I'm thinking about my grandfather this morning. He died 18 years ago and there are days that pass when my memories of him are buried somewhere in the deep recesses of my mind. But I was reminded of him yesterday because he was one of the Canadian soldiers who fought at Vimy Ridge during the First World War. He never talked much about the war - like many veterans - and I was too young to really want to know the details of his war experience.
As I watched the news coverage yesterday though, I found myself imagining what it must have been like for him. He was a stretcher bearer during the war. I don't know if he had any special training for that posting, or if it was just a random assignment. And I can't obviously totally comprehend what he experienced as he dashed along the front lines, dodging enemy fire to retrieve the wounded. I've watched enough war movies to know that it must have been incredibly dangerous work. Maybe it was very rewarding - rescuing the wounded from death or capture. I don't know, but I know my grandfather was a gentle man.
For me, as I've "grown up" with this knowledge that Grampie was a stretcher bearer during the Great War, the image that has taken shape in my mind is one that has transferable principles. I always think of Grampie when I read the account of the friends who carried the paralytic man to see Jesus. They transported him on a mat (or stretcher) and then, when they got to the house where Jesus was teaching, there was such a crowd that they couldn't go in through the door. They were somehow convinced that Jesus could help their friend and so determined to accomplish their mission that they took their friend up on the roof, cut a hole and lowered him down to Jesus. It's a great story. It reminds me of Grampie.
It reminds me that I'm not just responsible for myself, but that there will be times when I can be a "stretcher bearer" for someone else. Or, there will be times when I'll need the services of stretcher bearers myself. It may be due to physical injury or illness, or it may be on account of emotional pain. Weakness comes to all of us at some point in the journey and it's great to know that there are those who are willing to not only come along side, but who will risk their own safety to rescue others - to rescue me. I think this is what Jesus meant when he said that we ought to love one another and that the evidence of this kind of love is that we would be willing to lay down our lives in order to save someone else. As I post this, I'm grateful to my grandfather for being that kind of man.