution is the return of our Savior, which he prayed for constantly, saying “Come, Lord Jesus.” The other solution was joining the Lord in death, which he did in order to find the fulfillment of his hope.
I am blessed that I got to have my grandfather in my life as long as I did. And I put my hope in the same thing he did: that for those of us who believe, death simply means an absence from the body in order to be present with the Lord. That means this goodbye is a reward for him and not permanent for me, for I will see him again someday. Until then, Grandpa. I love you.