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幾年前一個寒冷的下雪天，我有機會參觀著名的Jack Daniels’威士忌酒廠，這個位於禁酒區域的造酒廠為參觀者提供詳盡的導覽，看著從附近山區，透過石灰石過濾的山泉，直到在疊滿木桶的倉房等候熟陳的產品。那些新酒在多孔洞的木桶裡，隨著年日過去而略有蒸發，也變得精醇。這揮發於空中的微量威士忌就是所謂「天使的分享」(The Angels’ Share)。
I had a chance to visit the Jack Daniels' Distillery a few years ago on a cold, snowy day. Upon arriving at the iconic working landmark in the middle of an - ironically - completely dry county, visitors are offered a rather comprehensive tour of the facility, from the limestone filtered waters from the nearby hills and mountains, all the way to the finished product aging in the barrel storage warehouse.
Along the way, there's a stop at the barrel-making building; a place where the warmth was very welcomed. No adhesives are used in the barrel-making process, but rather some rather tight steel hoops bring together the wooden staves on the outside while a scorching fire toasts the inside to the flavors desired. The barrel is still somewhat porous, but together enough to fill with liquid.
After a long process of fermentation and distillation, the product is poured into the barrels and allowed to age. It is during this aging process that the wood barrel absorbs some of the whiskey, while a good portion of really fine, aged whiskey will be lost to evaporation. The angels' share is the common name given to this portion of the whiskey that seemingly flies away.
My grandfather was admitted into hospice about a week ago. The thought of it is still new and relatively raw in my mind.
My parents were visiting me the weekend when the call came that my grandfather wasn't doing well, having receded into a coma-like state, which expedited my mother's trip to see him in Taiwan. I had just sent my grandfather a birthday card for his birthday.
Upon arriving and getting a handle of the situation, my mother sent pictures of my grandfather in his hospital ward, and eventually his hospice room.
It was a bit stunning to see the quick decline of a man who had lived a tremendous, accomplished life. It's always a bit stunning to see people literally shrivel up with old age; and all the more shocking when it's someone on a hospital bed getting ready to see the throne of God.
I think of how my grandfather went from this strong, steady figure in my life to someone barely there on a hospital bed with some sadness, but also some relief and peace. Sadness for the coming loss of life, the memories, and love of a great man. Relief for him no longer having to suffer in the ailments of old age. Peace in knowing that Christ has him and will usher him into the invisible heavenly realms.
There are so many memories and not enough time and space to share them all.
I think back to the moments when I was really young and he demanded that I learn how to walk without a hunch, with my head held up, shoulders squared, with the confidence of a man - we'd march around the house until I got it right.
The times while I was young when he would sneak out of the house with my brother and me to grab pizza, and then take the full wrath of grandma for such poor food choices.
I remember him throwing a Frisbee in the park with my brother and me when he was in his early 80's, even diving and rolling on one particularly poor throw (by my brother of course).
My grandfather was someone who could fix just about anything electrical, even if it meant a few sparks here and there.
This was a man who had stubbornly beaten back cancer just a year ago - unthinkable for someone at his age, a mini-miracle in it of itself.
He was someone I had a conversation with in person during a visit just last December... and of course, imparting his normal dose of wisdom with an heartfelt oft-reminder - "and workout a little bit more; you're a bit too fat for your age" ... a reminder of his ability to still do push-ups and pull-ups well into his 80's.
I'm pretty sure he's where I got my sarcasm from and I can't appreciate him enough for it (that being said coincidentally without said sarcasm).
As I see the recent pictures of my grandfather, I have to smile a little - knowing that even though his body is wasting away here on earth, he grows closer and closer each day to our Heavenly Father ... becoming more and more like the angels in heaven. I think back to the day that I toured the distillery and saw the barrels with the differing amounts of the angels' share having been whisked away.
In a sense, God is taking the angels' share of my grandfather a bit each day and in doing so, renewing my grandfather's soul a bit much closer to Himself each day until finally calling him home.
“Though our bodies are dying, our spirits are being renewed every day. For our present troubles are small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever! So we don’t look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen. For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever. ”~2 Corinthians 4:16-18 (NLT)http://classic-blog.udn.com/jchen50/1130892[父親的愛]
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