My Papaw passed away a few nights ago. If you knew him, I’m sure I don’t have to convince you of how great of a man he was. To those of you who didn’t know him. Here’s a glimpse at who he was from the eyes of an adoring granddaughter.
1 John 3:18 says, “Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth.”
It’s hard to put my Papaw fully into words, but I can say Papaw lived out the love of Christ in his life. Everyone who met him saw his joy and usually walked away with a smile. Here are some ways he made me smile by living out love in his actions and in truth.
As a teen, one thing that always stuck out to me about Papaw was how he treated every sales person, waiter or waitress he met. He always noticed their name and used it. He would engage in real conversation and I remember a few times where he learned their life story or current struggle before our food even arrived. He’d give a meaningful goodbye and offer his prayers for them. When he was dealing with health problems, he always knew the nurses and doctors by name and would find out all about them. When visiting him a few weeks ago, one of his nurses popped in and flashed a few numbers on her fingers. I looked at Papaw, confused at what she meant, and he immediately offered his praise… it was her golf score from the day before. He learned things about people and truly cared. Apparently one time, when I was a kid, I smacked him on the arm when we got back out to the car because I thought he was flirting with the waitress in front of MeMe!
But if there was one thing I was sure of, it was that Papaw was head over heels for MeMe. I spent a lot of time over there as a kid, and I have many memories of Papaw flirting with her around the house. He’d sneak up behind her as she was cooking or cleaning and give her a pinch, or a little scare, or just pick on her in general. Always harmless and silly stuff, but always enough to get a reaction from her. She’d turn around giggling and tell him to go do this or that instead and he’d switch to an exaggerated obedient voice, “Oh yes ma’am, of course ma’am. Whatever you say.” And he’d swagger off with his huge grin, leaving her giggling as she worked. Sometimes he’d holler, “Lois!” (usually 1 syllable, 1.5 max). He’d holler it with this warble-y helpess voice that drove MeMe crazy. I remember her coming around the corner a few times, a wooden spoon or spatula in her hand, threatening, “Now, June… I’m gonna thump ya if you don’t leave me alone!” 🙂
One of Papaw’s great joys was golfing. He was always buying a new club, working on his swing or watching golf on television. He used to go golfing all the time, and he would always bring the same snack: peanut butter cheddar crackers, a banana Moon Pie and RC cola. Walking the course, if his back allowed, adorned with his large straw hat. In all of my golf knowledge, I would always tell him, “Beat the course, Papaw!” and he’d assure me afterwards that he did. I remember him returning home one day after getting a hole-in-one. He was giddy! One of the toothiest grins I’ve ever seen!
Papaw loved his lawn and garden at their old house. He spent hours every summer tilling, planting and weeding. They had a large garden at one point where they grew the best tomatoes. I remember that back yard as a cornucopia of sorts : tomatoes, potatoes, grapes (the best!), gooseberries, mulberries, squash, strawberries, rhubarb, and a sassafras tree. Papaw hated the groundhogs that threatened his paradise and he went after one of them with a golf club one time. I think that was a hole-in-one too.
Papaw and MeMe built a cabin in the woods in Virginia when they were younger. We used to go there every Thanksgiving when we were able. They both would go hunting for deer and turkey. I always thought it was funny that Papaw hunted turkey because he refused to eat them. I can picture his curled-lip now that he would make at the mere mention of eating turkey. I think he lived on a turkey farm when he was younger and that was the reason for his aversion. He was squeamish about turkey and other things, and I inherited that general squeamishness from him (although I don’t mind turkey).
I loved watching Papaw eat biscuits when I was a kid. He’d hold the biscuit in his left hand, scoop some butter and jelly on to his fork, eat the butter and jelly off, and then take a bite of the biscuit. He’s the only person I’ve ever seen who ate them that way. He also loved buttermilk, but he would always leave about a half-inch in the bottom of the glass, as he grew up with non-pasteurized milk. I remember having a spit take as a kid when I accidentally mixed up his buttermilk with my 2%. Yuck! He always took his coffee black in a “dirty cup,” which he would ask for every time. His favorite candy was circus peanuts. His favorite simple snack was saltine crackers with regular milk poured over them…. a seriously delicious treat. He usually had Certs in his pocket, on top of his dresser, and in his car.
Papaw’s love and joy shined through most when he was around kids, especially his grand kids. He was the best with babies. They loved him! He would just have to make a silly face or say a playful, “You shup-up,” and they would giggle and coo. But I was his Velcro Baby. When I was little, I clung to his shoulder so fiercely that I earned that nickname, and, well, it stuck. Every birthday card I received from him was always written out to “My Velcro Baby.”
He used to play games with me that I’m sure made sense in my childhood brain, but now they just make me smile. For example, the picture below is just one of many that I have with Papaw dressed up in whatever random things I found around the house,
I do clearly remember him playing Pretty Pretty Princesses with me one time. He wore clip on earrings and the tiara. 🙂 But Papaw was the best at Checkers. I don’t know that I ever beat him at that game, and we played many times. He also loved to play Rook, and would play often with my aunts, uncles and cousins. I’m not sure how I’ve made it this long in my family without learning how to play, but I need to. He and MeMe also enjoyed the card game Spite and Malice. They would start the winter with a roll of quarters split between them, they’d wager a quarter each game, and see who ended up with the most by the end of the winter.
I could write so much more about my Papaw. He’s one of the best people I’ve ever known, and I think he’ll always rank up there. He lived a truly gospel-centered life and I know he’s rejoicing in heaven, at the throne of God. He’s reunited with MeMe, his son Kent, and all of his friends and family that passed beforehand.
I was able to see Papaw and say goodbye before we left the states. It was incredibly difficult. We cried fiercely but spent time together in prayer, asking for peace and contentment. One of the last things he said to me was, “I want to see you in heaven.” He lived his entire life – every relationship, every situation, every acquaintance – with that as his motivation. He cared about the people around him and wanted to see them in heaven. Because of his prayers, the grace of Jesus he demonstrated through his life, and the spiritual guidance he gave to my entire family, I can say that I will see him again one day.
As he always used to sing, “In the sweet by and by, turnip greens and apple pie…” 🙂