He didn’t like the sound of “Great-Grandpa,” so he became Poppy Harold to our children.
But Great-Grandpa would have suited him well, because he was a great, great man.
When Evan called me with the news on Monday, I wasn’t much for comforting him over the loss of his grandfather. Because I felt like I had lost my grandfather too.
Poppy Harold became the grandpa I never had, as mine both passed away before I knew them. He was quick with a smile that would crinkle around his eyes and his standard greeting: “How ya doing, Court? What do ya know, Evan Bob?!”
Poppy Harold was a baby whisperer, and most family gatherings would find him in an easy chair with a sleeping baby snuggled in the crook of one of his arms. With 17 grandchildren and 9 great-grandchildren, there was always a baby who needed Poppy Harold’s arms.
Poppy Harold began a grocery store when he was young, a small town grocery store that he ran for more than 50 years. One of me and Evan’s favorite things to do was load up the family on a weekend and head to Poppy’s grocery store for lunch, stocking up on his delicious deli sandwiches and potato salad.
Poppy was always behind the meat counter, his face erupting into a smile when he was us. His family, his employees and his customers were his life, and serving his community through his store was truly his calling.
In 2009, Evan and I took Poppy to dinner to tell him that he would be getting a new great-grandson, and he was, of course, elated. And during that dinner, he shared many snippets of his life with us as we talked about traveling and marriage and family.
“Evelyn (Evan’s grandma) always told me ‘we can’t afford to go on this trip’,” he said, “But I told her ‘we can’t afford NOT to!'”
In the years since that conversation, every time Evan and I have started to stress about saving for a trip, we think of his grandpa telling us that traveling is one thing we can’t afford not to do.
Marriage is hard work, Poppy Harold told us. Over the course of their marriage, he and Grandma Evelyn had difficult times just as any other marriage does, along with the good times. “There were tough years,” he said, and laughed, “There was even a hard decade, I think.” But he cared for her with so much love at the end of her life, and I will never forget, even as a newcomer into the family at that time, his dedication to her and to his family.
On Monday afternoon, as Connor watched me cry, I sat down with him to tell him that we wouldn’t be able to see Poppy Harold anymore because he was in heaven with Jesus.
I expected him to get upset, but his expression was bright-eyed with wonder, so we began talking about how amazing heaven is.
“Someday, we’ll get to go to heaven too,” I told him.
“And we’ll get to see Poppy Harold and Cousin Brody there?” he asked. “Yes,” I nodded tearfully, and he began pumping his fists and exclaimed “YAY YAY YAY!”
Lord, fill me with the faith and excitement of your Kingdom like my son has.
And Poppy Harold: we know you’re up there helping to serve up all of the delicious meat for the heavenly feasts now. We love you, we miss you, and we can’t wait to join your party.