First of all, we wanted to make sure it was a celebration... Pawpaw lived a long and healthy life until the last year, and he was blessed with family, friends, and love from them all. I, of course, cried... but it's not because I want him back... just because I am going to miss him. I think the highlight of his service was the music. I mean seriously, have you ever heard a banjo at a funeral? Well, I have now. Some wonderful family and friends provided their talents to honor Pawpaw's memory with song and string. I have these 3 cousins (2 live in TX, and 1 in MS) and when we were kids we used to all get together and their mom would play the acordian and they would sing. They have the most beautiful voices and they just warmed our hearts by singing Beulah Land during the service. The girls know about the death of a parent as well... their mom died years ago and Debra remarked before they started singing that God sure must have a heck of a band up there in Heaven, just of our family members. Gail, who played the accordian, Daddy played the Guitar, and Pawpaw played the french harp (harmonica) and mandolin. Oh to hear those sweet sounds together... one day I will.
There were wonderful stories of Pawpaw from 3 preachers... all who were welcomed to my home church, Midway, by Pawpaw. I really don't think Pawpaw had the ability to meet a stranger (I guess that's where daddy got it from), or maybe it was his sales background... but he was always welcoming to all those around him. I used to bring home friends all the time during college... and one of those friends made her way into Pawpaw's cell phone contacts... I'll definately miss his "hey baby" when I came to visit... and calling home when I got back to Birmingham, because he always knew what time I should arrive back.
Pawpaw did 2 tours in the Navy and was a cook and baker on the USS Casablanca (according to my grandmother). We had the honor of having the men from the local VFW come to the service and present a flag to my grandmother and play taps. It was the first time I had been to a military funeral, and when that bugle started playing, I think we all cried... it was a beautiful sight to see our Flag draped accross his coffin though... because he was so proud of his service. Even though he never fired a weapon... his served the ones that did, and he had a million stories to tell about it.
Oh how I will miss those stories.
One of the things that stood out to me most from the service was something said by one of our former preachers who Pawpaw loved. Bro. Chris said a few words and prayed at the Graveside... and he mentioned how God sends the Holy Spirit to comfort us, and how Pawpaw was often a comfort to him. I think what I take away from that is how we need to be open to be the hands and feet of the Holy Spirit and be available to comfort others as HE sees fit. God has used so many people to help comfort me over this past year I could not begin to list them all. Friends, coworkers, students, church members, people I barely know who have somehow heard my story have said things, send texts, given hugs, or offered help... I truly believe all of those people were acting on the part of the Holy Spirit. You know those times when someone just comes to mind that you have not thought about in years, yeah... that's not coincidence. Actually, I pretty sure I don't believe in coincidences... because God has His hands in everything.
By the way, even Daddy had a part of the service. We found some scripture in his bible that he noted to have read at Pawpaw's funeral. We played a recording of the Lawnmower Song, and he told us on many occasions that he wanted the Vince Gill song, "Go Rest High" to be played at the funeral... and it was played, as we all exited the church and walked to the cemetary across the street. (Oh yeah, and since it was muddy rather than pushing Mawmaw's wheelchair across the street and through the grass, she road on the Mule). The verse of scripture Daddy found was completely appropriate for my Pawpaw, as he was the church caretaker and treasurer, and a sunday school teacher and a deacon for as long as I can remember:
Remember me for this, O my God, and do not blot out what I have so faithfully done for the house of my God and its services. (Nehemiah 13:14)
Before I finish up the blog for the night, I want to mention another cousin who blessed us with one of her talents this week. My cousin Anna is Funeral Director and well, all that that entails. She came and got Pawpaw from his house on Monday, and brought him to us on Wednesday. I truly believe Anna has a gift because not everyone could do the job that she does... and I believe you have to be utterly compassionate to be in her position. She deals with people when they are in their deepest darkest valley, and she has such an amazing opportunity to shine some Light on them. She thought of Pawpaw Cole as her own grandfather (her grandfather was one of Pawpaw's brothers), and she did for him what the rest of us could not do. I am so thankful for her and her compassion and love for our Family... I (We) have an amazing family... and it's better because of people like her.
I ask that you keep me in your prayers the next few days. I'll be moving into a new apartment, trying to get back into the swing of things at work, and getting ready for Freshmen Move in next Friday. It's going to be an incredibly busy week and I feel like I have a lot to catch up on. Also, please pray for my family as we get used to life without our sweet Pawpaw, and as other decisions are made. Thank you so much for your thoughts and prayers this week... I have been feeling them!