This is not a happy day.
Insightful, maybe. But not happy.
“Yeah, but we all are,” you would say, if you could. Maybe it’s selfish, and maybe I am a few hundred miles away, but I would love nothing more than to see you breathing again before it’s time for you to go.
You’d tell me not to cry, and that you’ll always be there, but that won’t change the tears that we’ll all shed when you leave this earth.
I miss you. I have every day since I left home. No matter how many phone calls, or how many times I came back for birthdays and holidays, I always felt like that was never enough. I’ve been attached to your hip since before I could walk. You taught me so much, and gave me so many tools to succeed in life.
Even your old man advice, that would drive me up the wall sometimes, proved to be wiser than I could’ve ever known. The jokes, the riddles, the booming laughter after you said something that embarrassed me, and the way you made the hardest tasks seem so simple, all added to the legend of a man that you are.
I thought you were invincible.
As I grew up, you grew older. The years of activity on that larger-than life frame finally took their toll. You couldn’t do the things you used to do. The man who, in my mind, could do anything, was reduced to an armchair and a trip to the bathroom every once in a while. That broke you inside, and it broke me too.
I’ve built up so much guilt since then, because I left town to live my own life right when things got rough for you. You did so much for me, and even now I feel like I should’ve done more for you.
You’ve always known better.
You wanted me to go. That much is plain to me. You never once told me to stay, in fact it was always the opposite. I just hope that I’m making you proud, and living the way that you would want me to live.
Maybe I should’ve written all of this down sooner. Then again, I didn’t think this day would come so soon. You’ve given our family so much of your time. You always found joy in the little things. I still remember the smile that would come across your face when I would walk through your front door. That never changed, even though we did. It’s been less than a month since I saw that smile, and now it’s setting in that I’ll never see it again.
Enough of me being selfish.
You changed more lives than you’ll ever admit. You never met a stranger and always saw the best in everyone. You carried around candy in your shirt pocket and gave it out like Santa Claus on Christmas Eve. You blazed literal trails in the woods for generations of people to enjoy. You always gave back and made everywhere you went a little better just by being there.
I could write a book about everything you’ve done for the community, our family, and all of the lives that are blessed to have you in it. You’re not gone yet, but you will be soon, and the world will be a harder place without you in it.
I’ve done my best to express how important and impactful your life has been on mine, but what you may not know is how impactful it’s been on others. Even in our own little town, your fingerprints are everywhere. Your love for the common good surpassed anything else in your life. You lived to serve others in a way that I have yet to see replicated.
Thank you, Papaw.
From the bottom of mine and so many others’ hearts. We all love you, and will always love you.