|When my father died, the
family received many cards, letters, floral tributes, and gifts given as
memorials to various churches and institutions. He was a good man, a
Presbyterian minister, and he did many good and gracious things in a
long life of Christian service.
Of the many funeral memorials my father received, the one I appreciated most was from a well-to-do gentleman now living in a distant Southern city. The man had known my father some years previously when he was younger. He felt my father to have been a lasting influence in his life.
I wish I had his letter, but it was lost in the funeral shuffle after the burial. So I have to give it second hand, not in the original words of the sender. I regret that. What he said was genuine and spoke for itself. But it is lost, and I must do second best.
The man who wrote said he wanted to memorialize my father, who had been a sustaining older friend long ago. He knew my father had been a trustee of various institutions, but the man felt it was too cold and impersonal to memorialize my father by sending some anonymous check to an institution. (My father had been a trustee of
an orphanage, a seminary, and a Assembly Ground of the denomination as well as a minister of the institutionalized church.)
But the gentleman giving felt it was a cold and impersonal way to remember my father. He mistrusted bureaucrats as being book bound spirit killers. And for my correspondent a floral offering was a wilting thing and not lasting enough, nor did it do any real good for anybody that he could see.
The intended memorializer was a practical person who had made a great deal of money in his life, and I tended to agree with him on floral tributes. I saw a great deal of money wasted on floral tributes that quickly died. The writer of the letter said that he wanted something
more lasting and more personal when he thought of how my father had been memorialized by him. Let others do as they jolly well pleased, but flowers did not suit his tastes.
He said that gifts to organized charities might be taken off his taxes, but he did not trust organized charities. He felt too often they were more for the bureaucrats running them than the cause they were organized for. And if our government, the deplorable way it was, approved them as tax deductions, that was a bad mark right there. What the government approved was usually damaged by their approval. Government approval meant liberal approval, something in line with too liberal thinking, and he, for one, never wished to further the semi-official liberal party. At least that was the way he saw it.
Therefore he told me he was doing highly individual actions in memory of my father, because he had once been told by my father who often helped him when he was a young man, that he need not thank him, but just try to "pass it on" when he could. My father always told him "Don't thank me, but pass it on. Grace creates grace"
I suggest "grace creates grace:" means that an action of graciousness or grace creates in others a natural desire to be a giver of graciousness and good actions. After all, one of the rules of "karma" (Christian or otherwise) is "like attracts like." Or like responds to like.
Of course you may "frustrate" grace, which the Bible tells us not to do. The natural round or impulse of grace that comes from grace is then cut off. For grace received can mean a chain of grace started.
My correspondent wrote me that an act of grace he had recently done was hiring a boy from a poverty stricken environment to work for him, yard work or any type of work he needed done, but that in doing this, he was not only paying the boy, but trying to teach and develop in the young one an old fashioned Christian work ethic.
As you know the work ethic in our faith is our belief that God should be glorified in whatever work. The catechism says that the chief end of man (his chief purpose) is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever. And in our working, whatever it may be, we should glorify God and enjoy Him. This is one of the virtues that our decadent society has lost.
Of course the question is: What this older man has the grace to give, will the younger one have the grace to receive? Will the chain and train of grace be broken as it moves along? Or will the moving engine of grace be derailed by lack of belief?
I wrote the man who wrote me that I was confident my father who was certainly in heaven knew the acts of grace that were being done in his memory. I could not think of any better way to memorialize him or any person than to pass on the grace that you have seen reflected in others and whose light and warmth have benefited you. Let the light that shines on you shine on others.
Too often we think only of bad "karma" EVIL THAT BRINGS EVIL but we should remember always also there is good karma going on around us. It depends on what you are sending around: acts of grace or acts of selfishness and evil.
Good mothers produce good mothers. Good fathers produce good men. Honest makes honest. Love creates love. People who are abusive tend to have abusive children. According to the grace we have been given, we often give. I suggest in this we can easily see how "the exception proves the rule." Exceptions stand out because we see the rule demonstrated so often. Like breeds like. Grace creates grace. A lack of grace creates one lacking in grace.
I suggest you CONSIDER memorializing people in the same way the appreciative man did my father. I do not know if I always AGREED WITH HIM on things, BUT I KNOW WHAT HE WAS DOING WAS RIGHT. In some of this he may have done the right thing for the wrong reason. But it is the irony of God that He works in mysterious ways the wonders of His grace to perform. God often acts with grace and gentle irony in His use of our motives. Praise Him in this and for that.
Dr. James MacLeod may be contacted through the Neill Macaulay Foundation.