There are quite a few blog entries I’ve neglected to write through recent years, but I would be remiss and foolish not to write this one.
At the same time, I’m at a loss for words. Because as far as I’m aware, there’s not a sequence of words or one given word that could adequately describe my Paw Paw. To me, he modeled a life filled with strength, compassion, and integrity. As one friend wrote of him: “I feel grateful to know him as, in my opinion, he is truly one of the finest examples of a Christian I have ever known.”
The most vivid memories I have of him involve two things: work and religion.
When I was younger, I had the privilege of going with him on a few occasions to watch him repair various appliances for people around their homes. On more than one occasion, I watched him refuse to collect a payment from them or overheard him giving them extra parts or appliances for free. When I would meet his friends at church or when we were visiting places around town, they would rave about what an incredible repairman he was. I remember one time I went to eat with him and my Mee Maw and we ran into one of their friends who told me “your grandparents are two of the most kind and benevolent people I’ve ever met.”
That moment stuck and those words have stayed with me through all these years because I remember thinking that was pretty high praise to give someone. And I remember it sparking a desire in me to have the same kind of reputation when I was their age. For more than 70 years of his life, he worked. I don’t know that I know anyone else who loved work so much. I also remember another time when I spent a whole afternoon with one of his riding lawnmowers mowing the pasture for him and that was for sure one of the moments when I think he was most proud of me… never mind that I became overly confident and drove the same riding lawn mower straight into a pile of dirt not too long after that, which probably humbled both of us, haha.
Something else that stands out about his life is how faithfully he loved and served others. Which I believe was a reflection of the love and reverence he had for the Lord. I remember sitting with him and my Mee Maw sometimes when I would stay the night there and reading scripture with them and listening to them pray together. One night that will always stand out in my mind is when they both tried to encourage me with scriptures and advice not long after a friend of mine died unexpectedly. I was around 13 then, so it was a pretty impressionable time for me and a formative moment that I didn’t realize the significance of until much later in life.
As I’ve grown older and seen them both consistently continue attending church and serving others, I’ve realized what a unique and undeserved blessing it is to have a godly heritage. Its impact upon my life can’t be measured, but I know that it has shaped me in so many ways. My Paw Paw didn’t give me many material things as gifts. The one gift I have from him is a necklace that I intend to keep for the rest of my life. But far beyond any material possessions, he gave me countless (and priceless) gifts in life lessons, memories, and a good name. As Proverbs 22:1 states, “A good name is to be chosen rather than great riches, and favor is better than silver or gold.”
My Paw Paw gave us the gift of a good name. A name that many hear and know as someone who was quiet, resilient and wise. A name that many associate with hard work and skill. A name that, through 90 years of living the way he did, has come to carry a lot of weight and meaning and has consistently magnified the name of Jesus. He was a man in every sense of the word, but he was so much more than that. It’s honestly difficult not to put him on a pedestal at this point because my affection and reverence for him has only grown with each year that I’ve been able to see him display the same characteristics over and over again.
My favorite thing to do with him over the past few years was just to sit together. He would talk sometimes and tell me stories or give his thoughts about some current event, but it was usually just sitting and watching some TV show that interested him. The last few times I saw him, I tried to spend some time observing him and soaking up the moments that I knew were running out. When we visited him at the end of January, I knew it would be one of the last times I would see him or spend time with him. Had I known it would be the very last time, I would have stayed a little longer, hugged him tighter, and made sure he knew how much he meant to me. Now more than ever, I’m reminded not to believe the lie that you will always have more time with someone. I had 28 years with him, but those years feel like mere moments now.
You don’t realize how much you love and miss someone until they’re gone. The moment I was told he passed, I felt a void that I know will remain for the rest of my time on earth. A man I have always known and who has been one of the only “constants” in this ever changing life is no longer a phone call or day trip away.
Sometimes I would call just to hear his voice. He never had much to say. We would usually just talk about the weather and how things were going around their house. He would sometimes tell me about doctor’s appointments or people who visited, but it was usually just a short conversation of checking in. I’m terrible about making/answering phone calls, but occasionally I would think to check in and I’m grateful the Lord helped me to remember to call him a little more frequently in recent years. I would always tell him that I wanted to come visit and he would always say “come on whenever you want.”
So now there is this aching, this yearning just to call one more time. To hear that same sweet voice call me “gal”, to be able to tell him one more time that I love him and to hear him say it back…
there was no one like him. No one who holds this mythical status in my mind of being able to fix anything. He was one of the sweetest men I’ve ever known. He was so gentle and humble and was the kind of man so many aspire to be but few really become.
I could go on forever about the things I loved about him but would never be able to do him justice.
I am grateful to have known him. I am undeserving to have been related to him. And I will forever be proud to share his name because of all the good he represents to me and so many others.
By the grace of God, we had him for 90 years. By the goodness of God, we will have him for many more when we see him again.
“And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” And he said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give from the spring of the water of life without payment. The one who conquers will have this heritage, and I will be his God and he will be my son.”