Memories of Grandpa

The below was a short address given at Mum’s Book Launch for My China Mystery.

My memories of Grandpa center around a number of points, moments in time.

There is Grandpa standing in the pulpit, dressed in heavy black robes and white collars, as it seemed in my memory. His baritone voice commands attention, even from a young boy given to having his head in the clouds more often than not. He preaches with a confidence born of the text of God’s Word. He sings deep and full, praise to his King. He prays with arms outstretched – an action I have thought on long and hard.

Grandpa prays with his whole heart, and as a preacher, as a shepherd of the flock, he prays for the portion of God’s flock that are before him.

There is Grandpa in the garden. His daggy comfortable mended pants and shirts weathered and worn as he was, craggy features, white stubble. His hands care tenderly for the plants. The vines, the trees, the fruit and vegetables. He prunes and gathers and grafts. He is a gardener reflecting the Great Husbander, God the Father, who loves and cherishes the true vine, Jesus Christ, and the branches, us.

Which brings up the memory of Grandpa at the end of the table. Eating porridge with great tablespoons of brown sugar liberally sprinkled and mixed through it. He reads from Gods word at every meal. Reads and then unfolds. He speaks of the scarlet thread of Christ being present throughout the entirety of the Bible. He speaks of the importance of faith, and has us go over the book of Romans where he points out specific verses and passages that bear the point and focus of our faith. And he sits at the table and prays. He prays long, which for little minds can sometimes be hard to maintain the discipline of listening and following along with the prayer.

But we sit quietly, hands together, eyes closed. We listen to Grandpa pray, and often the memory of Grandma, who died before my memories really became clear, of Grandma punctuating the prayers with her own agreement of ”amen”.

Before all else these memories point me back to Jesus. They remind me to be daily turning to the Lord. To read His word every day. To wrestle with and cry out to Him in prayer.

My memories of Grandpa, and the few of Grandma that I have, they serve to humble me before the cross of Christ.

Because in the end this heritage that we have is not made of mans boasting, of how great and mighty my Grandpa was, of his abilities and strengths, or even of his weaknesses. These are important, but they are not paramount.

This heritage our family has been given is of an eternal and everlasting nature. It is a heritage ordained from before creation. It is a heritage given by the Lamb slain from before the foundation of the world. It is life in Christ Jesus, owning Him as Lord and Saviour. It is submission under the sovereign and immovable will of the Almighty God.

My Grandpa is a big part of my memories. Most of all because he points me to the King and says “look to Him”.

At our wedding Grandpa read out a prayer he had typed up on his battered old typewriter.

In finishing I’d like to read it now.

Almighty God, Omnipotent, Omniscient, Omnipresent, our Heavenly Father, source of all life and love. We beseech Thy blessing on – names – who have covenanted in Thy presence to live together as husband and wife.

We pray that You will unite their hearts in true sympathy and love that their life together might be a shining example of Christ-like affection, pure religion and consecrated joy.

If in Your goodness You should bless them with children, make them adequate for all the testings and trials of family life and bestow upon them the grace and wisdom to bring up the little ones in the nurture and admonition of the Lord and in the ways of the Church of God.

Dear Lord, we beseech Thee to bestow Thy Fatherly blessing on the families enriched by this union. May our homes be filled with Thy peace, and our lives be spent in Thy fellowship and service until we arrive at last to the blessing of Eternal Life.

Again we would remember – names -, praying that their love for Thee and for one another may ever grow sweeter and stronger until in the evening of life, when the shadows lengthen and the day darkens one has to lay the other to rest. O Lord may it be with the joy and confidence that “underneath are the Everlasting arms” upholding and keeping until that Great Day when both join together in Thy presence to sing praises to, and worship the “Lamb slain from before the foundation of the World, our Saviour.”

Within Arms Distance Of Her Majesty

The fat gray drops of rain splattered about, around my feet, on my new suit pants and coat, mussing my new haircut.

