Linda My grandpa had Alzheimer’s, and he needed someone with him overnight. So I moved in after college. I had a profound need to be with him. But one night, I came home from work to find the house empty. It was winter, and the house quickly grew dark.

I felt uneasy and restless.
        I stared at the phone.
               I dreaded the call that would come.
                           I felt angry and forgotten and lost.

            So I lit a fire and danced.

It was the most natural form of prayer for the moment—because my whole body was crying out. I somehow knew my season of living with Grandpa was coming to an end.

That was a long time ago—17 years.  Long enough that I was surprised in my first semester at Candler when memories of Grandpa came flooding back during an Old Testament assignment on Ecclesiastes 3. I was to pray the scripture, as ancient Christians did, believing the words would intersect with my life and come off the page into a living word for me.

The scripture assigned was not easy to pray, nor to understand. I became fixated on one part of one little verse. It says God “has also placed eternity in their hearts, without enabling them to discover what God has done from beginning to end.” (v. 11, CEB)

What?!!? It makes no sense, right? But I closed my eyes, emptied my thoughts, and waited. And this was when the stories of Grandpa came to me in a flood of tears.

Grandpa had an honest patience with himself and with his own limitations. It sometimes felt superhuman. He had spent his life caring for others—first as a medic in World War II caring for enemy POWs. Near the end of life, he was somehow able to graciously accept that it was his time to get care.

When he grew forgetful, he was humble to the point my heart would break. “I’m sorry,” he would say, explaining, “I have this dreaded disease…”

Watching Grandpa, the Word became flesh for me. I began to accept my own limitations—to allow grace to be a tender presence in my striving to serve God, creation, and humanity.

And then it hit me! The author of Ecclesiastes was working through his struggle to accept his limitations too! So much angst, so similar to my own! God gives humans a desire to see the big picture but not the ability to see it. Frustrating! So frustrating! I get it! Would it not be better to care a little less about things beyond our understanding? Why must we suffer and die? Why Alzheimer’s? Why work so hard? Why all these questions?

“So I hated life, because the things that happen under the sun were troublesome to me. Definitely, everything is pointless—just wind chasing.” (2:17)

And yet, it is not pointless, is it? It is not wind chasing. Because my time with Grandpa defined the person I would become and defined my relationship with God. Because Grandpa’s life was full of meaning from beginning to end. And mine will be too.

“There’s a season for everything
    and a time for every matter under the heavens:

 a time for giving birth and a time for dying,
    a time for planting and a time for uprooting what was planted,

a time for killing and a time for healing,
    a time for tearing down and a time for building up,

 a time for crying and a time for laughing,
    a time for mourning and a time for dancing,

a time for throwing stones and a time for gathering stones,
    a time for embracing and a time for avoiding embraces,

a time for searching and a time for losing,
    a time for keeping and a time for throwing away,

a time for tearing and a time for repairing,
    a time for keeping silent and a time for speaking,

a time for loving and a time for hating,
    a time for war and a time for peace.” (3:1–8)