This week marked Eugene Peterson’s 85th birthday, so Relevant Magazine author, and friend of Eugene Peterson, thought it would be a great occasion to share a little of what his relationship with Eugene and Jan Peterson has meant to him over the years.
Editor’s Note: The piece originally ran on Eugene Peterson’s 85th birthday. This weekend, he entered hospice care.
By Daniel Grothe, Relevant Magazine
At the end of August, I went to spend two days with them at their home. Though I’ve met up with them a few times at retreat centers across the country, this was my fifth visit to their home in Montana. Every time I had gone to their house before this trip, they were in a position to receive me with some semblance of strength. On my first visit, Eugene was a vibrant 77-year-old who had just finished writing Practice Resurrection: A Conversation On Growing Up In Christ.
That was the fifth manuscript he’d written in five years. His mind was energized and energizing to me, his young interlocutor. He would rattle off exact quotations from Kierkegaard and von Balthasar, Torrance and von Hügel. To be with him was to be invigorated. I remember all those flights into that modest little airport in Northern Montana. I would find myself looking out the window like a giddy 7-year-old boy on his first trip to Disney. I can’t believe I get to be here!
But the trip in August was different. Instead of that giddy feeling of going to visit a legend in the faith, a literary icon whose 40-plus books I have devoured, I felt the sober seriousness that one feels when he gets to visit an aging grandparent. It was one of those trips you take because you don’t know how many more of these you’ll get.
I showed up at their place that afternoon, and they were sitting in the front room. Jan, with that perfectly gentle voice of hers, was reading Eugene one of their favorite novels. The front windows were slightly opened, and I could hear her voice as I walked down the steps to their front door. We spent the afternoon together catching up and doing small jobs around the house. I noticed a few light bulbs were out, so I changed them. I took out the compost while Jan picked some basil from their herb garden. We made dinner. The stuff of life.