He was the largest positive male role model I ever had. He had no faults. No flaws. No imperfections.
He was the essence of laughter. Deep, belly aching laughter. He was the clown sundaes we got at Friendly’s. He was the reason I spent a significant portion of my childhood trying to figure out how to go swimming without getting wet. Or where the tower was in the bathroom that he always went to go shake.
He’s the reason I believe that marriage is forever. He’s why I believe that God is real. He is the definition of a truly good human being.
He wasn’t just Pop-pop. He was everything. And now, he’s gone.
My mind replays the sparkle of laughter in his eyes. The pride in his step as he marched in parades. The chuckle in his voice as he joked with us kids. The honor in his character as he slammed his thumb with a hammer and said every word in the book, but never once swore. The way he stood by his wife’s side through all the hardships and trials, blessings and joys of a lifetime together.
The way he drove on the rumble strip three quarters of the drive to Knobels. The way he humbly and faithfully cleaned the church for decades. The way he taught us honesty and faith, love and laughter, joy and happiness. The way he silently taught us how to truly live.
I don’t want to mourn his death. I don’t want to hurt. I don’t want to open my heart to an unbearable amount of pain. I want to celebrate the most amazing man I have ever known. Celebrate all that he was. All that he is.
The truth is, he’s everywhere. He’s in the chuckles of my children when they joke around with me. He’s in the breeze that blows through a warm spring day. When I want to stubbornly walk away from my marriage, he’s in the moments that I stay. He’s in the moments that I fall to my knees with no one to turn to but God. He’s in the sound of my tires hitting that rumble strip on the highway. He’s in every memorial parade I will ever watch. He’s in the moments I look up to the Heavens and say, “I know that was you God.” He’s in the clown shaped sundaes at Friendly’s. He’s in the sparkle in someone’s eyes when they laugh. He’s in the way that I live my life, the way that my children will live theirs, and their children theirs.
He’s in our hearts and there, he will never die.
I’m going to hug my kids, joke around with them, and adore the sparkle of laughter in their eyes. I’m going to smile at the frustrating things my husband does, like leaving his dirty jeans on the floor half a centimeter away from the laundry basket, because those things aren’t meant to break a marriage. I’m going to work like every job I do is for God. I’m going to pray like I’m talking to my best friend. I’m going to go shake towers, go swimming without getting wet, ride the rumble strip the entire trip. I’m going to laugh until it hurts. And I’m going to love even harder.
Mostly though, I’m never going to forget all that he was, because, he wasn’t just Pop-pop. He, was everything….
Retired Chief Petty Officer Raymond Leary
January 14, 1927 – March 30, 2016