I write this post in memory of my Grandpa Abram Tilitzky who passed away last Tuesday, October 4th in Abbotsford, BC, Canada at the age of 91. Grandpa T was born in Russia and moved to Canada at the age of 5, a story not uncommon among those of Mennonite cultural heritage. He met my grandma at 19 and they were married for 67 years! He was a great businessman and throughout life remained committed to serving the church and his community. Even though life was not always easy for Grandpa, he was a faithful follower of Christ, and was at much peace to pass from this life and be with his heavenly Father. Although I did not return to Canada for his funeral, thanks to technology and my sister Michele I have been able to listen to various audio and video clips of family gatherings and the service that took place this past Tuesday, as well as have some memorable phone conversations with my Grandma. As I think back on my own memories and listen to those of my uncles, aunts and cousins, my heart is enriched by the love my Grandpa had for his family and others as well as the deep knowledge he had of God’s love.
While I did miss sharing memories with my larger family, I was thankful for my own moments when I took time to remember, to think, to pray, to sing, to talk to my children about hope and the new heaven and earth. In particular I was drawn back to a portion of scripture in 1 Corinthians that was an encouragement to me a few years ago when a good friend died tragically. In Chapter 15 Paul focuses on the truth and importance of the resurrection. While there is an interesting development of thought regarding past and future resurrections what I find most inspiring is the last verse, which highlights Paul’s conclusions about where does all this talk leave us, in other words what are we to do in light of the hope of resurrection? I quote: “Stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain” (1 Cor 15: 58). These words became my prayers for all of my Grandpa’s family this past Tuesday as they met together remembering him and I sat in that little Mexican church far away in body but not in spirit.
I was also thankful for God’s providence in having chances to both hear and sing one of my Grandpa’s favorite songs in these past days – How Great Thou Art. In particular the fourth stanza brings much emotion and so I quote it below in the way I hear it here:
Cuando el Señor me llame a su presencia, al dulce hogar, al cielo de esplendor, le adoraré cantando la gradeza de su poder y su infinito amor.
As a way to share a more personal memory of my Grandpa T I leave you with a tribute I wrote and which my father in Canada read for me during a family sharing time last week.
This past week, perhaps like you, I have been pondering the significance of Grandpa’s passing, the change it means for us and especially for Grandma and also to some extent the sadness I feel in not being able to be with you all today. In this midst of these thoughts I remain thankful for the grand gift of eternal life Grandpa is experiencing now more fully and smaller spiritual gifts such as me hearing How Great Thou Art in the street here in Mexico the morning of Grandpa’s passing. I have had some good times remembering Grandpa this past week – as a child Grandpa and Grandma’s house was always a loving and fun place to come home for holidays, especially Christmas, and since we didn’t live in the same town visits from Grandpa and Grandma were even more special, even if it meant them telling us our rabbit had died or giving us strawberry flavoured medicine. One thing I also knew about Grandpa is that he was praying for us and especially in latter years we could count on those special phone calls where we heard his wonderful voice along with Grandma’s wishing us a happy birthday. I also am so thankful for the love and generosity he showed to my husband and children and we all remember fondly those good breakfast’s together at De Dutch. For all of these memories and more – Grandpa, I say thank you, thank you especially for your faithfulness to God, to your wife, your family and to me, your granddaughter. We love you and will miss you.
Jacqueline Leigh Block, October 8th, 2011