A woman I have known for many years lost her Father on Monday. It was his birthday, and he was 88 years old. A mutual friend delivered the news, along with a copy of a beautiful tribute her nephew wrote about his Grandfather. Although I never met the man, reading those touching words, I felt like I had known him, too.
Which got me to thinking…What is it that constitutes a successful life? These days, one would believe that “he who dies with the most toys wins” is the gold standard for success. It’s all about “stuff”. l wonder how much of the contraband we accumulate is procured to impress others, as opposed to stuff that we really want or need (like more shoes? ;>)
According to this grandson, this Grandfather was a mountain of a man who left a huge mark on his life. Here are some excerpts from the tribute, which recounts memories of time spent on his Grandparent’s farm:
- Papaw has a great sense of humor.
- You will get to ride the lawnmower and perhaps even help steer it. You’ll think you’re driving, even though Papaw is in complete control.
- You will sit on the back porch, eating watermelon or home-made ice cream with the family. You’ll catch fireflies in the early evening. You’ll jump (or fall) off the porch and skin your knee. Papaw will be there, taking it all in and enjoying the moment.
- A loud crack of thunder will bring you to tears because the noise scares you. But that thunder pales in comparison to when Papaw raises his voice. Fortunately, he doesn’t do it often. He rarely has to because when you get into mischief, he only has to tell you once to knock it off. Message received.
- You might get a nickname. Like Whistle Britches. Depends on what you do when Papaw is around.
- You’ll sit in an oversize recliner, watching sports. If our team wins, you and Papaw will enjoy the game. If they lose, you and Papaw will opine about how long the coach will last. Or you might fall asleep in the recliner. The sleep will be peaceful, satisfying. You are in a sanctuary at the farm.
- Papaw is a man who is deeply devoted to his wife, a.k.a. Grandmama. It is their love, kindled nearly 70 years ago, that has brought to life their children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Those three generations now number 32 individuals (and counting). Every single one of them is kind-hearted, loving, generous. That all comes from the example Grandmama and Papaw have lived.
- Big Papaw loves his family. He recalls conversations he has had with people who ask if he ever wishes he had more money. His response is that he gets to watch his grandchildren grow up and that fact alone makes him richer than any man who has walked this earth. You realize Papaw has things figured out. You realize Papaw knows what’s important in life. Papaw is content. Papaw is free. Papaw is at peace.
This was a life well lived, as a loving husband, father and grandfather. He was a role model who imparted the importance of integrity, honor, and respect in everyday life. His grandson was allowed to witness a love that lasted 70 years. In this age of quickie celebrity marriages and divorces, this young man knows that true love and devotion to one person are possible. He respected his Grandfather. Respect is a word that is sorely lacking from our vernacular today. We don’t respect other people, their viewpoints, or their religious and social differences, and we especially do not respect our elders. He felt safe and loved on the farm. How many children have lots of toys, but are lacking in attention, discipline, and a structured family life?
I believe that the essence of a successful life really isn’t about money or stuff. It is about being “in the moment” with those you love. Your time, given freely, is the greatest gift you can bestow on anyone. It is what memories are made of. I would be so honored if my grandsons love me, and the time we spend together, the way this grandson loved and revered his Grandfather.
Rest in peace, sir. You earned it.