I grew up in a home where friends became family, and everyone received monikers like “Grandma Ann” or “Uncle Bill”. I think I was probably 12 or 14 before I even realized that Grandma Ann wasn’t blood-related. My parents filled my life with people who loved me as their own, even though I wasn’t. I was surrounded by adopted “relatives” whose influence shaped who I became. They lifted, supported, cheered for, and loved me, even at my most unlovable.
One of these special friends passed away in October, my uncle’s dad, whom I affectionately knew as Grandpa Francis. My uncle gave me his dad’s old church pew as my “inheritance”. He knows me so well. I somehow finagled this giant beast into my SUV and drove away like I stole something.
Years and years ago when Grandpa was the bishop, the old Vernal 1st ward chapel was torn down to make room for the hospital expansion. He was given a pew to remember the special old church house. The pew had years of scribbled graffiti carved into layers of finish. I’ve looked everywhere for the before pics, but I’m thinking I took them as Instagram stories before I knew how to archive… *hangs head in shame*. Imagine decades of Johnny + June, for a good time call numbers, and a few choice cuss words.
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After hours of sanding and stripping the old finish, the old pew got a coat of weathered oak finish and some rub on poly. I wanted the pew to feel original, not like it was brand new. This pew had a story to tell and I couldn’t take that away. I left the deep dings and scratches as a little reminder of who I am and the reason for church in the first place.
I’m imperfect, just like that old pew. I’ve seen better days, I’m worn and tired, and yet each morning I get up and try again. I go to church not because I’m a saint, but because I’m a sinner. Dieter F. Uchtdorf once said, “The Heavens will not be filled with those who never made mistakes.” and it comforts me to know when I fall short, that it’s ok. God doesn’t care where I have been, all that matters is the direction I’m going.
Grandpa’s church pew and it’s message lives on.
He takes us as we are and makes us more than we ever imagined.
-Neill F. Marriott