A Tribute to My Late Grandmother

My 84-year-old grandmother passed away on Monday, June 26th. Over the course of the next two days I wrote a tribute to her life as I saw it. I hope this post blesses you as her life blessed us. 

Robert Frost’s poem “Nothing Gold Can Stay” reads like this:

Nature’s first green is gold,
Her hardest hue to hold.
Her early leaf’s a flower;
But only so an hour.
Then leaf subsides to leaf.
So Eden sank to grief,
So dawn goes down to day.
Nothing gold can stay.

The cold reality of life and death that Mr. Frost is conveying is that those really good things in our lives, the gold, often have a short shelf life. On the one hand I agree. Those beautiful sunrises seem to burn away all too quickly. Laughter of one moment can turn on a dime and become tears the next. The vibrancy of life today is gone tomorrow, like a vapor. After all, wasn’t Mamaw Celli gold to us? Now she’s gone. She didn’t stay. Or did she?

Job 23:10 says “But he knoweth the way that I take: when he hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold.”

This verse refers to the process of purifying gold. When gold is brought forth from the ground it has lesser metals like zinc, copper, and iron mixed with it. For gold to be valuable, these foreign elements need to be removed. Ancient civilizations did so by subjecting the ore to fires of nearly 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit. This intense heat burned away every element contained in the ore. Every element except the gold. Simply put, no fire is hot enough to destroy gold, only purify it. The lesson that Job is teaching us is that when our lives are tried by fire – and they will be – only the gold can stay.

One could also look at it this way. In this life we’ve been given a pick ax, a mining cart, and a big ole mountain. We spend the currency of our time filling our cart with rocks that will one day be tried by fire. Day in and day out we mine materials that will exposed to the furnace when our life on earth is done. We have a choice. Will we do the rigorous work of digging the valuable ore from deep within the heart of the mountain? Or will we merely go after those less valuable minerals because they’re much easier to extract? Whatever our choice we must be mindful that only the gold can stay.

Did we spend the currency of our time filling our mining cart with earthly riches? Our possessions, no matter how great, will all burn away.

Did we spend the currency of our time climbing to the top of the ladder in our profession? Our titles, our degrees, our trophies will all burn away.

Did we spend the currency of our time on ourselves – protecting ourselves, pampering ourselves, giving only to ourselves while others around us were in great need? Whatever our selfishness allowed us to stockpile will certainly all burn away.

For the refining fire’s only adversary, the only things that cannot be burned away, are eternal things – things that MaMaw Celli achingly dug from the ground and loaded into her cart.

For she spent time every day in prayer whether she felt like praying or not. She mined for gold.

She was faithful to God until the end even when things didn’t go her way. She mined for Gold.

She sold innumerable trinkets to raise and undocumented amount of money to support missionaries on the foreign field to reach people that she would never even meet. She mined for gold.

And on June 26, 2016 at 3:17 a.m., the ore of her life, her deeds, were emptied out of her cart and placed into the great smelting pot of eternity.

Sure, these weren’t the only things that that were submitted to the fire.

She had a strong dose of the scarcity mentality that is not uncommon among The Great Depression generation (This is a nice way of saying that she was tight with the dollar).

She gave far more than her share of unsolicited advice – often at times when we needed it the least.

And it seemed that the nosier her question the more she liked to ask it.

The heat will certainly burn away these inferior elements of her life as it will in all of our lives one day. But a life well lived is not judged by how much insignificance is burned away in the end, but by how much significance remains after the fire has died out.

I can tell you that the fire couldn’t burn her prayer life. The fire couldn’t burn her example of faithfulness. The fire couldn’t burn her passion for missions and the propagation of the whole gospel to the whole world. All of these things remain. They are kept and carried on by her children, grand and great-grandchildren, and in the lives of all of who knew her.

That’s gold. And only the gold can stay.

MaMaw Celli, we thank you for your gold.

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