To many in the small town of Elmira, he was a well known businessman, a florist, a landlord, and a restaurant owner. He was a family man who went to church on Sundays and worked hard during the week. He was a man who loved his home and lived on the same street his entire life.
But to me, my sister and my 5 cousins, he was ‘Papa’, grandfather of 7, something he proudly proclaimed on his personalized license plate, PapaB7.
For me, he was the only grandfather I ever knew. He has been a part of my life since the day I was born, at the head of the table at family dinners, carving the turkey on the holidays, and although he never said a lot, he was just there. He was present, and he was comfort, always there for his family.
He didn’t always agree with choices I made, such as when I became a vegetarian at age 12, or when I went through a phase of wearing heavy black eye liner in my teens (he was right about that one), but I always knew that he cared. He was concerned for my wellbeing, and wanted only the best for me.
He wasn’t overly affectionate, nor did he run in the yard with us when we were kids, but he showed his love in many other, often subtle, ways.
For me that love was most evident when I was living in Toronto, and every few months I would ask if I could visit him and Nana for a weekend. He never hesitated in welcoming me, nor did he utter a single complaint about having to drive to downtown Kitchener to pick me up at the bus station. And every time I left after a weekend, he made sure to tell me that I could visit anytime, that I was always welcome.
I have never once doubted his love for me.
Even during the last time I saw him, visiting him in the retirement home, I could see him trying to be strong just for me. I saw the pain in his face – it flashed across his eyes with each little movement – but he still asked how I was doing, how my job was going, what my new place was like. I could see the effort he was making to show he cared, and to make sure I didn’t worry about him.
He was a man of quiet strength who loved God and loved his family, and worked hard to provide for all of us.
And as we sit here on earth grieving our loss and trying to say goodbye, heaven has gained another angel. We can celebrate his life, and feel comfort knowing he is in a better place, where no pain can ever touch him again.
Papa, as you look down on us tonight, know that you are deeply loved and will be greatly missed.