Ninety years ago yesterday, Tom Kies was born. He doesn’t own the farm where he was born any more, but his grandson does. He doesn’t drive the combine anymore, but he rode along for many hours this fall. He lost his wife of sixty-four years in September. When family and some friends gathered last night, he was the oldest one in the room.
I’ve known him for 32 of those years. I met him because I was planning to marry one of his daughters. He accepted me, and I him. We always shake hands when we see each other and when we part. He has a very strong handshake.
He also has strong concern for the wellbeing of his clan. Sometimes that concern comes out as cranky. But I think that he’s trying to say “I love you” when he tells us to be careful or to watch a certain network or to be careful with our money.
He’s waiting for the end of his part of the story. As well as he can for someone who is ninety.
While I was thinking about what it must be like to always be the oldest one around, I thought about Simeon and Anna. They both saw Jesus when he was an infant. We know that Anna was 84 when she saw Jesus. We don’t know how old Simeon was. They both hung around the temple, waiting for something. They were waiting for hope, they were hoping that the wait wasn’t pointless.
Tom and Simeon and Anna kept living one breath in front of another. They kept, and keep, listening for God. As Tom said tonight after I prayed for the meal, “Thank you for these ninety years.” It was a quiet prayer, like Anna’s and Simeon’s. But that’s Advent. Waiting thankfully for what comes next.