My Papa Roy (my dad’s father) passed away Thursday afternoon. I tried to structure some type of status to post on Facebook but I found that I was incapable of formulating anything that would suffice. Thanks to the suggestion from my wise husband, I took the weekend to process everything rather than put pressure on myself to post something quickly. Though I still feel that any words I could write will be unsuited for this occasion, I also feel that I would be denying you of a glimpse into the life of a romantic, adventurer, photographer, businessman, father, grandfather, great-grandfather and husband.
My brother said it perfectly when he gave Papa’s eulogy at the funeral:
Side note: Please read the entire eulogy Chase wrote here.
I loved hearing people talk about their memories of Papa this weekend. Most of them had to do with his horses, technological gadgets, love for wilderness, in-home dark room (old-school photography development), the oh-so-memorable indoor pool with the retractable roof, and his success in business. Every memory that was spoken was undoubtedly paired with, “And his love for his bride, BettyAnne.”
There are some moments in life that deeply ingrain themselves in your memory.
Papa’s love for his wife (Gingin BettyAnne) is stamped there. Maybe I wasn’t looking for it or maybe it was because I’m married now, and I examine other marriages more carefully, but JD and I witnessed their love for each other like I had never really seen before when we spent some time with them in July. They were deeply protective of each other. They needed each other. They wanted to be together at all times. They were patient with each other.
They showed us a deeply rooted, unhinging love.
JD and I helped Dad move them into an apartment during the Fourth of July weekend this year. Papa was trying to get through physical rehab and Gingin was moving in to be closer to him.
We arranged two twin beds in their bedroom so that they would be in the same room but would have enough space to walk in between the beds. Gingin wouldn’t have it. She requested that we push the beds together to make one big bed.
She wanted to sleep beside her groom.
They loved each other so much that they actually planned an escape route out of that facility together.
Gingin said, “I think I’m ready to get supper. Let’s go get a baked potato. I’ll go with [nurse].” So Gingin and the nurse began walking out of the room and she looked back and said, “Come on, Roy.” We quickly realized her main intention was not to satisfy hunger, but to satisfy the desire to escape with her husband. You really can’t help but smile at a romantic attempt-at-escape story like that.
The last day I saw Papa (in August while JD was on travel), dad and I rode over to their house. Papa was sitting on their screened-in back porch. It was beautiful. Peaceful. Calming. The sky was overcast, the wind blew softly through the heavily wooded forest backing up to the house, the tiny waterfall gently trickled into the pond. Papa asked me how JD was doing, if we were enjoying Huntsville, and what church we were attending.
Gingin walked out and sat with us. She had recently found out about his cancer and she was hurting. I can’t imagine (nor would I even want to imagine) what it must feel like to learn that the love of your life has cancer. The look in her eyes spoke the words written on her heart.
Her husband was in pain. She did all she could to carry that pain on her own shoulders, to remove it from him. Less than two weeks later, Papa passed away.
In the past few months, I have seen their love for one another – a fierce love, protecting and shielding one another to any measure necessary. They had a sweet, rare romance; full of joy, adventure (venturing to a total of 33 countries), understanding and oneness.
My heart aches for my dad, who is one of the most flawless, wisest, patient, business-savvy, kind-hearted men I know. I don't know what I would do without him. He felt the same way about his dad. Papa Roy was his business partner, one of his best friends and his exploring comrade. Many of you have heard stories about the boar's head that hung in my parents' bathroom when I was young (only a few of you were "lucky" enough to have actually seen it / or be terrified by it). When this photo popped up on Papa's tribute video, words cannot express the warmth that flooded my heart. Papa took Dad on countless wilderness adventures, the same as Dad took Chase on countless wilderness adventures, and I hope JD will be able to take our kids on countless wilderness adventures.
I hurt for my Aunt Betsy who lost her dad and my Gingin who lost her darling sweetheart. Please pray for our friends and family in mourning, that we may cling to the sweet memories of Papa Roy and honor his life well.
The last thing I said to Gingin when I left her Sunday was, “It was a wonderful day.” In hindsight, it was a terrible thing to say. She laid her husband to rest. It’s an awful thing, excruciating.
But I meant that everything was just as Papa would’ve wanted it. The ceremony was warm, full of laughter, full of sweet memories; the room packed with people he loved. The entire day was filled with friends and family honoring his life, his children and his wife. As we gathered around the burial site and prayed, a soft breeze blew under the tent. And as we departed, a flock of geese flew over us and a thunderstorm rolled in. God comforted us by sending small reminders of the elements of nature Papa Roy enjoyed most.
While it was an extremely tough day, it still proved to be a wonderful day.