Friday, March 28, 2008

Food for Thought

"Unless we can touch and feel God in the commonplaces, He is going to be a very infrequent and unfamiliar guest. For life is made up of very ordinary experiences. Now and again a novelty leaps into the way, but the customary tenor is seldom broken. The ordinary stars shine upon us night after night; only occasionally does a comet come our way. Look at some of the daily commonplaces: health, sleep, bread and butter, work, friendship, a few flowers by the wayside, the laughter of children, the ministry of song, the bright day, the cool night. If I do not perceive God in these things, I have a very unhallowed and insignificant world." - John Henry Jowett

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Banking Memories

Today was my grandpa's funeral, where we both celebrated his long and full life and mourned his physical absence in our lives from here forward. My dad invited me to prepare and say a few words, which I'd like to post here, in loving memory of Sture Johnson, 1909-2008.

When I was in fourth grade, Grandpa helped me build a wooden bank for a school project. Today, I don’t remember what the project was all about, but I do remember how special I felt working alongside my grandfather—measuring, cutting, sanding, nailing, and staining. It was a simple project for someone who was a carpenter by trade—who had built the very house he lived in—but to 9-year-old me, the process was complicated and involved, my grandpa was strong and able, and the finished project was marvelous (shown in photo...judge for yourself). :)

Today, my bank holds no coins. Instead, I’ve filled it with another kind of treasure—memories of my grandpa, things I appreciated about him and will remember always. I’d like to share a few of them with you:

I used to play checkers with my grandpa on the beautiful hardwood checkerboard he’d made. He beat me—every single time.

I remember tagging along with my dad and grandpa to attend my brother’s track meets. I went in large part because I knew there was a good chance we’d all go to McDonalds afterwards. Grandpa liked to give me a hard time about my excessive use of ketchup.

My grandpa appreciated a good buffet restaurant, and made friends at those he frequented. Through one of those friendships Grandpa even helped me get a college scholarship from a golf course…despite the fact I’ve never once golfed.

My grandpa loved hosting our family gathering on Christmas Eve. He would clean and cook and bake for days. My grandpa was an incredible baker, turning out perfectly browned loaves of limpa bread, impossibly thin pepparkakor cookies, and amazingly rich pound cakes. The secret ingredient in his pound cake is apricot brandy…but don’t tell anyone.

Finally, my grandpa believed in me. Whatever it was, he was sure I could succeed. If I were a contestant on Wheel of Fortune, he was confident I’d win big. If I would just practice enough, I too could be a great bowler in the Johnson family tradition. These days I do most of my bowling on a Nintendo Wii, but I can still hear Grandpa’s coaching, telling me, “It’s all about how you follow through.”

In Loving Memory

Sture Johnson

In loving memory of my dear grandfather, who passed away on Sunday, March 9, 2008 at the age of 99. I will miss him tremendously, but am so thankful to have known him and had him be such a big part of my life for 27 years.

P.S. Grandpa's life-long affection for the Cubs (and his opinion about changing the name of Wrigley field) was the focus of an article in the Chicago Sun-Times last Thursday (which included a photo of Grandpa on the front page!). You can read that article here, along with a follow-up obituary, which tells more about his life. (Note: the years my aunt is quoted as providing for when he stopped driving and moved into the nursing home are should be 2004.)