Monday was a beautiful spring day in the mountains of Western North Carolina. Crisp morning air followed by blue skies and sunshine. A gentle breeze to keep it cool and comfortable. A perfect day to celebrate a beautiful life.
When my grandfathers younger sister died in August of 2017, on the way home from her service, Mom told me that when Popaw died she wanted me to speak at his service. Little did I know what a task and challenge I would face.
Popaw took his breath last Tuesday. I had almost a full week to prepare. One would think a week would be enough time. Normally, it would. But this was not normal.
Stories and memories were swimming in my mind. I could barely finish one thought before another would interrupt. Not one story won. Each story held a specific and special meaning and not one more meaningful or important than the next.
How could I tell one story without telling ten? Honestly, I struggled. There’s no way to choose just one and we hadn’t the time for more.
So, instead, I chose to speak about the character man Popaw displayed because his character has had a profound impact on my life. So, I asked family members to send me three words that came to mind when they thought of him. Here’s the list.
Mom, Aunt Trisha, and Uncle Onald: kind, faithful, pleasant, Godly, easy going, trustworthy, loving
Kristi: giving, loyal, wise and intelligent
David: Hero, unconditional love, father.
Ryan: kind, wise, patient
Matthew: observant, loyal gentle
Alex: calm, wise, virtuous
Amy: generous, tender-hearted, earnest
Zach: Generous, loyal, caring
Terry: hero, wise, loving
Me: generous, wise, joyful
As I prayed and thought over these words, I realized they all had a commonality. They all speak to the character of the man behind them and his integrity. Popaw was man-marked by integrity. Integrity derives from the Latin word integer meaning whole or complete. Popaw was the whole package. But his full wholeness was not realized until April 23, 2019, when God called him home. At that moment Paul’s words in Philippians 1:6 became Popaw’s reality, ”For I am confident of this thing, that He who began a good work in you will be faithful to complete it.”
Popaw was a humble, gentle and kind man who exercised patience, generosity, and wisdom throughout the course of his life. He was a man marked by unconditional love, faithfulness, and complete joy.
I rarely remember a time I didn’t see him smile. His smile was infectious and kit up a room. In fact, at the very moment, he breathed his last breath Robert, a family friend, and I were standing over him talking about his sweet smile.
Popaw knew his strengths and weaknesses. He was not a perfect man but he was truly a blessed man. I am not speaking from a monetary perspective, although he always had enough. When I say blessed I am talking about the constant joy that welled up in him and spilled into those who knew him. This is not a common joy but one that comes from knowing the Lord.
Last week our Pastor, Bruce Frank, said, ”Until Jesus is enough for you, nothing will be enough for you.
I am here to tell you that Jesus was absolutely enough for Popaw. This is why his life was marked by integrity, wisdom, and kindness. He knew the joy of being content no matter what.
His life exemplified the following:
Yet I am always with you; you hold me by my right hand. You guide me with your counsel, and afterward, you will take me into glory. Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. —Psalm 73:23–26