Monday, January 10, 2011

my grandpa...a man unlike any other

me and grandpa in a familiar and favorite position (home from clemson - spring break 1997)

i told you i would post what i wrote and read at grandpa's funeral.  i guess i needed some time.  it's important to me that you know him a little better and grasp a little bit of how great he was and why we love and miss him so much.  here he is.  grandpa...a man unlike any other.

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over the last several months, i had the honor of spending a lot of time with my grandpa...a man who was more like Jesus than most any other person i have even known.  i thought i knew my grandpa.  i certainly knew him from childhood.  i had my memories and an accurate appreciation for peppermint ice cream and soft, funny ear noises.  i couldn't listen to him play i'll fly away, one of my most requested, without singing along with him on the chorus or hear johnny cash's folsom prison blues without picturing him...perched on the fire place hearth of his duncunville home, with me knelt beside him on the floor, begging him to play my favorite guitar parts again...knowing he would let me do the strumming.  i know all of the words to tennessee flat top box...and when i would sing you are my sunshine to my kids, i could hear grandpa accompanying me in my head...singing along in perfect melody.  i would always be reminded of him every time i watched it's a wonderful life...because i always thought he looked like jimmy stewart,  or when i read or saw to kill a mockingbird.  i am convinced that the character of atticus finch is my favorite because i think gregory peck  looks like him as well...and grandpa might as well have been atticus finch...the way he tenderly knelt to talk to his daughter, scout or gently and respectfully corrected his son, jim.  i knew we were to root for the cowboys and the OU sooners, and i'll never forget his surprise when i asked him to dance with me at my wedding to the judd's song, grandpa.  that was him.  and i knew him.

however, over the last months of his life, i was privileged to be able to get to know him in a whole new way.  i finally took the time to enter his listen to ask questions...and to learn.  i began longing for those moments...stealing them away from my life in the evenings after my kids were in bed.  i knew i wouldn't have him much longer.  and i began appreciating this wise man in new ways.  i appreciated my grandpa...and the man of God that he was.  i saw and became in awe of his gentleness...and his character...and his wisdom.  i got to pray with him.  i got to tell him of his us, and on this earth.  i got to tell him that i do the soft, funny ear noise in my kid's ears and that they lean in close and giggle and ask me to do it again, just like i did when he would do it to me as a little girl.  i got to tell him that i sing you are my sunshine to my kids and that they know all the words and can sing it too.  i got to share chocolate malts with him and offer what little encouragement i could when he was down.  i got to remind him that my youngest daughter's name is annslee james - and that i was so proud that she shared a name with him.  i will tuck away these moments and carry them with me...because now, they are all that i have of him.

on one of these treasured evenings with grandpa, i brought my bible along...thinking he may want me to read to him.  he was comfortable, and content and asked for me to read from ephesians.  i started at the beginning and he closed his eyes to listen.  i stopped when i thought he had drifted off, but he opened his eyes and made a reference to the verse i had just read and explained it to me in a way i hadn't thought of before.  i asked him if i should keep going and he said, "yes."  i got to ephesians 4 and began the chapter:

"i, therefore a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the spirit in the bond of peace."

at that, i stopped and said..."grandpa...that is what you have done.  you have lived your life in a manner worthy of the calling.  you are the most humble, gentle, patient, and loving man i know.  you are such a great example to us."

i needed him to know, that while i still cherished and appreciated my memories of him from childhood...i was appreciating his character and the fact that i could look at him and see what it meant to be like Jesus.

in the last days of his life, grandpa asked to hear the song, back home again.    i'm sure he was recalling an old record or tape...but was pleasantly contented when my brother, kevin pulled john denver's version up on his phone and held it by his ear for him to listen to over and over again.  i think this song has come to mean a great deal to all of us now...and our favorite version of it is the one you are about to hear.  he recorded us a treasure...long ago, with a small tape recorder, a cassette tape, his guitar, and his sweet, sweet voice.  this is grandpa...playing and singing to us, just like he always loved to do.  our lives will not be the same without this man in them...but i know heaven is rejoicing...because grandpa just made it home.

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how i wish i was technically savvy enough to be able to have that song playing for you while you read this...but i am just not.  i have no idea how to do that. 

anyway...i do hope you enjoyed getting to know grandpa a little.  your life would have been enriched had you known him personally...just as ours are.

me and grandpa dancing to the judd's grandpa at our wedding (november 27, 1999)


Juli said...

Thank you for sharing this Mindy. I feel like I have been touched by your Grandpa because I know you and have been touched by you.

Anonymous said...

Mindy, there is no way a father could be more proud of a daughter than I am of you. I love you deeply. Thanks for doing such a wonderful job of describing some of my father's special qualities, and for helping make his funeral service a true celebration of his life and a Christian witness to all that attended. Dad's whole life was family, and he loved you so...often speaking of your wisdom and worrying about your workload of raising four children. He often commented to me that you were such a wonderful mother. We were so lucky to have him. Thanks for who you are. Love, DAD

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the words and the picture you painted of your grandpa. What a gift you have been given in him and your relationship. Your words and memories will continue to be a treasure and will help your children know the legacy handed to them. I thank God with you for his life and his love that clearly has marked you all. Thanks for sharing him.