“Life is an open book full of blank pages. You write the story as you go.” - Anonymous
Last week I told you the beginning of the story when we arrived in Franklin, Pennsylvania, nearly 50 years ago with all of our earthly possessions packed into a U-Haul trailer. Today I will share the rest of that story.
Recently, we returned to Franklin with our 45 year old son, Kevin, and his 13 year old son, Noah (our grandson). They arrived about a week earlier for their traditional summer visit. Normally we plan a day excursion or two while they are here because they enjoy just spending quality time with us in the old farmhouse where we live on the University of Valley Forge campus.
But this year we all decided to go on a road trip. The day after they arrived we drove to Cooperstown, New York, to visit the Baseball Hall of Fame. I wish you could have seen the sparkle in their eyes and heard the excitement in their voices as they stepped into the world of baseball greatness for the first time.
After a quick breakfast at the hotel the following morning, we drove to our next destination, Niagara Falls. Although we took Darin, our oldest son, and Kevin there when they were small, Kevin did not remember the visit and for Noah, it was his very first time. We went through customs and arrived at our hotel overlooking the falls from the Canadian side.
We packed a lot into the next two days: from the top of the 520-foot Skylon Tower to the Journey Behind the Falls, we saw and experienced as much as we could. We took pictures in front of the huge flower clock and inside the Butterfly Conservatory. We even drove to the quaint small town of Niagara-on-the-Lake and walked its beautiful streets.
But in addition to visiting Cooperstown and Niagara Falls, we also took them to visit Franklin, Pennsylvania, where Evie and I began our life after college and where our children were born. This would be Noah’s first visit to Franklin.
After a delicious lunch that overlooked the picturesque Venango County Court House and the former PennDOT District 1-0 office, we went by the old church building where we started our ministry on that one-way street in an obscure part of town. We then drove to the “new” church, now more than 40 years old, which was built during our seven years there. We went to the old PennDOT building where I worked as a bi-vocational pastor buying right-of-way to build roads in the seven counties of northwestern Pennsylvania.
But it was our visit to a little cemetery that we will never forget. Our main reason to bring Noah to Franklin was to show him the gravestone of his uncle, Keith. Kevin was a twin and he and his brother, Keith, were born six weeks early on July 30, 1971. Keith entered heaven two days later. Now this was also about to become a part of Noah’s story.
As we stood there, we talked about those early days: excitement mixed with sadness; the small town and big city hospitals; the sunshine and the rain; our humanity and God’s divinity. I cannot describe the deep emotion and how sacred that place was for each of us.
Before we left, we stood in a circle holding hands next to that little gravestone: a father/grandfather, a mother/grandmother, a son/father and a son/grandson in the circle remembering a son/brother/uncle in heaven. Family. Memories. Emotion. Priceless.
I led in a short prayer of gratitude for Kevin’s life and the faithfulness of God throughout the twists and turns in all of our lives since then. A lifetime, literally, has gone by since our first arrival in Franklin, Pennsylvania. And that’s the rest of the story.
Think about it.
Dr. Don Meyer is President Emeritus of the University of Valley Forge, Phoenixville. Connect via firstname.lastname@example.org, Facebook.com/DrDonMeyer, www.DrDonMeyer.com, Twitter and Instagram: @DrDonMeyer.