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Monday, June 29, 2009

A Life Well Lived

On Tuesday my husband's grandfather passed away. It occurs to me as I try to write about him that it would take volumes to record all that should be said about this man. He was the kind of person about whom moving tributes are written. I will try to do him justice here on this little blog.



Last November I wrote a little bit about Chuck's "Pop" and his other grandfather for Veteran's Day. I have absolutely adored every moment of the past 13 years with all four of my husband's grandparents. We were so fortunate to have them for as long as we did, and that was something we both recognized all along. Since 2007, both of my father-in-law's parents have passed away, and my mother-in-law's father suffered a major stroke. Pop had been in a nursing home for 15 months before his death, and his daily struggle to recover was truly inspirational to everyone who knew him. But that was just the way he was. He was the kind of person who inspired others.



Pop was born in 1922, way down in southeast Louisiana, practically in the Gulf of Mexico. His father was a boat builder and his mother was a midwife. Pop grew up speaking French as his first language. He learned English in school, but always told us that his thoughts and even his dreams were still in French. From an early age he learned how to build wooden boats with his father. Pop joined the Army as a young man and served his country in World War II. He was able to use his knowledge of his native language as an interpreter while serving in France. Pop survived five major battles in his Tank Destroyer battalion while overseas and had a reputation among the servicemen for being the fastest foxhole digger. After he finished digging, he would sit on the edge of his foxhole and read his New Testament. Pop was a man of great faith, and he later became an ordained Baptist minister, pastor, and lifelong missionary, preaching sermons in French in small mission churches across South Louisiana. He and his amazing wife married in 1946 and raised three daughters (the eldest is my mother-in-law). Pop was such a devoted family man. I was always touched by his love for his wife and the way they shared every task together as a team. They had a beautiful marriage.



After he retired, Pop devoted his later years to his woodworking and carpentry hobbies, and he always had a list of projects to do for other people. Even on the day of his stroke last year, he was busy working in his shop on remodeling projects for their bathroom. He was also an amazing artist, drawing landscapes from his childhood memories with remarkable accuracy. Pop was known all over his community for his "napkin art," the beautiful pen and ink sketches he would "doodle" and give to everyone he met.



After his stroke, Pop lost the use of his right side as well as his ability to speak. During the months in the nursing home, however, he learned to use his left hand to continue his passion for drawing and to communicate his love to his family and friends by making the sign for "I love you."

Carpenter, soldier, war hero, pastor, father, grandfather, missionary, veteran, friend, volunteer, craftsman, artist, husband of 63 years -- these are all part of his legacy. Any one of those things would be remarkable enough, but Pop embodied all of them. Beyond what you've read here about his life and his work, he was also a man of impeccable character. He had a kind and gentle way about him. The words I've most often heard used to describe him are "sweet" and "precious." He always greeted me with a smile, a big hug, a kiss on the cheek, and the words "Hey, cher!" (which means "dear" in French). Pop loved people and he loved to visit, but he was a man of few words. He loved to sit and enjoy company, and he would listen and laugh but he never did dominate a conversation. Oh, he had great stories to tell, but he rarely took the floor. I think it's just another way that he showed how much he cared for others. He always put them first. Granny and Pop remained active in their community and church well into their 80s, serving as volunteers and giving all that they could to those in need. I have no doubt that his wife will continue this tradition for as long as possible now that he is gone. I will always remember how Pop loved the Lord, and how that love spilled over into his great love and service for others.



I know this is a long post to read about someone that most of you never met. I have so many of these little treasures tucked away in my memory, just like the beautiful pieces of carpentry and art that decorate nearly every room of my home and were made by his hands. Just one more story and then I'll be done.

I had always noticed that my sweet husband took after his Pop in so many ways. When he was young, he liked to draw and paint. Now that he is an adult, his favorite hobby is woodworking. He loves to build and create things, and he is so handy around the house. Also, he loves people, but he is very quiet in a crowd, just like his grandfather. But one day I truly saw how similar they were in the most adorable way. Chuck was being ordained as a deacon in our church, and Granny and Pop had come for the occasion. We were getting ready to have sandwiches for lunch, and I walked into the kitchen to find Pop standing all alone at the counter, "drawing" on his bread with the bottle of mustard - not for anyone's entertainment, but simply for his own amusement. I stood watching him and smiling, because I'd seen my own husband doing the same thing so many times before. Honestly, I can't think of anyone I would rather see my husband emulate. If he continues to grow up to be just like his Pop, I will be one happy girl!



