Dear Paw Paw: A Life Remembered

Dear Paw Paw,

Last night you stepped out of time and space and stepped into eternity with King Jesus, the Maker of heaven and earth. The hope of Heaven is realized and every ailment and tear removed. You’ve been given a new body and issued new work. Oh to hear the stories you could tell about all your eyes have seen, ears have heard, and soul felt as now you know fully, even as you have been fully known for the 85 years you lived in this life. Welcome to eternity Paw Paw!

Ask different people in our community and family as to how they will remember you as they look back on your life well-lived, and they may say a number of things: athlete, serviceman, coach, teacher,  principal, disciple maker, father, friend, fisherman, sportsman, and for my Grammie, faithful husband of 62 years. For me, however, I like to remember you as gardener, hard worker, loyal member of your community, and teller of stories and a few yarns. Perhaps someone should add a real character to this list. I think that would be fitting.

The picture I will hold in my mind’s eye, is one of you sitting in your work clothes, sweaty from the garden you faithfully kept until a few years ago–just as your mother and father before you–drinking a Coke Cola, and eating a Nutty Bar. After your snack you would head out fishing and enjoy time in nature. It wasn’t until recently that I connected your and Dad’s love of fishing with my own love of hiking and exploring nature. I didn’t inherit the Cost/Davis fishing gene, so I never went on too many fishing trips. I simply couldn’t, and can’t, sit still and wait that long for a fish.  I do enjoy a boat ride just the same.

There are two pieces of wisdom you directly related to me which I will hold onto and follow. The first one being how we can repay our parents for the sacrifices they made to raise us. You passed on this information to me shortly after the death of your mother. Ron and I were newlyweds and we couldn’t make the 500 mile trip for her funeral. The next time we came home, you were out walking and I drove by and rolled my window down to talk. You told me that your mama said the only way we can really repay our parents for all they did for us, was by raising our own children well. I have thought of that often, Paw Paw. I just thought you should know.

The second piece of advice was concerning sports. Having been an athlete yourself, and then coaching dozens or hundreds of young men, you told me that you wouldn’t put your son in sports until they were in middle or high school. You said injury and burn out were too likely and to let our son(s) play for fun before getting serious about a sport. I agreed, and still do.

A few particular memories that I have of you are snippets from my childhood. I have a tendency to forget large chunks of time, but there are some vivid memories that remain. Like each Christmas morning when you and Aunt Ginger would come and see what presents we had received. Or the time you came and picked Mom, Julie, and I up to take to your and Grammie’s house during the Blizzard of ’93 while Dad was out restoring people’s electricity. As well as the time you and Ginger also came to pick us up after we got our pickup truck stuck in the deer woods and had to walk to civilization. I also vaguely remember a story about Brett and Chase riding their bicycles through the Jemison Elementary School  hallways after the original wood floors were newly stained. I don’t think you were to happy with them then. I’ll be sure and ask them about that later.

By far, of all your accomplishments and accolades in this life from friends and colleagues, the greatest gift you gave this world was being a faithful husband and father to your wife and three beautiful girls. That is a legacy that will live on for generations. God promises us that this is so (see Exodus 20:6). I also agree with G.K. Chesterton, The most extraordinary thing in the world is an ordinary man and an ordinary woman and their ordinary children. I am forever grateful for being a part of an ordinary family; in today’s world that is an extraordinary thing.

We are joyful you are Home and tearful that you are gone. I love you Paw Paw…see you when I get Home.

P.S. Everyone knows behind a great man is an excellent woman. No one who knows you doubts this. We will take good care of Grammie for you. She is a rare jewel.

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  1. Gwen Price says:

    Brooke, This is a precious article about your grandfather. He was well loved by all of his former students, including me! Gene was a special friend to Wayne and me. We will always cherish that friendship. I know that Heaven is just a little bit jollier with his arrival, and I am sure that Lamar is very proud to see him. Wayne and I extend to you and your sweet family our condolences. We know that it is just a short separation, but it is still hard to separate. God bless each of you. Gwen Price

  2. Becky Tucker says:

    What a wonderful tribute to your grandfather. Thinking of you all during this time of sorrow and rejoicing in the fact a reunion will be held one day! May God’s strength sustain you all during this time.

  3. Sue Green Quillen says:

    What a beautiful tribute to a wonderful coach, teacher and loving grandfather. You were so lucky to be his granddaughter! I saw him at the class of 69 reunion a couple or three years ago and we had a good laugh together talking about our memories when I was in school. He was so jolly that day and that is the way I will always remember him. Thank you for your memories!

  4. What a sweet article. He was such a loved man. My kids always referred to him as the “doughnut man” because while we were at JFB he would always supply my kids leftover doughnuts from his Sunday school class. Thanks for sharing this. We are praying for you and your family during this time.

  5. Thomas Rayfield says:

    This was so well written and captures all that I remember about him growing up. Thank you.

  6. Wendy Avery says:

    What a great man he was. He was my principal at JHS in the eighties and every student in that school respected him. He was a leader, mentor, and an example for how to live and act. My heart hurts for his family and our community. Praying for your precious family.

  7. Pam Sanford says:

    Brooke, What a beautiful tribute. I am sorry for your loss.

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