As I reflect on the life of Papa Ralph, the word great comes to mind. I keep hearing the word great used by those who knew him.
My grandpa was a great man.
He wasn't a perfect man, and I've realized you don't have to be perfect to be great. At Papa's funeral we were able to celebrate his life with happy stories that brought back fond memories. The service honored Papa for all of the good things he'd done. Papa Ralph loved God, his family and the community. Papa Ralph was a dedicated community member. He served others and was always willing to lend a helping hand and if he couldn't help physically he would support financially.
The pastor comforted our family with his kind words and special stories about my grandpa. The songs we selected were comforting as well. The congregation sang, "Blessed Assurance" and two longtime family friends sang "The Old Rugged Cross" and the southern gospel song "Sweet Beulah Land".
Papa Ralph passed away early in the morning on Thursday, September 22. The days since his passing and now have been a blur.
Each day brought a new challenge.
Thursday we planned the funeral.
Friday we took my grandmother to visit my grandpa in the funeral home. It was very emotional spending time with her as she said goodbye to Papa. It was so sad watching the person who loved him most in the world tell him goodbye. They had been married 71 years on September 7th.
Friday night was family visitation. I'm not sure how others handle the death of a loved one, but it's pretty standard to have family night or family visitation the night before the funeral. Many friends and community members came to pay their respects.
The funeral was Saturday morning. We have a family full of men and I don't think there was a dry eye among us. We all felt the sadness and loss. One of the most moving things was after the funeral when we followed the hearse to the cemetery. We drove along the road that led to my grandparents' farm house. The cemetery is less than a couple of miles from their home. It was like we were taking my grandpa home one last time. Thinking of those moments in the car on the way to the cemetery still make me tear up.
Surprisingly one of the hardest days was Sunday. We attended church like normal. After church, we went to visit the assisted living center where my grandpa lived. When we were leaving the assisted living center, Ben said, "I want to see Papa Ralph." He said it several times and Mark and I could barely make it out of the building without crying. We went to eat and then we visited the nursing home to see my grandma. We always had my grandpa with us when we visited her. This was our first visit without him. It was tough. Ben also asked for Papa Ralph at the nursing home. As far as Will, he thought Papa was still at the nursing home (which was different nursing home than my grandma's). When we left the nursing home, I decided it was time to tell Will that Papa Ralph had passed away. As we walked to the car, I told him that Papa had passed away and that he didn't live on earth with us anymore. We couldn't visit him at the hospital, nursing home or his assisted living home. I told him we could look at photos of him and talk about him if we miss him. Will was very quiet. He didn't say anything for several minutes. I think it took him a while to process it all.
Now that I've told Will, I think most of the hard things that I can expect are over. I know there will be sad days and days where I'm caught off guard and get emotional. I expect that. I just meant that there were several things that I knew would be extremely difficult and I think I've taken care of those as best I could. Tomorrow I'll go back to work and take it one day at a time.
We are still dealing with a great deal of stress in our lives. I have many more things I'd like to tell you. It just all can't come out right now. I'm so thankful for my family and friends who have been there to support me during this difficult time.
Thank you for your prayers during this time of grief. It has truly been a source of strength and comfort.
Below are some of my favorite photos of Papa Ralph. These were some of the ones included in the slide show at family night and the funeral.
In loving memory of Papa Ralph, a great man.