In Memory of My Papa
By Rachel Smith
On January 9, my Grandfather “Papa” passed away peacefully in his sleep after a brave two-and-a-half-year battle with cancer. He was 92 and he was my best friend. Although he lived a full life with no regrets, nothing can make the pain of losing a loved one any less. I consider myself very lucky for having my Papa this long, as many others are not awarded the same time with the people who mean the most to them. What’s important is to keep their legacy alive within yourself and live a life they’d be proud of. Part of that for me means sharing my memories of him with the world. The following is the eulogy I gave at his funeral on Tuesday.
I am a little girl and had spent the night at Papa’s house in Rancho Murrieta. I was awakened by the smell of fresh coffee and the loud chime of his pendulum clock. It is still dark and I am afraid. I climbed out of bed and headed toward the door that remained ajar while I slept, dragging my baby blanket on the floor alongside of me. I tip toed out of the room, down the dark, carpeted hallway, past the glass doors of his garden on the right, the pendulum clock on the left, toward the soft light coming from his side table lamp in his den. This is a place you would always find papa, even in the darkest hours of the morning. I stood in the doorway, my blanket clutched in my hand…and I watched him. He was sitting in his favorite black leather chair, hunched over doing a crossword puzzle which laid flat on the matching leather ottoman. His eyes…hidden beneath his straw golf hat. Not a sound to be heard but a light crumpling of the crisp morning paper and the sharp breath of air leaving his lips, whistling the tune to his favorite old-time song. After a few moments of me standing there, he could sense my presence and he’d pop his head up and see me. A broad, familiar smile lit up his face and I went and sat next to him. He put his hand over mine and it was then that the sun began to rise and at that moment, I wasn’t afraid anymore. I was happy and it was peaceful.
I am an adult woman and had spent the night at Papa’s house in Galt. I was awakened by the sound of a struggle down the hall. There was no smell of fresh coffee… and the pendulum clock had been silent for years. It is still dark and I am afraid. I climbed out of bed and headed toward the door that remained ajar while I slept, dragging my baby blanket on the floor alongside of me. I tip toed out of the room, down the dark, wooden hallway, past the pendulum clock on the right, toward the soft light coming from his side table lamp in his den. I stood in the doorway, my blanket clutched in my hand…and I watched him. He is hunched over on his walker, trying to gather the strength to lower himself onto his favorite chair. This time, I don’t wait for him to see me; instead I call out to him and help him get settled. I sat next to him, and with no straw golf hat, I could see his eyes…which were visibly tired from another restless night. Not a sound to be heard but a steady stream of air leaving his lips, and a shifting of the leather as he adjusted his back to get comfortable. This time, I put my hand over his…and it was then that the sun began to rise…and at that moment I’d like to think that he wasn’t afraid anymore. And that he was happy and it was peaceful.
Tonight I will spend the night at my own house. There will be no sounds or smells to wake me up in the morning, but I will get up on my own, before the sun. It will be dark but I will not be afraid. I will climb out of bed and will head toward the door that remains ajar while I sleep, dragging that same baby blanket on the floor alongside of me. I will tip toe out of my room, down my dark hallway….and I will go to the kitchen and make myself some coffee, and then go turn on the side table lamp in my den. From now on, this is a place you will always be able to find me, especially in the darkest hours of the morning. I will sit down in his favorite black leather chair and place the morning paper flat on the matching leather ottoman. Not a sound will be heard, but the light crumpling of the leather as I adjust myself to get comfortable and the sharp breath of air leaving my lips, whistling the tune to his favorite old-time song. After a few moments, I will sense a presence and I will pop my head and see Papa, standing in the doorway … watching me. A broad, familiar smile will light up both of our faces and then he will come sit next to me. I will feel his hand in mine and it will be then that the sun will begin to rise and at that moment… neither of us will be afraid. And we will be happy and it will be peaceful.