My Grandpa

A year ago today we said goodbye to my Grandpa Jack.  The other day I commented to Grandma that it was hard to believe it had already been a year and she said “sometimes yes and sometimes no.”  I still miss him every day.  I thought I’d share the message I shared at his funeral.  It was a cold, miserable icy day but friends and family gathered (as able) to celebrate his life.  As you read, understand that this was written to be spoken out loud and was done so with a shaky, emotional voice.

Shortly after Grandpa passed away and I agreed to share today, I experienced a wave of anxiety. How can I possibly convey how special my Grandpa was? And then I thought, I have to do a great job and make Grandpa proud. Then the anxiety dust settled and I recognized two truths. One, you already know how incredible Grandpa was or you wouldn’t be here today and second, Grandpa was proud of me, this I have always known.

Grandpa’s death has been hard but made easier with the understanding that he was ready. He was prepared spiritually and emotionally for the next adventure. His body took longer to be convinced but his spirit was ready. Even so, saying goodbye is hard. Selfishly I want my grandpa, to be here with me. I want to occupy our 4 generation pew at church, I want to go to games with him, and I want to see the sparkle in his eye as he hands me a tootsie roll for being a good girl.

Most of all, I desperately want my boys, his great-grandsons to know and remember the kind of man Grandpa was. So, in that spirit, I’d like to talk to Logan about my grandpa, his Papa Jack. And Logan, I want us to tell Jack these stories so that he can grow up knowing the kind of person he was name for. The rest of you are welcome to listen in.

Logan, you are so lucky. You had 7 ½ years of being adored by your Papa Jack. You and your brother made him very proud. Papa Jack taught me a lot of lessons. More than I can say in one day but these are a few:

  1. Popcorn IS an acceptable Sunday night dinner.
  2. Find a team and root them on. Celebrate their wins and find the glimmers of promise even in the roughest losses. Get to know the players, coaches, and support staff. Wear the team colors and travel, when possible, for away games. Heckling the refs is ok as long as your comments are witty and not mean spirited.   Don’t put down the opposing team and never belittle their accomplishments.  Make connections with other fans. Papa Jack was the chairman of the “R” section at Drury College basketball games and became the ultimate Bear Booster. The attention shown our family in Grandpa’s memory, this past Thursday night at the UCA basketball game is testament to that. (There was a moment of silence at the game with my Grandpa’s picture on the screen.  Grandma was presented with a signed ball and received hugs from all of the cheerleaders.)
  3. Potato chips can cure most emotional ills. However, if you have a cold, Papa’s remedy was to put on warm clothes, drink a soda, and eat very salty popcorn. You will sweat out that cold in no time.
  4. Be kind. When I was about your age, I went with Papa Jack on his weekly Meals on Wheels route. Prior to entering one home, Papa told me “Stink, the lady inside may not be very nice. She may say some mean things and may not like the food we are bringing. But we are going to be nice. We may be her only friends this week.” I cannot think of a single encounter in which Papa wasn’t kind. He thought of others before himself. Were there time he was mad or disagreed with someone? Sure, he was human. But he was kind.   I think he found the perfect balance of innate kindness and purposeful kindness.
  5. Love deeply. Logan, your Papa loved you. He loved your brother Jack. He loved your, Unc and he loved Tess. He loved his children, your Sweet P and Uncle Pat. He loved his bonus family, your daddy, Granddude, and Aunt Deborah. And he loved Granny D. How do I know? Because he told us.   But more importantly, he showed us. He showed us by being involved in our lives. He attended plays, piano and band performances, Camp Fire events, sporting events. He cut out articles from newspapers and magazines he thought would be interesting for each of us and sent them in the mail. He cut out comics from the funny pages he knew would make us laugh. And, he listened. Even as a little girl, I knew that when I talked to my grandpa he was hearing me. I knew that when I was talking to him, I was a star on his stage and he was the most wonderful audience.   Papa loved your Granny D with every bit of his being. You could tell by the tender way he talked about her, the spark in his eye when he teased her, and more recently, the way he pleaded with the rest of us to take care of her when he was no longer here. He wasn’t showy with his love and affection but he didn’t need to be. We felt it and continue to feel it.
  6. Sometimes its best to just let your wife dress you.   Also, as you age your pants and your hat may rise above where you wore them in your younger days. Papa didn’t fret about this. In fact, he knew it provided his younger generations fun and a way to spot him in the crowd.
  7. There is always enough love. Logan, I was spoiled. For many years, I had my own bedroom at Granny D and Papa Jack’s house. Suddenly, the most beautiful brown eyed, curly headed baby girl was born in Texas and I had a cousin. I admit, I was not happy about Lauren’s room becoming “The Girl’s Room.” I couldn’t imagine how Granny D and Papa Jack could love your Unc, me, AND that baby Sarah Tess. I tried to keep these feelings to myself but one morning Papa let me know he’d figured me out. I had spent the night at their house and that morning he was making me our traditional French toast breakfast (powered sugar, not syrup). He began asking me what I thought about having a new baby cousin. Then he told me that his own dad once doubted he could love any grandchild as much as he loved our Uncle Pat. Papa said that once your Sweet P was born, Papa Jack’s dad, Papa Jess apologized to her over and over for not thinking there would be enough love. This story is a favorite of your Sweet P’s. But for me, Papa Jack told me the story and then told me that God make our hearts able to grow and grow to love all the people in our lives. Sure enough, I met my cousin Tess and it was true! And before your brother was born, your Papa reminded me that our hearts would grow again to love baby Jack.
  8. Integrity feels better. One Christmas I really wanted a pound puppy stuffed animal. I had hinted and hinted and that is what I wanted more than anything else. A few nights before Christmas, we went over to Granny D and Papa Jack’s house for dinner. While the grownups were busy with the meal, I went snooping and guess what I found? The pound puppy AND one for your Unc hidden in the back of a closet. Papa Jack caught me snooping but didn’t say anything. The anticipation of a possible punishment was intense! But he stayed silent. On Christmas Eve, we opened our gifts. I got exactly what I wanted but the surprise was of course already spoiled due to my snooping. Everyone was happy for me to have such a great gift but I felt horrible! Guilty, rotten, and ashamed. After we finished opening presents, Papa took me onto his lap and whispered “Stink, it feels better to just be honest. This Christmas will always be your reminder.” To this day, I do not snoop.
  9. Be able to laugh at yourself. When you have those awkward clumsy moments, share them with your family and laugh. Papa Jack joked about accidently wearing Granny D’s volunteer vest with the darts sewn in. He laughed about the workshop accident that led to his nostril being ripped by a rouge bungie (bung-gee) cord. He laughed because life is more fun that way.
  10. Logan, I would be hard pressed to find a better example of the kind of Christian men I hope you and Jack grow into.   And that would surely make Papa very uncomfortable to hear. Papa Jack said at different points in his life that he never quite felt worthy of God’s love. I wonder if this is what drove him to give back to those around him as much as he did.   Papa did more than go to church. He became the church. He served and participated within the walls but took a spirit of mission in to the community as he served with meals on wheels, the hospital auxiliary, queen city good sams, and other organizations. I think he embodied the spirit of Christ through his actions and gentle social focus.

Ok, Ok. I could go on and on but I’ll save more stories for more days. Logan, I’ll repeat what I said earlier and I want you to listen. You are so lucky to have known Papa Jack. Everyone in this room is lucky to have known Jack Carrithers. I know that I’m going to miss his presence daily but also know that he has left a legacy behind. He left us behind and we are that legacy. We can honor his memory by loving each other, being kind, taking care of one another, and laughing.

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