Joey peered around the corner of the doorway. The groans that had called him away from his play had also sent a tingle of fear up his young spine. The sun had climbed down from its midday heights and now streamed through the windows that looked west across the garden.
“Grandpa?” Once more came the question, this time as a plea.
The boy used to play in the sunroom where his grandfather now lay, stretched out on the daybed. However, since his last heart attack, the old man now occupied the room. The stairs to the bedrooms on the upper floor just took too much effort.
The boy eased into the room. Finally, love overcame fear, drawing Joey closer to the prone figure. He reached out a tentative hand. His parents had told him that his grandfather might not be with them much longer. The family visits had become more frequent. The adults meant to reassure him with such frank talk, but every grunt and groan now filled him with terror.
At Joey’s touch, the old man seemed to rouse himself. He rolled over, squinting at the bright light forming a halo around his grandson’s figure.
“Joey? That you, laddie?”
“Yah, grandpa. I heard you groan, and I thought, well, I thought, …” The boy’s voice trailed away. How could he mention death to a man he wanted to live forever.
The old man chuckled, pushing himself to a sitting position. He took a moment to catch his breath after the effort, then pulled the boy into the sheltered gap between his knees.
“You thought I was dying when you heard the groaning. No, I was just complaining to the good Lord.”
At the boy’s puzzled look, the old man laughed again. “Guess I’d better explain. You go to Sunday School so you know about creation, don’t you?”
“Well, things were good back then at the start. Everything was just the way God wanted it. And then…”
Now into the story, Joey was eager to show what he knew.
“Then Adam and Eve ate the apple.”
His grandfather smiled. “Well, it might not have been an apple, but you got the rest right. When those two sinned, the whole world started to die, and it’s been dying by bits and pieces ever since. But just like me, it’s not going quietly.”
By this time, Joey had climbed up on his grandfather’s knees, and then thought better of it as the old man winced. He began to wiggle his way down.
“No, stay. It’s okay. Remember you were telling me about earthquakes and all them plates rubbing together and causing the ground to shake?”
Grandpa’s ears provided fertile soil for the seeds of learning that Joey was accumulating. He was pleased that his grandfather remembered, and smiled in acknowledgment.
“Well,” continued the old man, “those plates bumping, grinding, and rubbing each other are like my knees—they’re telling anyone who’ll listen that the pieces don’t fit right anymore. And when things don’t work like they’re supposed to, they complain.”
“You sure complain a lot,” observed Joey.
His grandfather looked at him in mock surprise. “Who, me?” He laughed, then said, “What does your mommy do when you complain about being sick?”
“She does stuff to make me feel better,” replied the boy.
“Sure. She lets you stay home from school, gives you medicine, and fills you full of red Jell-O®. Well, God’s doing stuff to make me, and the earth, feel better too.
“But, you’re gonna …” Joey’s voice trailed off again.
“Die? Sure.” He hugged the boy close, feeling his anxiety. “At the start everything was good. Now it’s all coming to an end, dying from sin. To get back to the beginning we have to get past the end. The end is where the beginning starts all over again. Dying is an end God planned so that He could fix things, to give us a new beginning, to make us like we once were.”
“Can’t I come with you?” protested the boy, tears welling up in his eyes.
“Not now But, I’ll tell you what; I do know how you can get ready to come, not just for a visit, but to live a beginning that never ends with me and Jesus. Do you want to know how?”
Joey gravely nodded his head.
As the gathering darkness seeped across the tiles of the sunroom, Grandpa’s forever beginning dawned in a little boy’s heart.