Those of us who knew and loved this man have many memories.
However, our memories are mysterious, even to us, because until you understand the man, you cannot understand the meaning of everything that he said, and everything that he did.
So let us take a moment to delve into the mystery of who this man was. This is an appropriate time, and I am well-qualified to speak on it, being the one who loved him most during his time on earth.
This man had a wife and three children: a daughter, and two sons.
God gave him a tenderness for his own children, and he loved to hold them — a good beginning.
However, something went wrong here where everything should have gone right.
The key word in his life story is the word “prefer.”
I will explain. Very early on, the man conceived in his heart the idea that his daughter should prefer him. It was an idea almost without clear lines, at first. It was more of a vague sentiment, at first.
In some ways, it was a game. The funny thing was that it was a game that was so easy to win. There was not really any competition, for the daughter’s mother counted the girl as nothing, or as worse than nothing.
(The man didn’t mind, entirely, when his wife raged at him, or at the girl. It only strengthened his case. It only proved that he was, well, better. The girl saw clearly that he was the martyr.)
And besides, a little bit of attention went a very long way. Passing the time listening to the girl prattle on about what she thought about everything was the main thing. She had a lot of questions, and he had the answers. She took his answers on all matters as very authoritative. His input was important. He saw that he could lift her up, by telling her that eventually her teeth would straighten out, or he could cast her down, by telling her that she must keep her hair short because it was too thin to wear long, and that she needs to wear bangs because her forehead was too big. His approval was essential to her, and that was very gratifying. It was not impossible to give his approval either, for she sometimes had some impressive results. Mind you, he was careful to be sparing in his praise.
Years passed, and although the man had braced himself for the day when the girl would have a boyfriend, it did come as a bit of a nasty shock when the first interloper appeared. The man certainly did not express support for him, and was glad when he was finally gone. When the second appeared, he took the same approach; mild, quiet disapproval seemed to be the best style.
Eventually, the girl found a husband, and he initially took the stance of cautious approval. After all, there did not seem to be much to gain with quiet disapproval; it hadn’t worked in this case. And besides, he was happy at the arrival of grandchildren. To hold them was wonderful, and he relished the time he could spend with them.
However, as her marriage continued, he grew increasingly discontent, and he nurtured his sourness. It became obvious. Social events grew awkward. When questioned about his negativity, he gave no answers. And indeed, he would not have been able to adequately identify what he was doing and what he wanted. He was just tossing a match, to see what would burn.
But you could not say that he was unhappy during this time. He was the same as always. And the new arrangements which were made to accommodate him were quite satisfactory. He was no longer expected to attend any birthdays or other special occasions, but still saw his grandchildren almost every weekend. And actually, what he had now was even better than before: he had the girl and her children all to himself. He counted himself as victorious.
Later, however, the girl changed her approach, and would return to her husband during the weekend grandparent-grandchild visits. This was not quite as satisfactory. It felt like a snub.
And here, sadly, a plan which had always hovered overhead finally landed in his heart. The word was ‘prefer.’
A bond could be built, from grandfather to grandchild, and from grandchild to grandfather, which was bigger, better, stronger than the one from child to mother. (The bond from child to father was not even competition, he surmised.)
A new game.
Now the grandchildren became his sole focus — his friends. They could have a special code, and special rituals. And, most interestingly, he was able to use his wife as his ally. Together, they could study the girl’s family, and critique and scorn all that was so very, very wrong.
And so it continued.
The great misstep occurred one evening at the home of the girl. You see, his wife had her own games, and one was about power. When one young grandchild politely declined to obey her, the grandmother placed her hands on this grandchild’s face, and hissed that the child must obey. Always, always, Obey the Grandmother! The rage was frightening, and the child ran away.
Things changed after that, and the grandchildren were far more difficult to reach. Opportunities were fewer, and the man knew that the culprit was the girl. But you could not say that he was entirely unhappy. He was the same.
He was able to create new opportunities. He could innocently offer to walk the girl’s dog. Surely, nobody would mind if he walked the dog, and maybe he would stay for a while. The dog was always thrilled to see him. Indeed, the dog probably preferred him.
But then he got a new idea, in imitation of the attacks of another.
He mounted a campaign. It was a terribly fun game. He chose new allies from what he viewed as her inner circle.
Ah, it was like nothing he had ever done — delightful, thrilling.
He soberly presented the facts about the girl, the very sad facts. Who would disbelieve a father?
Answer: Anyone who loved her would have disbelieved, but these did not love her either, and were only too happy to hear all about her fall from grace. Tell me more, they said.
Yet the girl was fine. It was her new rules that had enraged and horrified those who were accustomed to doing as they pleased.
And God, being good, willed it that the words would soon be discovered. The girl saw the words written about her.
The words revealed that her father lied many times and in many ways to many people. The lies were meant to divide and defame.
The words revealed that the inner circle was only too happy to cluck and to scorn, and to exult over the sad tale told about her. They felt united against her, and the man felt, once again, that he was preferred, and that he was important, to share such news.
The words revealed that she had not known the man. The love that she felt was real, but it was the love of the Father, and not the love of the man.
And so now you know more about the man who lies here. No more will he fool anyone. No more will anyone be deceived into thinking that his kind words and actions stemmed from a heart that was gentle and loving.