It’s been 77 days since we lost my Papa at 77 years young. I miss him so incredibly much, his calls, his laugh, his stories. But I do find peace knowing he’s finally with the love of his life again… my Mema. Papa loved this blog of mine and it is my goal to honor him today by sharing an excerpt of my words from his memorial service in March. I love you, Papa!
As a family in this last month, we’ve been looking at pictures of Papa growing up and there was one that you will see shortly that struck me differently than when I’d seen it before. It was my great grandmother, Ferne McNealy, holding a 5 week old Ken. When I saw it, I was instantly taken back to a discussion we just had at Thanksgiving where my Papa graciously told me that motherhood looked so natural on me, so easy with his great grandson, Charlie. Remembering those remarks, I felt an instant connection to this sweet photo of Papa and his mom because I too have held my 5 week old baby boy. I now know the pride and the love that shows on her face, but I also know all of the many questions going through her mind about this little one’s life:
“Who will you be?”
“Will you be kind?”
“Will you have friends?”
“Will you love your family?”
And I’m sure every mother here knows this one… “Am I doing it right?”
Well, Great Grandma Ferne, I’m standing up here today to answer the questions I know were in your head about your little Kenny Jay. You raised the man that became my grandpa, my Papa, one of the most special people in my life. He was a mentor and a coach to so many. He delivered the mail and learned the names of the families who lived on his route. He was a devoted husband, so in love with Marilyn. They celebrated 53 years of wedded bliss together. They had two children whom they love very much. They had family dinners at Frisch’s after games, they were at the ball fields… a lot, but what amazing memories they made. He took care of his kids, there were rules to follow, but they were always taken care of. And then his grandkids came, and as far as I can tell, the rules went out the window! There were bags of gifts at Christmas, there were the warmest hugs, and a happy birthday song every year via a phone call. We have laughed and laughed at every visit, there was always a good story or a new joke. And we’ve had great breakfasts and visits with his brothers, hearing the stories of their childhood. There’ve been so many trips to the Ohio State fair where I’d ride on his shoulders, but more recently that turned into speed walking to keep up with his scooter. And then he became “Great Papa” to our Charlie where he said, and I quote, “you know I love my granddaughters, but it is SO nice to buy trucks for somebody!” And then there was Valentine’s Day weekend 2021 filled with chocolate covered strawberries, Cheryl’s cookies, and visits with his favorite people. Since we live in Georgia, we received our last phone call full of laughs, talking golf, and wrapped it up with I love you’s and sending kisses through the phone. Papa spent what he didn’t know were his last days giving back and showing gratitude to those who have done so much for him, one last lesson for us all.
So, in summary to my great grandmother Ferne…
“Who did that baby turn out to be?” One of the best people on this earth
“Will he be kind?” A heart of gold
“Will he have friends?” I’m not sure he ever met a stranger“
Will he love his family?” SO, SO much
And lastly, we’re all here today as proof that you did it right.
Papa, we’re all drinking from our saucer, because thanks to you, our cup has overflowed. 🖤