It took me a long time to start writing this post. Then it sat partially written for awhile. The longer I waited to finish it the greater the pressure I felt to make it perfectly articulate and tie everything up at the end. I don’t know how to do that, and I don’t want to. In fact, I think I need to work on doing that less—tying a bow on my thoughts, following a heavy reflection with a half-hearted happy one for the sake of ending on a positive note. Life is too short to be half-hearted about anything, isn’t it? Sometimes it’s okay to just be in a valley for a bit between the plateaus and mountaintops.
Pawpaw turned 92 on November 22nd. A few days later, on the day before Thanksgiving, he went to be with God. He is not suffering anymore, and for that I am so, so grateful. We will always miss him, but I have a lifetime of wonderful memories stored away. He had an amazing life and was healthy and active and mentally sharp until the very end. He is the first of my four grandparents that I have lost, and I realize how blessed I am to be able to say that at the age of 29. My siblings and I grew up seeing our grandparents fairly often, so this is going to be an adjustment.
It’s hard to say goodbye to Pawpaw, but the week of the memorial was not all sadness. My sister and I put together a slideshow of photos from his life. The events of his time on this earth sort of started to meld together in my mind. His sickness and old age are now just as much history as his service in the army during WWII and his baseball career. It’s all the past, and the chronology of it matters less now. This is surreal, but in a good way. Looking back on his life and hearing stories from friends and family who came to the funeral, two lessons stand out to me. These are just two highlights of the many nuggets of wisdom I want to carry with me from my Pawpaw:
1) Be an encourager. I read somewhere that people won’t remember what you did or said nearly as much as they will remember how you made them feel. This describes my Pawpaw perfectly. He had a booming voice and a bright smile–a powerful presence in any room he occupied. He touched so many lives because he really, really cared about people. When he spoke to someone, they had his full attention. He remembered details about people’s lives and had an ability to see their strengths. He brought out the best in people. Even on his deathbed in the last few weeks of his life, the staff in his wing of the hospital all fell in love with him. He was encouraging one of his caregivers to go back to school and finish her degree. Can you imagine? He never stopped encouraging the people God brought into his path, and I want to be that way.
2) Be grateful. Pawpaw had a lot of jobs, and he did well. He had a voracious appetite for learning though he never went to college. From what I can tell, he worked hard and learned all he could with each job that he had. Ecclesiastes 9:10 says, “Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might…” He embodied this verse, and thinking about that really inspires me. It’s amazing that any of us would ever have trouble being grateful, but sometimes I do. Pawpaw didn’t dwell on what he didn’t have, and he was a joyful man. This attitude served him well and glorified God, too. When we practice gratefulness we radiate joy, and people are drawn to us.
Thanks for meeting me here, dear readers. Happy holidays!