Wednesday, May 17, 2006

How a simple man changed so many lives...

For the first time in a long time I'm having difficulty putting my feelings into words. My head hurts and I feel sad and depressed. The truth is I am having a hard time dealing with papaw's death. My dad, mom, bro, DH and I couldn't attend the funeral, but sis and grams are there in our place and oh the stories being passed around about papaw! I am told we are all going to get an earful of some funny things when sis and grams get back home. That is the funny thing about funerals, is they bring out some of the craziest stuff we never knew about the people we love so much!

Papaw was a simple man. He was born into a poor but proud farming family. He never really knew his father, his mother died when he was seven, and he was raised by his mother's parents and so took their last name. Papaw married mamaw in 1937 when he was 22 and she was 16. Times were hard back then and they had to work very hard to have just the basics. Despite being poor and living in a small house, papaw and mamaw raised five children to be good and decent, honest, hardworking people. They proved that money has nothing to with raising good kids.

Papaw worked hard and awoke before the crack of dawn every day of his life. He always wore old workboots, a hat and overalls with a pocketwatch tucked neatly in the breast pocket, except on special occasions when he'd wear a suit. He worked many jobs during his 91 years of life and when he finally retired from his city job, he wasn't ready to sit home and do nothing so he went back to work in the private sector. Papaw always had to be doing something and so he worked long into his late 80's, stopping only when he was just physically unable to keep up.

Tonight my sister told me that she and our cousin went through papaw's drawers looking for something and they found a drawer full of old baby shoes, probably belonging to my cousins who were raised up there, and some probably belonging to his own children. They also found various photographs....of his children and grandchildren. In that same drawer were all of the cards and letters that my mom and dad sent him over the years. It does not surprise me that sweet man kept all of those mementos, as he truly cherished his family more than anything else.

I feel a tremendous loss in our family, a great hole in my heart and I know all those who loved him feel the same way. I console myself by thinking about the ways he affected all our lives. I believe you can tell a lot about the kind of life someone led by the impact on those they leave behind. Papaw's impact is indescribable. For two days, the funeral home in Kennesaw has been packed to capacity with hundreds of family, friends, coworkers and acquaintances who loved and respected papaw. And all of these people all have stories about papaw and they rejoice in their fond remembrances of him. And talk of papaw has no doubt led to other crazy family stories, where relatives and friends sit around the table or on the front lawn just gabbing for hours about all the things that have happened not just to papaw but to the family, over the course of many decades. It's so strange how the death of a loved one can bring so many people together to share not just tears but joy too.

Papaw was a humble man and I doubt he ever really knew the impact he had on our lives. But I am so grateful to have known him, to have been a part of his life. I am so proud of the kind of man he was, I am proud of the the family he raised, and I am proud of the values and traits he passed down to us. Papaw wasn't perfect and he would have been the first person to tell you that straight up, but papaw didn't have to be perfect and without faults for us to love him. It was so easy to love him and he loved us, all of us, especially his children and grandchildren. I consider myself blessed that for the 36 years I have been on this earth, he was part of my life.

Today at the official service, hundreds of people will say goodbye to papaw and he will be laid to rest in the family plot at Kennesaw City Cemetery next to his beloved son Raymond. And at that moment, we will be forced to move on with our lives, whether we want to or not, it's what papaw would want us to do.

What comforts me and makes me smile is knowing that as long as we remember him in our hearts, he will always be here with us, always.

Mamaw, dad, papaw, Uncle Raymond and Aunts Annette, Martha, and Judy in this favorite family photo taken during a big family gathering at the old house in Kennesaw in 1978.


  1. Anonymous5/16/2006

    That's a beautiful tribute. --ST

  2. Don't be too hard on yourself and expect yourself to get over this quickly. We're designed to feel pain for a reason, and if you succeed in shutting that parts of your emotions down, you very often block out the best ones, too. Keep living your life to make your Papaw proud, and the healing will come.

  3. I'm so sorry, Jessica. Grieving is a long process whether we realize it or not at the time. The good stories and feelings will remain in your heart.

  4. I wish I had some wonderful, magic words that would make it all better...but I don't. I am glad to get to know your Papaw through your words, though. (((hugs))) to you and your family. Prayers are sent from up here in GA for ya'll!