I have known Papaw since not long after Brandon and I started dating in 2006. From day one he has always been charming, funny, warm, and welcoming. The entire Jones clan is like that- they just immediately accept you as part of the family. Papaw amused me from the moment I met him. He would always come up and start shaking your hand and keep it going for like three minutes as he asked you how you were doing. He was happy to share the state quarters and presidential dollar coins with all of us- we'd come over for a family holiday get-together and he'd just start handing them out, and double check to make sure we weren't missing any. He also liked sharing candy. I have had a lot of candy thrown at me and pushed on me hanging out at his house. Papaw was generous with everything. I know that he gave a lot to various charities and cared especially about the native peoples of America, which I thought was really awesome of him.
I also loved watching Papaw and Mamaw Jones interact. They have been together forever. If my memory serves me correctly, they celebrated their 60th anniversary not too long before Brandon and I got married- and we've been married almost 4 years. When Papaw wanted Mamaw's attention, he would whistle like a bird, which I thought was funny and cute. They playfully picked at each other every time I was around them, and I loved it. It made me so happy to see two people still in love and still having fun.
Papaw and Mamaw had six children- three girls and three boys. And they did an amazing job raising them. Brandon's dad, and all of Brandon's aunts and uncles, are some of the nicest, friendliest people I have ever met. I can't emphasize this enough: from day one, I have been made to feel welcome in this family. And I'm sure that this openness and warmth can be traced back to Papaw and Mamaw and the love that must have filled that house when their kids were growing up. There's this stereotype that when you get married, your in-laws are supposed to be a pain to be around. I don't get that at all! I mean, you see it in the movies and on tv, but that has not been my experience at all. They have always been nice, friendly, warm, welcoming, and wonderful.
One thing that makes me a little sad is that Papaw will never know mine and Brandon's children. He asked about it a lot. One of the last funny memories I have of Papaw when he was really healthy was when we were babysitting Brandon's second cousin Alexander. Alexander's mom and dad lived with Mamaw and Papaw for a while after they got married, and they had some stuff to do one night, so we spent some time with Alexander and put him to bed, then just read in the back family room after he went to sleep. Papaw came back to say hi, and check on Alexander. He then started his sales pitch: "don't you want one of those? Can't you just see yourself taking a walk in the park with a little baby?" He wandered off for a minute and came back with Alexander's stroller. He then proceeded to push it around the room, making baby noises and saying "doesn't this look great?" It was sooo funny. He really was such a funny guy.
I'm not sad for Papaw. He has been sick for a long time. And I know where he is now- he's in heaven with Jesus (probably still shaking His hand!) When I have felt sad over the past week as he has started slipping away, it has been for the family he is leaving behind. I'm sad for Mamaw. She was doing well yesterday, but I know that it has to be hard being without her husband. I'm sad for Brandon's dad and all his siblings. I'm not sad for Papaw- I'm sad for us. A few people have said to me that this is the worst time to lose a loved one- so close to the holidays. But really, there's no better place to celebrate the birth of our savior than with Jesus, in person.
Would you please pray for our family? As we gathered together to pray in Papaw's hospital room yesterday, we did feel sad, but also thankful that he was in our lives. This is new territory for all of us. It is sad that we have lost his presence here on earth, but we have peace knowing he is healthy and whole in heaven, and we will see him again someday.
Brandon, with Mamaw and Papaw, on our wedding day