The camera, if there were one, pans up and forward, and you can see a line of people waiting to be admitted into the grounds of Buckingham Palace, home to Kings and Queens and not-so-bonnie Princes.

If you were to put on x-ray specs, for that it what you’d need to see inside the Palace, given no cameras or video recorders were allowed, it would be with awe and wonder that you would gaze about at the marble busts of kings, the oil paintings of the royal families, the stern-faced real-life guards upright and silent.

The Investiture was held in the Ballroom. It was a large room, with red-carpeted seat benches lining three of the four walls, and then seats ordered in the front half of the floor.

We were given an order of service, and then one of the officials walked us through what would be happening. Dancing girls, kegs of mead, haunches of roast boar .. Ahem. No.

We were seated right at the back, and above us was a small Orchestra from one of the Military Bands. They played an excellent mix of old, middle and new music, starting with “When Somebody Loved Me”, the song in Toy Story 2 (Sarah McLachlan sings it).

I’ve blogged about Grandpa’s story, and Mum has an entire blog dedicated to the story of Grandpa and Grandma in China as Missionaries, and Grandpa’s time as a soldier.

The importance of the Gurkha’s (of which Grandpa was a Captain) was underlined in the Investiture. Two Gurkha Orderly Officers attend the Queen as she entered the Ballroom, a tradition begun in 1876 by Queen Victoria.

There were quite a number of people receiving awards on that day. By far, the majority were for non-military reasons. I was reminded of the awarding of a “Colors Coat” at school, and the indignation expressed by some (the relief by others) when Non-Sporting Colors were given.

This is what a military MBE looks like However, in my mind, Grandpa’s award was the most important of that day. Because I’m biased. But also because it was posthumously given over 60 years after being awarded. And because it was for military service.

Two people were knighted. One person was already a “Sir” but got a different Order.

On a more amusing side, someone got an MBE for “Services to Knitting” or some-such. I cast no disdain on the person who received it; But the contrast between an award for battle, war, killing and violence in defence of one’s country or beliefs as opposed to the practice of making scarves is quite stark.

Mum was at the end of the handful of Military awards. As she approached the Queen, things did get quite emotional. I felt Kate (sister) start to feel the same, and I’m sure Dad was too (wasn’t sitting next to him).

There was a lot of weight on this moment in time. There was the amazing story of the last few months, of how the MBE was discovered. There was the life of Grandpa and Grandma White, of which we grandchildren barely knew, but now has been brought to light through Mum. There was the presence of one of the last true earthly Sovereigns.

And there was the memory of  Grandpa himself. That he was awarded this, dare I say when these awards meant a lot more, and that he lived his life without it. That he would probably shrug, wave his hand, and think nothing of it anyway. But that we, his children and grandchildren, can honour this memory in the receiving of the award, and in the retelling of the story.

I feel compelled to be clear, as in previous posts. I do not hold Grandpa in a “saint” status. Yes, he was a hero to me, especially as a younger man, but not more than my own Dad is. And certainly in no way sinless.

Visiting the Queen was an amazing experience. The whole weight of Grandpa’s MBE made this something truly special and “once in a lifetime” in it’s events.

Oh, and yes, Her Majesty passed within a couple of meters of us folk in the back row.

Next in this series is a couple of posts about Ireland, visiting some fantastic landmarks and places.

London Baby!

I’m sitting in front of a very cozy fire somewhere in the wilds of Northern Ireland.

Underground! Last Thursday and Friday I was treated to the sights and sounds of London. I arrived via Fly-Through-The-Air-Mobile at around 5am to Heathrow, and immediately got on the wrong side of the lady behind the train station counter by asking what would be the best train to get to a particular address (where we were staying).

I arrived at the station quite a while later, emerging into the brisk air of a London morning. I wandered around a little, asking people for directions. I finally went into a Starbucks and got some helpful advice. About two miles later I hit up some Police-Folk who advised me I needed to walk all the way back and another mile or so.


In the map Joey! Anyway, after a shower and wotnot, I started to enjoy the stay. We got into the city proper (I suppose), and immediately got into the map.

