The month of May has always been significant to me.
First, I was born in May.
Further, I recall the expectations of May Day at school and the even greater anticipation of my birthday, May 16. I remember my family members asking me, “How does it feel to be years old?” Or “What is it like to be a teenager?” I remember thinking that it doesn’t really feel any different. I always felt the same.
I also remember catching some really big fish in May… Great fun after cold winters in the north.
Next, Mother’s Day is in May. My father taught me early on that it was important to celebrate Mother’s Day to express my appreciation for my mother. A few years later, I learned the joy and importance of honoring the mother of my own children and then the mothers of my grandchildren.
My most memorable May took place 7 years ago – May 2010. Several life-changing events occurred which greatly impacted my life.
- May 3, 2010 saw the arrival of my grandson Jonathan Draper Shirley. He is the third child of my daughter Sarah and my fourth grandchild. I’m still trying to find out the source of his mischievousness. He probably inherited this from his maternal grandmother or his paternal grandparents. Anyway, he is a delightful, charming and lively little boy who continually aspires to be two years older than his siblings. He gives me lots of hugs and says he loves me. I can’t do better than that.
- May 22, 2010 promised to be a very active day. I had traveled about 200 miles to Rochester, New York for a Presbytery meeting, which began as scheduled at 9 AM. Before too long, I received a text message from my wife informing me that my third daughter, Jennifer, had gone into labor. Shortly thereafter I received a phone call; Jennifer had delivered her second son, Thomas Andrew Hackett. Our plan was to drive to Tennessee and spend some time with them on the following week. Tom is growing into a bright young man, who is both fun-loving and serious. His obvious intelligence derives from his grandfather – probably paternal grandfather. Although we don’t see him often, we thank the Lord for technology. Face time has been a great blessing for us to keep in touch with our children and grandchildren.
Both Jonathan and Tom along with our other five grandchildren are a great delight to Judy and me. We concur with the bumper sticker I saw years ago: “If we had known grandchildren were so much fun, we would’ve had them first.” (Not really – we love our children and their spouses!)
- May 25, 2010 was a very busy day. After our regular routine of reading the Bible, Judy and I enjoyed a breakfast together and met our daughter Sarah and her husband Ben at a property he was refurbishing. Next, we took, our grandchildren, David and Isabel shopping and out for a quick lunch at a nearby McDonald’s. We were to have dinner with their parents later that afternoon. But first I was determined to get in a training ride on my bicycle. I was preparing for a “century.” The century is a one day 100-mile bike ride/race. It is a biking “marathon.” My wife Judy remembers me walking across the driveway with a grandchild in each hand as I went to get my bike.
With the help of my grandchildren, I checked the air pressure in my tires and set off on a routine ride. I expected to be gone for about an hour and return in time for a quick shower and then have dinner with the Shirley family.
You probably know what happened next. I set off on a one hour bike ride and returned 13 and a half months later riding in a motorized wheelchair. (You can find more details about this at my website: hopeforkip.com.)
- May 16, 2017 was the 69th anniversary of my birth. This was a somewhat ominous day for me. That’s because, growing up I greatly admired my grandfather. I always called him “Pop-Pop.” He was strong and active, even in his retirement. He loved deep-sea fishing, working in his yard, helping family and was the treasurer for our church. To me, he epitomized energetic, enjoyment in retirement.
One day I noticed that he hadn’t been fishing for a while and seemed to be spending a lot of time sitting in that shade of his garage. When I asked him if everything was okay, he replied that he was “now 69 years old, which was almost 70 and that’s old.” Obviously, I don’t know what was going on in his mind or body, but it seemed to me that he was just quitting. Perhaps the 65 years of smoking cigarettes had caught up with him. That’s right – not a typo. He started smoking at five years of age, living on the streets of Marcus Hook, PA. He had a hard life, which had started early.
And so, for whatever reason, when he turned 69, my grandfather resigned from his positions in the church, quit fishing, started spending a lot of time sitting in his garage. In many ways, he just gave up on life. I vowed that I would be unlike him and remain active for as long as I could. As it turned out, my inactivity began when I was 62. Nevertheless, I am committed to being as active as I am able. I am not certain whether I am determined or stubborn, probably depends on one’s perspective, but I am committed to live as many days as the Lord gives me for his honor.
One Bible passage which is meant a lot to me over the years is this: “And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” (Philippians 1:6, ESV) Like Paul, who wrote this, my confidence does not come from myself but from the one who began the good work in me who has committed himself to completing it, even until the resurrection when I will be completely renewed. On that day, the prayers of my grandchildren (Please help Pop-Pop get out of his wheelchair.) will be answered at last.