Touch of a rose.

The Legacy of Lives Affected

Touch of a rose.

Going to church one Sunday during college, I got a ride with an older couple. As I chatted, telling them about my family, I mentioned my grandfather.

“John Gration?” the man asked. “Is that your grandfather?”

“Yes,” I replied, wondering the reason for his question.

“Many years ago, we both lived in the same area. We’re good friends.”

I shouldn’t have been surprised. Perhaps it’s because of the circles I travel in, but I’m constantly running into people who know my grandfather – people he touched.

And he touched many people. Across his numerous professions – member of the navy at Camp Shoemaker, missionary in Kenya and Congo, professor at Wheaton College, and several others – he provides a clear example of what it means to live in service. As with many of my heroes, he’s an example of what it means to affect people.

I know because I am one of the affected.


i admire the rose
its magnificent bloom
with full attention
and can’t help but notice

its magnificent bloom
the beauty
the life

with full attention
attempting to comprehend
all the beauty that’s there

and can’t help but notice
that the rose looks back
with the same attention

One time when I was staying with my grandparents for a holiday, Grandpa asked me how computers worked. He was curious.

As we talked, I felt like I was the only other person in the room. He wasn’t distracted. He didn’t check his watch. He didn’t look around the room at the paintings. I had his full attention.

But his expression was not the only evidence of his attention. He participated in the conversation. He actively engaged what I said.

We talked back and forth. I explained a component. He asked a clarifying question. Step by step we approached understanding. And for all of my grandfather’s brilliance, he made me feel like an expert.

I felt valued. I felt honored.

A few months after I graduated from college, I was talking with my grandfather. He asked me how I was doing.

Surface answers didn’t satisfy him. I couldn’t get away with saying fine and moving on. He probed deeper.

I told him about the people I worked with. I described the work I was doing. I shared how I was enjoying the work. I told him about the opportunities I had to grow and learn.

Grandpa wanted to know what was going on in my life. And as I conveyed my excitement for what I was doing, he was excited with me. He joined me in my joy.

My grandfather wasn’t pretending. He wasn’t acting. He genuinely cared. He was interested in what I was saying. And it showed.

I’ve seen it in the countless times I’ve talked to him. I’ve seen it when he talks to others. He recognizes people. He celebrates who they are. For him, they are beautiful in their own right. Their humanity is reason enough to pay them respect.

When you give someone the gift of your attention, you make them feel valued. When you honor who they are, you affect them.


the rose always gives
a constant effort to add
blessing to people

Never subtracting, my grandfather adds to people. He seeks to leave the other person with more than they started with.

Sometimes he adds stories from the richness of his experience.

Talking over dinner one night, I shared about a situation at school. My grandfather, having a wealth of experiences to call upon, had a story of when he faced a similar situation. He began the story.

He told about an experience in the navy. That story reminded him of another one. He told about someone he knew from Kenya. Then he told about a recent conversation with a former student of his. The rabbit trail continued, and we never did circle back to the beginning. But that was OK.

It was OK because the stories were fascinating. And by the time he got to the end, I’d learned more than I bargained for.

Sometimes he meets a specific need.

Toward the end of my freshman year of college, I struggled to find a job for the summer. My wanting to work near Wheaton, where I have family, complicated matters. It was hard to search for a job in a city four hours’ drive from where I went to school.

My grandfather called upon his network at Wheaton College. He connected me with the paint department, and I got a job there. It was a perfect position.

Other times he provides guidance and advice.

As a high school senior, my first choice college was the University of Illinois. They had a top rated engineering program, and as a state resident, I’d have a lower tuition. I was all set.

Until I didn’t get in.

My grandfather helped me explore other options, compensating for our difficulty in doing research from Kenya. We examined taking a chance with the wait list, attending a satellite school, transferring after a few semesters, and attending another college. We eventually picked the latter option.

Throughout the whole process, I was struck by how he wanted the best for me – sometimes even more than I did. He wanted me to thrive.

Regardless of the need, he always goes over the top. His service is extravagant.

Occasionally, I stayed at my grandparents’ house. They made sure I had everything I needed and more – especially when it came to food. Grandpa always told me that if I went hungry at their house, it was my fault. He’d say that after offering me another piece of fruit, slice of bread, or bowl of cereal.

