Six months ago this morning, my grandfather, whom I called Papa, took about five short, halting breaths, and then left his cancer-stricken body for Heaven. The strong, kind, generous man was gone, and we stood around his body, stunned and spent from walking beside him as he fought right to the last breath. A few minutes later, my step-father called us all outside, to see a beautiful full moon setting over the lake. “Papa would have loved that,” we said, and then we laughed a little as we realized that Papa died about the time he would have been getting up for coffee. He got up for much better than coffee that day.
I’ve been putting off this post for weeks, overwhelmed with too much to say and not enough words. This week, I hope you’ll hang in here with me as I try to wrestle my love for Papa and grief at his passing into words that fit. For today, this half-anniversary day, here are the thank you’s I read at Papa’s funeral. For today they’re the only words I have.
Thank you, Papa…
- for teaching me to bait my own hook.
- for really believing I could be an astronaut.
- for giving me a tool set for my birthday, and engraving my initials on each piece.
- for helping me having a home that I love.
- for taking me to RV driver’s ed, and teaching me the difference between the gray tank and the black tank.
- for loving Nana.
- for buying me bottles of Mr. Pibb when I came to visit at Cold’s Machinery.
- for letting us hang onto you in the Gulf while you found sand dollars with your toes, and then letting us dive down to get them.
- for the way you would just barely stick your tongue out when you were thinking…and how some of us picked that up without ever realizing it.
- for delighting in me…for delighting in all of us.
- for having lifelong friendships with the McGowans, the Fudges, the Howzes, and so many others.
- for being there – at ball games, graduations, school openings, weddings, dance recitals, and promotions to Captain.
- for dozens of breakfasts at the Breakfast Nook, Perkins, Richard’s, Cracker Barrel, Bob Evans, and Nancy’s…and for being kind of disappointed that IHOP was so far away on Dale Mabry.
- for loving children, dogs, this country, and your in-laws, a combination not always seen.
- for loving us first. We loved you back, and we will keep on loving, just like you taught us.
Papa was a gift to my family. I miss him terribly.