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He wasn’t famous or rich or powerful.  He was a regular guy with what many would have called an “ordinary” life.  His hair was as white as goose down, and his hands were worn and wrinkly with with age by the time I knew him.  He always smelled the same, like soap and Copenhagen.  His voice was slightly raspy and he always had a hug and a ready smile for “his girl.”  He had a fondness for soft drinks, which, in our neck of the woods were called ‘dopops’. (Pronounced ‘doh-pops’.  I have no idea why I felt the need to explain that but there it is.)   His love for them earned him the nickname and it stuck for the rest of his life.

Like most of his generation, he’d lived through the terrible poverty of the Great Depression, signed on to serve his country in WWII, then came home to settle down and raise his family.  Unfortunately, times were never easy and the middle-class prosperity that most were enjoying after the war always danced just out of grasp for him.  Probably because he enjoyed his beer a little more than most and spent nearly as much time at the local pub as he did at home.

He gave his life to Jesus late in life.  Already in his fifties, there was a revival going on in town and for reasons that are unknown to me, he decided to go.  He told me once that there was a woman there giving her testimony.  He was sitting in the back and could feel Jesus calling him.  He said he kept wishing the woman would hurry up and shut up so he could get out of there, because the call was growing stronger and stronger and making him miserable.  Finally, he couldn’t resist any longer and he went forward…and never looked back.  Though he still enjoyed his beer after he met Jesus, it never again controlled his life, and he never got drunk ever again.

The man loved to drive and there were many times when I was small that he’d drop by my house, pick me up and take me with him on his rounds to visit various members of his family.   Really, it didn’t matter where we went.  He always ran into someone he knew, was related to, or used to know.  He loved people, and loved to talk.  If he came to visit us wherever we were stationed at the time, you could be sure he would leave the place with the 411 on just about everyone he came in contact with.  He truly never met a stranger in his life.

Perhaps it was the fact that he was still a “newborn” when I came along, or maybe it was that since my dad was in the military, he didn’t get to see me as often as he got to see his other grandkids.  Whatever it was, there was something special between he and I.  Unfortunately, I wasn’t smart enough to realize the importance of it until he was gone.

He always made me feel as though I were the most important person in the world and nothing I said seemed silly or childish to him.  He was the first person to tell me I could sing, and he declared to the entire family that I belonged in Nashville.  

There was absolutely nothing I had to do to earn his love or affection.  It just was, and as much as I soaked it in like the Sahara soaks up the rain, I also took it for granted.  He just was and would always be to my mind. 

He died in 1995.  The loss to his family, to me and my cousins is still felt today.  While we can now smile and laugh at the “Do you remember whens…” it still cuts the heart that he is gone.  I told you that there was something special between he and I, and there was.  But honestly, there was something special between him and all the grandkids.  He loved us all generously, without expectation of return.  He loved us just because we existed.

It was through him, his love, his prayers, that I came to Christ.  Through him, a silly, nerdy, insecure girl was made to see that she had been created for something far greater than she had ever hoped or dreamed.  It would take years to explain him and my pitiful words have painted only the faintest shadow of who he was.  To you who read this, I can say he wasn’t a perfect man and to you, had you met him, he would have just been a sweet old man with a weakness for buffet-style restaurants.  But to us, his family,  he was a sure, steady and unfailing conduit of Jesus’ never-ending love and kindness. 

If it is possible for those who are with Jesus now to look down upon the earth and see those of us who still remain, I pray that he can see how much this girl loves, misses, and pines for him still.  I pray that he can hear my whispered, grateful “thank-yous” and that he knows how dreadfully sorry I am that I didn’t realize the enormity of the gift he showered on me everyday.  I hope he knows that I’m safe in Jesus now, and that my son has his same easy manner and quick smile.  That Jessie’s boys are as smart and precocious as she ever thought about being, and that Miss Quincy Grace is exactly everything her mother ever wished for in a little girl.  Jeff has outdone us all and is living out the dream and changing hearts and lives all over the world, and that my daughter is (can you believe it?) soon to be eighteen and has made me realize what it was that kept him up nights praying over us all.  That his prayers were finally answered 4 years ago when my Daddy (his son) gave his life to Jesus and he and my Mama are still serving and learning about Jesus every single day.  I pray that he knows and understands that his example of Christ’s love lives on and is touching an untold number of people to this day.  Most of all, I pray that he knows his life counted for something and that he was anything but ordinary.

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