Eighty birthdays

He walks much slower these days. He gets tired very easy and throughout the day he may have to take a couple of naps. His hearing suffers and it seems like the last 20 years have been filled with surgeries and health issues. This week he turns eighty.

His passion all his life has been his garden. Farming in his blood you see. His daddy was a poor dirt farmer in northern Alabama, and he passed that love for making things grow on to his son.

And even though he himself has been a stockbroker and real estate developer, his real love has always been the little garden he always had in the back yard. Now the time has come where he simply can’t physically work his garden much any more.

He has never met a stranger and is the ultimate people person. I’ve heard countless stories about how he was constantly taking in the hurting, the broken, and those who just needed a little help. He would feed them, clothe them, and give them a place to stay.

That whole Matthew 25 thing about “Lord when did we see you hungry, or needing clothes, or in prison?” He gets that. He lived that.

Now his age and health preclude him from doing so many of the things he used to enjoy. He hates just sitting around the house, but finds himself having to do way too much of that these days.

He raised three beautiful daughters along the way and passed down many of his virtues to them. I know because I was fortunate enough to marry the youngest of them. Perhaps it was marrying off three daughters in an 18-month period that caused the onset of his health issues!  He is my father-in-law Harold.

He is such a giving, generous and compassionate man. When my brother-in-law lost his father as a young man, he put his arm around him at just the right time in his grief and promised him he would be his father from that point on. And he has been.

From the moment my son with special needs was born, the two of them have had a special connection. He has always viewed my son through God’s eyes. He has always seen Jon Alex the way God does, as a child that has been given a plan and purpose by his God.

I thing that is the genesis for the special bond the two of them have. They both see others the way God sees them. They both have their Father’s eyes.

He loves to put his arm around Jon Alex and sing to him. He gets tears in his eyes when he talks about my son. And when the two of them are together, their smiles will light up a room.

Sunday he shared with me how much he is looking forward to heaven. He says he can’t wait to take Jon Alex fishing for the first time in heaven. He looks forward to sitting on the bank and talking to his non-verbal grandson and hearing him talk back for the first time.

In Deuteronomy 6:2 it says,  “and you and your children and grandchildren must fear the Lord your God as long as you live. If you obey all his decrees and commands, you will enjoy a long life.”

Harold did that. And he passed that wisdom down to his children, and his grandchildren

We are taught that when we get older we should begin to think about leaving a legacy. Yet when we get older I think it’s too late to begin thinking about your legacy.

Your legacy is what you lived, not what you left.

Harold is living his.

And that may be the greatest lesson he will ever teach our family.