I never went hungry.

People remember when you help them. They remember that you put aside your agenda and offer them encouragement and assistance.


the rose reminds us
that there is much more to life
than seriousness

Our family often visited my grandparents for a meal. We enjoyed an evening of good food and conversation. After saying our goodbyes, we piled into the car to go home.

As we pulled out of the driveway, Grandpa ran alongside the car making funny faces in the window. Naturally, we returned the favor. The end result was laughter for everyone.

Affecting people is not always serious business. Remind people of the lightness and joy of life. Give them reason to laugh.


Although the rose may be a testament
To generosity so good and right
It ensures that it’s never overspent
By drawing water and basking in light

For all the attention and importance he placed on those around him, my grandfather never neglects to take care of himself.

He cares for his spiritual health. He spends time in prayer and meditation. He ponders and memorizes the scriptures.

He cares for his physical health. He eats well. He exercises as much as he’s able to.

He cares for his mental health. He reads books. He expands his knowledge.

He cares for his social health. He cherishes his wife and family. He connects with friends across the world.

If you are to affect others, be sure to give yourself a platform to stand on. Spending time on yourself ensures you have energy for others.


The smile brought about
by the fair rose’s beauty
gets passed to others

This past Thanksgiving, my entire extended family joined together for a meal. We traveled from across the globe to come together. Our celebrations testify to the legacy of my grandfather. Our love stands as a witness to the practices and habits he established. We are four generations of lives affected by his example.


Illness and old age may rob him of his physical strength, sharp mind, and sometimes even his memory, but I’ll always see the man that he is. I see him and remember how he affected others. I see him and remember how he affected me.

once to me a rose was given
a blessed sprig of bold and beauty
but now the rose is fading
an echo of its former splendor

a blessed sprig of bold and beauty
a touch of life and love and grace
for me and for others all around

but now the rose is fading
color dimmed by creeping brown
drooping low into a humble bow

an echo of its former splendor
but still i see it and remember
all the blessing that it is to me


PHOTO: Touch of a rose.

PS: Happy birthday, Mom.

20 thoughts on “The Legacy of Lives Affected”

  1. Thanks, Josh. You eloquently and thoughtfully describe what so many of us love about Grandpa. Your last paragraph and poem make me weep. It is difficult to watch the rose fade, but nothing will ever take away from the great man that he is.

  2. Beautiful. I too wept at your words. Thank you – once again – Joshua – for your amazing stories that create such heart connections. Connections not just to your story, but to my own. Blessings

  3. Well done Joshua, You outdid yourself on this one.
    And as you wrote I found myself saying Amen again and again.
    Your thoughtful discussion on various aspects of his life was so well thought out and written.
    After my dad died in Kenya when I was 5 he was a surrogate dad to me and what a great model he was. What a memory of having him walk me down the aisle to marry his son. And on and on.
    All through the years I too have heard testimony from others of the affect Dad Gration had on their lives. Just Sunday, “we are here in Kenya as missionaries because of John Gration.”
    But his ability to ask the probing questions and get beyond just the initial answers on any subject will also be something I will remember him by.
    We have been a blessed family to have him as our patriarch.

  4. Great blog. You said so well what all of us know and cherish about Dr. Gration, Dad, Grandpa, and Great Grand pa. He is indeed a man who has lived up to his name, “gracious.” Thanks!

  5. Connie, I’m finding that’s part of the magic of heroes. Their stories connect to everyone, even those who never knew them.

    Judy, Thanks for adding your stories. I love how his impact on others produces a chain reaction far beyond himself – time and time again.

    Dad, Another translation of his name, God is generous, also applies.

  6. Wow, Joshua! You are quite the writer! I was touched as I read your beautiful testament to your Grandfather’s legacy. Thinking of you and your family now as you remember your grandfather.

