Those Old Bony Knees

Sweeping meadows, covered bridges, fields of tall corn and a rambling old farmhouse. That is how I remember my childhood summers. Every summer I would visit my grandparents in southern Illinois. I would spend at least a month there in the countryside surrounded by love. Being from a big city, the farm was a treat to me. There were cows to see, horses to ride, tractors to drive and berries to pick. The prickling, humid heat was terrible and only to be relieved by a fan blowing in the cool night air. My grandparents were good people who garnered a living from the land in times of famine, drought, and war. They had inherited the farm during the depression after they lost their teaching positions in Colorado. They decided the only way to feed their family was to go back to the land. They were also God honoring people who prayed through trials and tribulations and expressed their joy of life in prayer as well.

I especially remember my grandfather being the rock and patriarch of the family. It was through him that I learned the moral values of life and the importance of daily prayer. Each morning after breakfast we would clear off the table and my grandfather would get out his Bible and study guide and begin to read. Sometimes the passages seemed dry to me as a child, but we would listen respectfully just to the tone of my grandfather's voice. He resonated a mellow stillness and quiet calm in knowing that God was in all his activities. After the reading my grandfather would pray. He would kneel down on the hard linoleum floor facing his chair and lift his voice in prayer. We all followed suit. His prayer reflected joy at the new day and God's blessings to the family. He would then ask for answers and wisdom to special prayer requests. Finally he would ask for safety for all of the members of the family not represented. As the years went by, it got harder and harder for my grandfather to get down on his knees. He started joking about it and would say, "Got to get down on these old bony knees!" Down he would go. I remembered that phrase year after year. Later in life a pillow went down for the knees, but my grandfather never failed to humble himself before God in that manner.

During his last days on earth my grandfather was bedridden and slipping in and out of consciousness. The family was devastated as the stalwart figure lay between two worlds. It seemed as if the very foundation of the family was crumbling underneath us. Gathered around my grandfather were his children, his grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Just before he slipped away, we all joined hands and knelt in prayer. My grandfather's only son took the initiative and led us in prayer. The room glowed with light and the feeling of the Holy Spirit was upon us. My uncle prayed for a safe passage for his father and asked that we be given the wisdom and strength to follow the example that he had set before us his entire life. We prayed for peace in our hearts. As he breathed his last breath, by grandfather's eyes fluttered open and saw us all gathered around kneeling in prayer. He smiled a quiet smile and said, "On those old bony knees, eh?"

To this day, I follow my grandfather's example and pray with my family. Even in our hurried 21st century world we make time to get down on our "bony knees" and give thanks for the day. If only we could instill in our own children what my grandfather had handed down freely to us for so many years. This world would indeed be a different place.


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