Goodbye, Poppy

Thursday, September 6, 2012

We said a final goodbye to a wonderful man today.

Michael's grandfather--known to all of us as Poppy--passed away on Saturday. We actually found out about it in the middle of our family photo session. We had missed calls and text messages from family and feared the worst. Unfortunately, those fears were confirmed.

It was sudden. Although Poppy was 82 years old, he was seemingly in decent shape (all things considered). He was still largely independent, lived alone, and still drove himself around to locations within reason. But on Saturday, Poppy died from a heart attack at home.

Poppy was the sweetest, kindest person. He was quiet--never said too much--but always greeted and departed us with a hug and a kiss on the cheek. In trying to describe him to people, I've been telling them to think about the stereotypical "cute old man." Poppy was the epitome of cute old man. Seriously, they don't come any cuter than he was.

As his son-in-law (Michael's uncle) said in his eulogy today, Poppy was a true family man. He loved his wife--who sadly passed away in 2006--and his children, grandchildren, and three great-grandchildren. I will never forget the way our nephew, Brendan, would run to him yelling, "Poppyyyy!!"
I will always remember the sound of his voice on the other end of the phone. "Michael? It's Poppy!" He would end every conversation with Michael by telling him to "give the girls a kiss for me" (meaning Nora and me).

Every time we saw Poppy, he would give us a "care package." He did this for all of his grandchildren. Rolls of paper towels, windshield wiper fluid, laundry detergent, nightlights, random tools that he picked up on sale at Big Lots. Thinking about it now just kills me because they were the simplest, least glamorous "gifts" to give--just compilations of items stuffed into a Wegmans bag--but could there be any greater expression of love? He thought of us when he bought that stuff. He planned ahead, putting together the bags in advance of seeing us. He took great joy in handing it over, knowing he was helping take care of us. I just... I... wow.
To say that he will be missed and that his absence has already been felt profoundly--it's just not enough. That is a gross understatement. We know how lucky we were to have him for as long as we did, but it doesn't lessen the sense of loss. We take comfort in knowing that he is reunited with his beloved wife. We joke that she must already be giving him hell--he had six years of peace and quiet after her death, but no more. :)
As he got older (and after he lost Nana), Poppy truly became like another child for Michael's aunt and uncle. As I mentioned, he was still independent in many ways, but he needed and appreciated his daughter and her family. He did funny "old man" things--wandered off in the store where no one could find him. Left his car running during an entire dinner out at a restaurant. Accidentally got into the backseat of a stranger's car. As a result, the "Sibby Stories" were the source of much laughter, and Poppy was the butt of the joke. These stories would be recounted right there in his presence, and Poppy would do nothing but laugh with us. Even he thought his antics were funny!
Poppy was a volunteer firefighter for 37 years, a member of his fire company until the day he died. (You may remember that I made Poppy an insane fire truck cake in celebration of his 80th birthday in 2010.) Actually, he will forever be a member of that fire company. One of the most impactful things that we experienced over the last few days was to see the love and respect bestowed upon him by his fire family. To see all of those people in uniform, saluting and honoring Poppy multiple times--it was awe-inspiring.

We followed Poppy's casket into church today as saluting firefighters lined the sidewalk on both sides. The funeral procession from the church to the cemetery included numerous fire trucks, and a ride past the firehouse, where two fireman stood at the edge of the street, saluting--a chair with a fireman's gear between them to represent their lost comrade.

It was so incredibly touching.

It comes as no surprise to me that he was loved by so many, because Poppy was not difficult to love. He was the type of person who was cared for and remembered by people who had only met him once.
I loved him like he was my own grandfather. I feel privileged to have called him "Poppy."

Poppy, I would say "Rest in Peace," but we know that with Nana by your side, that's just not possible. :) We also know that you wouldn't want it any other way. Much love from all of us who you left behind. We'll miss you deeply.


Amanda September 6, 2012 at 9:10 PM  

Watching our loved ones pass in is so tragic. Your words are very sweet though, it's a pleasant though that he is reunited with his wife.
I'm sorry for your family's loss.

Kimberley September 6, 2012 at 9:23 PM  

such a touching post, i'm sure he would appreciate your kind words. and i have to say, the care package got me teary eyed. how incredibly sweet. so so thoughtful!

nikinikinine September 6, 2012 at 9:34 PM  

I am so sorry for your family's loss, Heather. Lots of hugs and love.

Elizabeth September 7, 2012 at 12:12 AM  

Such a sad moment for your family Heather. What a beautiful tribute. xo

Anonymous,  September 7, 2012 at 8:32 AM  

as I read this I found my eyes filled with tears that I coulnt hold reminded me of my "Poppa"..a wonderful man..he sounds so so so much like your "Poppy" thoughts and prayers are with you and Michael at this time...death is not easy buy you did "Poppy" such justice with your beautiful words....

Meegs September 7, 2012 at 9:58 AM  

This made me cry. What a beautiful tribute, to a clearly lovely man.

Anonymous,  September 7, 2012 at 11:49 AM  

This made me cry as well. Sounds like a great man who lived a great life with very loving family & friends. I'm sure your wonderful memories will keep his spirit alive.

Vanessa September 7, 2012 at 2:23 PM  

This made my cry, it is so beautiful! I am so sorry for the loss of Poppy, he was clearly a very very special person. Thank you for allowing your readers to be touched by him even though we didn't know him. A beautiful tribute.

Phase Three of Life September 7, 2012 at 6:20 PM  

I'm so sorry for your loss. Sending lots of thoughts and prayers to your family.

Alison September 7, 2012 at 10:58 PM  

Count me among the criers! Hoping you and your family can take comfort in the beautiful memories you shared here. Sending prayers your way!

Wishing on stars September 10, 2012 at 5:17 PM  

I'm sorry for your family's loss Heather. He sounded like a wonderful man. You did a wonderful job of showing us what he meant to all of you, it made me cry as well.
I hope you all heal soon.

Bethany September 15, 2012 at 10:15 PM  

I couldnt help but tear up at your sweet post. Im so sorry for your loss.

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