  7. Well written, well said. Your dad made postive impressions on me. I saw him at work (AIM headquarters, serving as my boss), at social gatherings (my parents hosted his son’s rehearsal dinner at our home), at church (NJ) and throughout the years. One time when he was visiting Wheaton College while I was a student there, he took some time with me at the dining hall during which he said in his encouraging way, “Marry a Christian, but not just any Christian.” In the future, he was the one at Wheaton and my husband and I sat with him at homecoming football games, enjoying meaningful, deep conversations. He and your mom had us in their home a couple of times (once overnight). During his retirement, I had the joy of introducing my son and his roommate to your grandfather. His genuine personal interest in every conversation came through. One didn’t leave a conversation with him without being impressed with time well spent. Your blog gives a succinct glimpse of the godly, wise man that I know I’ll see again. God blessed you abundantly in this life to witness Christlikeness lived out.

  8. Very well put. I’m in your parents Adult Sunday School class at WBC. I don’t know your family well, although I do see what you described in your grandfather’s attention to those whom he spoke to as evidenced in the very few conversations I’ve had with your mother.

    Your post was a refreshment to my spirit. I’m in the process of locating a nursing home for my father who is failing rapidly mentally and physically.
    There is a gentleness which you communicate the grief (due to the loss) and rejoicing (celebrating and savoring the sweet armoa of your grandfather) that we feel as we see our loved ones teeter on the threshold of two seasons.

    Thank you for sharing your balm of communication and perspective.

    My sincere sympathy as you & your family grieve and rejoice in the life of your dear grandfather.

  9. To the family:
    John Gration was a faithful, friendly, faultless follower of Jesus. He was the epitome of the Christian gentleman. Service could have been his middle name. He and Dorothy have been one of Wheaton Bible Church’s stalwart pillars of the faith. I have missed him in the services of late but now I know he is in the service of the King – forever.

  10. Karen, Thank you for your thoughts and prayers. They are much appreciated.

    Pat, That sounds like Grandpa. ๐Ÿ™‚ Thanks for adding your story.

    Lori, I wish you peace and joy in your remaining time with your father. And I hope you find a nursing home that both of you are happy with.

    Joe and Shirly, There are lots of words that could have been his middle name. Service is definitely one of them.

    Megan, He shared his life with everyone. We were all his family.

  11. Although he had never visited Hope for Life, he had imparted himself and all his attributes to you all. Your mum Barb and dad Scott, Ambassador Scott Gration ambbassador to Kenya and his wife Judy, your auntie Judy, Alex your cousin, Jonathan and Julie your cousins and you Josh and Sarah your wife, your brothers Jeff and Mathew and all family members, WBC has given us love which we strongly believe came from him. Seeing Barb, Judy and Scott Gration, we see Grandfather.
    He has left a shoe, which we should all walk in to transform lives for Christ and to honor this legacy. Grandfather, we shall meet again to dine with Christ Jesus.

    Hope f r Life see you through your entire family and Church.

  12. what a beautiful testimony your grandfather left behind! thanks for writing such a beautiful expression of his love and your love for him – lovely reminder of how Christ cares for us. my condolences to you and your loved ones.

  13. We have never had the joy of meeting you Joshua, but what you have written about your Grandfather is a treasure and TRUE. I held your dear Mom in my arms in Congo when she was a tiny beautiful newborn…we have loved your whole family for many years. Your Grandmother and Grandfather were two of the finest missionaries we have ever known and we have known 1000’s. You have a blessed heritage in parents and grand-parents and it seems the torch is being passed on into faithful hands and we praise the Lord for that. Follow in his train…he followed Jesus, faithfully, always. We grieve and rejoice, with you and all of the family. We could just hear Jesus say….WELL DONE!

  14. Hi Josh, Lovely to see what you wrote about your Dad. I too loved the poem about the rose and how it relates to how we see our parents/grandparents getting older. Not easy to watch – yet, as you wrote, the echo of the spendour is still there. You and I have been privileged to have parents and grandparents who love the Lord – a true blessing. THinking of you all as you adjust to life without your Grandad, but celebrate the certain hope of being with him again with Jesus in days to come. As someone said to me, the part of our heart that is in heaven grows as years go by and loved ones go before us – maybe that will help us keepthe important things in life in perspective. Love to you and Sarah, Rosemary (Brown – lived at Ong’er when you were really small in Nyakach!)

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