I had all intentions of saying these words at my grandfathers service. But as a mama of two small, not so quiet or still boys, I had to banish the three of us to the outdoors for the duration of it. It is ok though, for though my notes remained tucked in my purse, I feel more at ease in this form of communication these days anyways.
Both my boys carry each of my grandfather’s names tucked in the middle. I always loved the idea of meaning behind a name. It’s nice to have a story to tell. When my first son, Miles, was born it seemed natural to put Henry right after it. Both Lee and I had grandparents with this first name, it just made sense. But beyond a smooth transition between first and last name, a good rationale, I had other reasons to carry on my Papa’s name.
His laugh. While my papa was a man of few words, one thing that sticks out to me was his laugh. It was always deliberate, loud, plentiful and contagious. I am not sure if such a thing can be passed down, but his sons certainly got this trait at least through osmosis because those boys can laugh. I hope mine do this same.
His dedication. It is not often you meet a couple that has been married over sixty years. My speck of time, four years, seems miniscule in comparison. His girl, Patricia, was his everything, and we all knew it.
His love. My Aunt Elaine tells me of Papa’s intense demand that she, and all of us, continue to care for Nana with all we have got. His eyes, she told me, said it in a kind of, “Mark my words” sort of way. And as my little cousin Markie can attest, none of us want Papa coming back to haunt us. We would not do anything but care for my Nana with everything we have got regardless, but it is compellingly sweet that he made sure of it. We can all only hope to have someone to share our life with that cares this much for us too.
Over our very short trip south for the service I got to do a lot of chatting with my Nana. One of my favorite things in this world to do. She told me stories about cranberry bogs, and first Papa encounters, life and death, babies and the elderly. She detailed simple things and divulged secrets I never knew of. I am lucky to have her. I really am. She also showed me the contents of my Papa’s wallet, something that feels so personal. So much a part of a man it seems as though this object alone could define him. A piece of fabric filled with important goods that was carried next to his body for a lifetime. It turned out amongst other family photos, a snapshot of me, at three months old, was carried there for the last twenty-nine years. This struck me as a unusaually powerful honor.
My sweetest memories of my papa are from when I was very small and he lived in the north, like me. Deep red rugs lined their little Salem house. My memory tells me the rooms were grand, but father reminds me they were indeed normal rooms, in a normal house. I remember Papa’s garden. I remember his woodworking. I remember sitting on his lap while my nana told me of Andy the ant, a little story I have the luxury of passing on. I remember donuts after long trips, and the cozy house in New Hampshire. Once they moved to Florida, it was harder to keep in touch.
But he carried me with him none the less. And for this, I feel lucky. I was in his thoughts, or at least his wallet, for all those years and that is enough for me.
Death is a reminder for the living to live. It is a precious simple certain act.
RIP Henry R. Raynes Jr.