Today, for the last time in my life, I said goodbye to my Poppy.
Well, I didn't physically say goodbye. We were at a funeral home, and really there are way too many folks at funeral homes for me to actually be able to comfortably say goodbye to someone who has died. But anyway, today was the last day I'll be able to see my Poppy, in the 3D, at least. Two of my cousins as well as my aunt talked for a bit about my Poppy today, and that was truly great. It was the one way I'd want him to be remembered: we told stories.
My cousin, Adam, probably said what I felt was closest to my thoughts about Poppy. Adam described himself as "not exactly religious," and I am going to go so far as to actually say what I mean, I am an atheist. I don't believe Poppy is "in a better place," or that he's "happy now." I guess I could go so far as to say that he's not in any pain--he's dead. Adam summed it up best when he said that although Poppy didn't "go" anywhere, he is still here--in each and every one of his kids, grandkids, and great-grandkids.
And, that's true.
We will always remember Poppy stories. Poppy lessons. Every time I turn off a light, I think of Poppy. "You're not in that room, what the hell are you gonna leave the light on for?" And, I attribute my ability to (almost) say "A big black bug bit a big black bear and the big black bear bled blood!" in one breath without mispronouncing many of the words! :P Poppy taught us that life is what you make out of it. He played minor league baseball for Chicago, and had a "very promising" future until he blew out his knee. That didn't stop him, though. He went on to lead a very successful life, supporting a wife and three children, one of which grew up to bear me. He taught them, and us, never to expect a handout (but to take one when offered), and that we'd have in life what we made on our own count. He taught my dad this the hard way, by not paying for his schooling after high school, though the lesson translated over and I don't think I've ever expected a handout from my parents.
In his old age (as in, more recently), he taught me what it meant to truly care for someone. He and my Nanny were married for 61 years. Most people don't get the opportunity to experience ANYTHING for 61 years, except maybe being alive. I was reading through some of the old scrapbooks my Nanny kept, and in it were their anniversary cards from the first few years of their marriage. They described each other in such specifically romantic terms, telling each other that they were truly living the "best years of their lives." I don't know that I'll ever get to experience what they had...but their example has certainly proven to me what love is, and has set a standard to which I'd like to live up. So far, I haven't...but I plan to, and continue to relish the fact that I can aspire to a love as great as what Nanny and Poppy had.
In short, this says it best:
Poppy, goodbye. You are loved, respected, honored, and missed. I love you. I miss you. I will carry you on in my memory, and in the way I live my life... always.