London is an interesting place. Especially for a mortal such as myself who hasn’t ever been there, and tends to be very child-like in my excitement.

First. Let it be known that it was in London I had my first New York sandwich. Salted roast beef. Some kind of gerkin-ee thing. Mustard perhaps? Whatever made up that delightful piece of delicacy, it was fantastic.

Tiny CarsSecond. Because it was quite cold outside, I figured a fellow such as myself who sweats a great deal would have it wonderfully brisk throughout the day. I forgot to take into account that everyone else doesn’t like to be cold, and so the inside of places is quite warm.

Third. They have some small cars.

Fourth. And this is true for Ireland now that I’ve visited here a bit too. When you look at a building, it’s possible that the building has been around for a long time. I mean, in Aus, it’s an old building to have been around at the turn of the century. Here, wowza. That’s a youngling.

Only being a day after Remembrance Day (11/11), there was a lot of memory around.

Remembrance Day

We discovered a section for the Gurkha’s, and decided to do a cross for Grandpa.

Francis William Fielding White

After this, my brain started to blur. We were given a guided tour of St. Pauls Cathedral. That was a wonder. So much history. One particular piece is that after the Second World War, a fair chunk of the space was given over to architecture for the United States, the men who served, died, and the help that they gave. Also, you get to have a cup of tea in the Crypt. Also, everywhere important has a Crypt. But it’s friendly. No zombies or ghouls that I could see.

I’ve got a couple of videos that’ll hopefully be edited into a single and put up here soon.

I’ll leave you with a picture of Dad and the GIANT lions. Which are metal. But still awesome.

Dad and the Giant Lion

A Man Who Walked The Mountains

Grandpa and Grandma Of mortal folk, only my Dad influenced me more as a young man than my Grandpa.

Grandpa was a big man. In stature, but also in presence. He was commanding, even as he grew older. The only time I remember him different was at his deathbed.

Grandpa was a soldier. He fought as a Captain in the Royal British Army, his command being with the Gurkha’s in Burma.

Grandpa was one of the most humble men I’ve ever known. Like my Dad. Sure, on the outside they might have been different. But both men meekly walk(ed) under the mighty hand of God, seeking out His glory rather than their own.

Grandpa was awarded an MBE for his actions in the war. He never received it. He was a member of the British army, but he was born and bred here in Australia. After he returned with Grandma and Mum the MBE didn’t find him.

Grandpa and MumBefore and after his time in the military Grandpa worked in China as a Missionary. It was in China that he met Grandma. It was in China that my Mum was born.

Mum has written a blog called “My China Mystery”. It’s her telling of Grandpa and Grandma’s story from the many letters, photos and memories throughout her life.

I cannot read it without a deep emotion welling up in my heart.

Here is history that should be treasured. Here is a story of courage, of humility, of love both romantic and eternal.

Read the prologue, and you will see a child’s experience of a father who went to war and came back changed. It hurts my heart to read this passage. That a child would know these things at such an early age. That Grandpa was a man broken by the war and (I would surmise) the seeming failure of Christian witness in China. Grandpa, Grandma and Mum had to flee China in 1949.

My Grandpa sent me a letter many years ago. I was at the beginning of University, and had begun “preaching on the lawns”. It was an intense time of passion and facing the fear of rebuke and mockery.

His letter told me of how he had stood on soapboxes in Melbourne, preaching the Word of God. It was a handwritten letter that I kept close for many years. Reading it was a window into the world of my Grandpa.

Grandpa was a man. But he was my Grandpa.

I miss him now, and look forward to singing the praise of the King together with him in the fullness of time.

My Mum was invited to Buckingham Palace to posthumously receive Grandpa’s MBE. Mum invited me, as well as Dad and my next Sis,  along. So come mid-November I’ll be sitting in the presence of the Queen of England, thinking about Grandpa who’s no longer broken, but sanctified fully and in the presence of the King of all Creation.

Sadness. But joy entwines it, and brings us through.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.

Hebrews 12:1-2