We've just returned home from being with family for several days for the funeral. It was so moving to see all of the people whose lives have been touched by this incredible man. The whole time I kept thinking to myself, What a man. What a legacy. It was a life well lived, and he didn't waste a moment of his 87 years. I am so honored to have known him and to have been loved as one of his own.

25 comments:

prayerfuljourney said...

Beautiful post...thanks for sharing! That is wonderful to have known such a great man. May the Good Lord bless his soul. I'll pray for him too. God Bless.

Alicia said...

Truly a life well lived! What a blessing he was in you and your husbands lives! I love the mustard story it brough tears to my eyes. This whole post brought a smile to my face, sorry for your temporary loss, what a neat man :)

Chuck said...

My Pop was truly a unique and wonderful man. I consider any similarity I have with him an honor. It has made me realize that I'm not near the man of God that he was at my age, which has inspired me to spend more time in God's word and in prayer.

And Pop was definitely always fixing something. In fact, somebody joked that he was probably oiling the hinges on the Pearly Gates. :)

iamstacey said...

My condolances! I'm so sorry for your loss. What a beautiful tribute to a beautiful person!

Michelle said...

Wow, what an amazing man. Thanks for sharing this. I hope everyone has a person in their life like Pop. He sounds like he was an inspirational and loving man. I'm sure he's in heaven now looking down on you. I'm so sorry for your loss!!
~Michelle

Kathryn said...

What a lovely & touching tribute. How blessed you were to have in your lives.

I can't help but hope that the passing of someone so dearly loved doesn't get lost by others in the passing of so many "famous" folks this week. He deserves his time to be honored.

Life In Mazes said...

What a beautiful life. It is amazing that others can say he never wasted one moment. What a legacy. I am sorry for your loss. I am glad you have so many wonderful memories of him and that he loved you well.

Andi said...

Beautiful.

Melissa said...

Thank you for sharing this. What a beautiful inspiration and emotional reminder of what counts in this life...
Will be praying for your family as you celebrate and grieve together.

andrea_jennine said...

I'm sorry for your Pop's passing. Peace to you and Chuck.

Connie said...

I will always treasure the picture he drew for me on a paper plate. What an amazing man and what an honor to have know him.

Jenn said...

Absolutely touching and heart-warming. I know it's a sad time for your loss but as you know, he's in a wonderful place! And Chuck, I loved the comment about oiling the hinges on the pearly gates. How funny! Stace, you would have done an AWESOME job on the eulogy. You paid a great tribute to him on your blog.

A said...

Wow, what a beautiful testament to his life! I'm sure he is humbled at how you describe him :) What a blessing to be so close to him and have him as such a great example!

Amy said...

You find such sweet, kind ways to share the people of your life with us. What a great role model for your husband. Sorry for the loss for your family.

Lauren said...

Thank you for sharing - that was so beautiful and touching. I'm sorry for your loss.

Andrea said...

What an amazing man! Thank you for sharing his story. I'm sorry for your loss, but happy that you were able to know such a great person. :-)

Charisa said...

What a gift to have a Godly example for your husband in "Pop." A rare gift for sure. Please give Chuck a big hug from Jody and Me. Love ya!

sharonvw said...

Stacey, your tribute to "Pop" is so beautiful that it moved me to tears.
What a special man and what a special girl you are to love so deeply & so freely.
All my grandparents are dead, so I'm so glad to see you say that you do recognize how lucky you are to have them with you for so long.
Lots of Love!

Michelle said...

Please check out my blog when you get a minute. Something is waiting for you!! Love ya!
~Michelle

Hear My Cry said...

So sorry for your loss. {{{}}}

Michelle said...

This was so beautiful! I am sorry for your loss. He sounds like he was a TERRIFIC man!

twondra said...

Oh, Stacey that was beautiful. Thank you so much for sharing. I'm so sorry for you loss, sweetie.

You are definitely in my thoughts and prayers. Love you

kim_brough said...

Beautifully written post. Imagine how great the world would be if we all strived to have these things said about us after we're gone.

Rebekah said...

Such a beautiful tribute to him. I'm sorry for your loss but glad you have such wonderful memories.
Peace & love to you

Deb said...

Such a sweet and fitting tribute! I only met them one time and what an impression they made! Their hospitality was nothing less than the light of Christ shining from their eyes. I remember thinking these are the people who will hear the Lord speak to them, "Well done, good and faithful servant."
I will be praying for your grandmother.