Wednesday, November 13, 2013

A Tribute to Pop-Pop

This is the tribute I gave to my grandfather at his funeral.  I was talking to someone the other day about it and said I thought I might post it here to share with friends who were not at the funeral.  She encouraged me to do so.  I had to re-write a few things because I was able to write differently when I was speaking than I needed to for folks to read it.

I was blessed to have Pop-Pop all to myself for many years before my siblings and cousins were born.  Some of those years were even spent living with my grandparents, so I was able to spend even more time with him, which was just fine with me!  He was more than just a grandfather to me, he was a dad before God blessed me with one.  Both pop-pop and grandma have been huge influences in my life.  I was born in a very tumultuous time in our country… Into a situation that was not the best of circumstances…  As always, God was in control.  He gave me a grandfather who loved me with all his heart.  It took a bit for him to warm up to me, but he did! 
My grandfather never talked about my color.  He accepted me as his grandchild in a time where bi-racial children were not something accepted.  I say this because it speaks to my Pop-pop’s character.  He could have rejected me.  I’d like to think that is was because I was such a cute baby, but it wasn’t.  I was his family.  He accepted me as that and never treated me as less.

He was so patient with me.  I would follow him everywhere.  If he was fixing something, I wanted to fix it too, or at least try…  I would try to talk like him, even walk like him.  He had a way of walking where his head was tilted a bit.  I remember walking behind him, trying to do the same thing.  I learned how to drive a riding lawnmower because when I was little, he used to let me sit on his lap while he was cutting the grass.  He used to make sure he parked his car in his garage every night.  Sometimes, he would let me sit on his lap and steer the car into the garage.  I really thought I was doing something.  Looking back, he was doing most of the steering.  He always had his hand on the bottom of the steering wheel.  He kind of helped guide me through life that way at times.  I would ask him things, he would gently show me the way to do it.

He taught me how to tie my shoes, ride a bike, and even do maintenance on cars.  One year he found a bike in the garbage, if I remember right.  He fixed that bike up and gave it to me for Christmas.  That was a great gift, not just because it was my first bike.  It was great because he took the time to fix it and spruce it up as a gift for me!

As I got older, our relationship just got better.  Even though there were more grandchildren to share his love, I never felt less important or that there was less time for me.  I was talking to a friend the other day about Pop.  She and I used to go over to their house after I was driving.  She said, “I always loved the stories your grandfather would tell about growing up.  They always made me laugh.”  He just had that way with people.  They just seemed to love him.

He would just love on all of us.  He would bounce my siblings and cousins as babies on his leg.  He would take little ones for walks.  Witness the boys getting involved in all kinds of shenanigans, which were probably brought on by some story he had told them.  Of course, it didn’t help that you would have full access to his shop in the basement and the many tools to help in those plans.

Family was always important to Pop-Pop.  We would spend holidays together, have cookouts in the summer at their house.  When I got married and spent time away from home, those cookouts were some of the things I missed most.  I remember one Thanksgiving meal when, as we were sitting down, he said, “Make sure you put the mashed potatoes in front of Staci.  You know how much she loves them.” I just giggled.  The man knew me.

I remember telling the family when Will and I found out we were going to have our first child.  It was Easter and we were all sitting around the table in the dining room.  Little did I know that he and I would both be in the hospital at the same time when Jared was born.  Pop-pop was in the hospital with a hematoma that pushed on his brain and paralyzed him on one side for a short time.  I remember coming up to visit him when Jared was a little over a month old.  Watching Pop holding Jared, and me being so thankful that he was still here.

My kids have so many great memories of their great grandfather.  Jared said he will always remember pop-pop sneaking cookies.  He said even when he couldn’t move that well, he could somehow get in the kitchen and get some cookies.  Pop-pop always had 2 liter sodas in the basement for family events, or if you were over helping with something, he would give you a glass of soda for refreshment.  Jeanelle told me this story about pop-pop.   She said she had a bottle of juice.  She had finished it and brought it in the kitchen to throw away.  Pop-pop was sitting at the table with a 2 liter bottle of root beer and motioned for Jeanelle to come over.  She said he told her to put the bottle up and he commenced to fill the bottle with root beer.  He said, “Here ya go” and sent Jeanelle off.  I started laughing when she told me this, then thought, why is this the first time I am hearing this???  But, that was pop.  Always wanting us to have a cookie, or soda, or some dessert, or Manishevitz and fruitcake at Christmas and New Year once you were old enough.  Or, if you got to the house at the right time, wanting you to join them with in a meal.

I could go on and on, but I would just say- ask any of us.  We have such great memories.  The last thing, I would want you to know about my grandfather, is the greatest gift he left me with.  I grew up watching my grandfather faithfully go to church every week.  He would often go with my Aunt Gertie on Saturday nights.  It was important to him.  After he moved down here, he found a parish to attend and he went until he couldn’t drive anymore.  Sometimes family members would take him.  My mom has told me stories of them going through confirmation class as kids.  God was an important part in my grandfather’s life.  I know my grandfather was saved by the blood of Jesus.  By sacrifice that Jesus made on the cross to save us.  I know that as the Bible says in Romans 10:8-10
8 But what does it say? “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart” (that is, the word of faith that we proclaim); 9 because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.

So, although I am sad today, I also can rejoice in the fact that I will see Pop-Pop again in heaven.  I know he is in the presence of the Lord.  That he has joined in “the great cloud of witnesses” as it says in Hebrews 12.
Everyone talks about legacy and my Pop-pop’s greatest legacy in me is this: my relationship with Christ.  His taking time for church and God made me see at a young age that there was something important about it.  Today that legacy is a huge part of my identity.  It is what helps me be a better wife, mom, sister, friend…  So I end with this, what part of pop’s legacy is in you?  What will people see in you that was great about him?