“8 When Israel saw the sons of Joseph, he asked, “Who are these?”
9 “They are the sons God has given me here,” Joseph said to his father.
Then Israel said, “Bring them to me so I may bless them.”
10 Now Israel’s eyes were failing because of old age, and he could hardly see. So Joseph brought his sons close to him, and his father kissed them and embraced them.”

When I was very young, Grandad Thompson, my paternal grandfather, lived with us, in Lancaster, for half of the year. He then went to live with his daughter and son-in-law (my aunt and uncle) for the other half. This arrangement came about because he lost his wife when he and she were relatively young. I remember walking with him to the cemetery on a Sunday afternoon, when he would place flowers on her grave. (I filled the water container for him, but sometimes I came closer to washing his shoes!). Grandad T was a kind, gentle man; he was a professing Christian and regular church-goer. After we moved to Wigan, around 1963, he would regularly visit at week-ends, or come on holiday with us. I felt blessed by his presence, to be in his company, to ride next to him in his car – even when there was no conversation. There was just ‘something’ about him.

Grandad Barbour was my maternal grandfather. Unlike Grandad Thompson, who lived only into his mid-60’s, Grandad B had a life-innings of 91. After he lost his wife, my Nana, in his 60’s, I used to spend regular school holidays with him in his humble, little old person’s bungalow in Lancaster. I could be with him for weeks at a time, and I never got bored. As with Grandad Thompson, I learned so much from him, from being around him. He taught his grandson by who he was, and through many fascinating stories from his long life. Unlike my other grandad, he was not a professing Christian, but I felt from him a reverence for God, and a respect for Christianity (and for my path in life).

A week or two ago, we had a small family gathering at Lancaster cemetery for the internment of my dad and step-mum’s ashes. It was my dad’s wish for his remains to be in the family grave, along with his mum and dad and other family members. Jilly and I arrived early for the ceremony, and driving around the area where I often walked with my other grandad, I was struck by the realisation that very little appeared to have changed in 50 years.

Anyway, the thought of grandfather Jacob blessing Joseph’s grandsons led to this admittedly personal train of thought. As far as I can remember, these two dear men never placed their hands on my head and formally blessed me. But in so many ways – ways they may never have realised – they blessed with their love, kindness, presence, interest, example and gift of time. I feel blessed to have known them as special ‘friends’. They were.

Grandparents have an important ministry. You can impart something to your grandchildren no school or college or money could ever give. Long after you have gone, they may well bless your memory.

Even if you don’t have children or grandchildren, the role of spiritual parent, or spiritual grand-parent, is still open. There are many young people who need the blessing of older people, and there’s more than one way to bless.