Only 3 Chapters

Sitting around in our dorm room, about 4 or 5 of us guys began talking about two of our friends on our floor who had just lost their grandparents. It was not uncommon amongst us college students to hear that someone’s grandparent had just passed away.

I attended a Bible College in central Illinois. In those years, Lincoln Christian College (now called Lincoln Christian University), had an attendance of about 600 students.

It was definitely a small college — and after 4 years of college, you pretty much knew everyone. It was the perfect size for me and I wouldn’t trade those years for anything.

talking in the dorm

As we sat talking, we realized that college age seemed to be when most grandparents began passing away. We had hit on something as we began thinking of other peers who had experienced this same loss. Here is what we concluded:

  1. When you are in that 18-24 age range, there is a good chance that one of your grandparents will pass.
  2. When your children are in that 18-24 age range, there is a good chance that one of your children will lose a grandparent. This becomes personally difficult because when one of your kids loses their grandparent, you are dealing with the loss of one of your parents or your spouse’s parents.
  3. When your children’s children are in that 18-24 age range, there is a good chance that you or your spouse will be the grandparent that passes.

We sat there and summarized that life seems to be divided into a book with only 3 chapters. We realized that not everyone’s life fits neatly into this little chapter model. Some people don’t get married until later in life or remain single. Others do not have children. Please understand this neat little 3-chapter book is just a general idea of “time frames.”

Chapter One

When all of us guys were sitting in the dorm room talking about this stuff, we were living in chapter one of our lives. Albeit we were near the end of our own personal chapter 1, but still in chapter one nonetheless.

Chapter one is basically birth through college age. It is the formative years.

The majority of life’s developmental years are in this chapter. You are a child learning everything about life. You are growing up, moving through adolescence, and then into young adulthood. By the time you have reached the final pages of this chapter, you have been formed, molded, and learned what you need for much of the rest of life.

Also when you reach the final pages of this chapter, you will likely experience what began this blog post — the death of one of your grandparents.

This chapter ends when you get married.

Chapter Two

Chapter 2 begins when you are married and begin to have a family. It’s the family years.

This chapter will cover about 20-35 years of your life. You may get married and two to five years later begin to have kids. This is an incredible time in life! You can never take enough photos.

There is much that can be said about what takes place here. You are raising your children through their own chapter 1 while you are trying to figure out and navigate through your own chapter 2 with your spouse.

Parents raising their kids

One of the difficult events that takes place near the end of this chapter is the death of one of your own parents — thus, one of your children’s grandparents passes.

I have 3 children that are 9 years apart in age. All of my kids have experienced this reality of losing a grandparent in their college years — first my mother and then my father. My wife’s two parents are still living.

This chapter ends when a child of yours has their own child. You become a grandparent.

Chapter Three

When you are in chapter 1, getting to chapter 3 seems incomprehensibly distant and far-off. You soon discover the years of chapter 2 are quickly fleeting. As the pages turn and turn, you experience your kids dating, reaching those college-age years, and quite too soon, getting married themselves.

You then reach the last page of chapter 2. The next page in your book has CHAPTER 3 in bold letters across the top — you are now beginning to turn the pages of the final chapter of your book.

On the day you become a grandparent, you have reached the third and final chapter. You first of all had the formative years. Next you had the family years. This third and final chapter is the legacy years.

This too seems to cover about 20-35 of your life. This can vary of course, but unfortunately it doesn’t vary by much.

6 people representing 3 generations

Here you have grandkids who are making their way through their chapter 1, you are observing your kids navigate through their chapter 2 (they are realizing it’s harder than it looked), and you and your spouse are experiencing the joys, challenges, and complications of your own chapter 3.

I’m sure it feels sort of like the beginning of the previous two chapters, where it seems hard to comprehend that you will ever be at the end of this chapter. But this time, experience is telling you otherwise — the days are long but the years are short… so don’t blink… enjoy every page that you find yourself on.

Chapter 3 ends when your book closes.

The End

Personally, I’m not afraid of death, dying, illness, or other end of life stuff. My wife and I have our hope in Jesus and we know our salvation is secure. Period.

However, what does catch my breath is the speed at which the pages are now turning. I look back on life, flip through our photo albums, view our home movies, and I want to scream for things to STOP!!! Slow. Down. Please!

Life is passing me by and I find myself desperately dreaming of going back to chapter one to do stupid stuff with Aaron, Jeff, and Bob all over again. I want to ask my grandma to tell me more stories, teach me Dutch, and take my sister and I on the bus to eat another hotdog with her at Allen’s Cigar Shop. I want to drink Mt. Dew with Mark, Matt, Phil, Ty, Dan, and others in the dorms at college while we pull all-nighters. But my greatest and most vehement desire of all is to walk into the college cafeteria and once again be captivated by the girl checking meal-tickets who would become my wife just 15 months later. I especially want to relive every date with Traci all over again.

My greatest desire
The joy of my life has been living with Traci through all 3 chapters of my life.

I want to go back to the beginning of chapter 2 and experience my wedding and honeymoon, and then relive the first 3 years of our marriage de novo. I want to raise my girls (I loved saying, “hey girls!”), homeschool my kids, be my son’s golf caddy when he was 10 years old, take those 12 vacations we took to Disney World, see their eyes light up on Christmas mornings, see them all baptized, watch them walk across the stage at graduation, and see my daughter get married all over again. I want to talk to my mom one last time, eat a couple of her chocolate chip cookies, and sit back and watch her love my wife and kids… just one more time before my kid’s would lose their grandma.

I have no fear about being in chapter 3. I just loved the first two chapters so much!! I just want to hold on to them.

Please understand this is not meant to be a “downer” blog post. It is just spreading my reflections out on this page so I can organize the memories and thoughts that crowd my mind.

I want to LIVE (not just exist through) every moment of this final chapter. I want to help those behind me to live every moment of their chapters. And I want to deeply love my wife — who has been with me since I met her at the end of chapter one.

We met in chapter 1. Raised our family in chapter 2. And chapter 3 will one day begin and call us to complete our legacy.

 

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