The story of a man
It flows freely, never willing to stop at our pleading.
Moments trickle by as the flood of months and years wash past, a fluid presence we simply cannot hold still. We freeze it with photographs … but it is never the same.
As all of that precious time flows by, the ones we love age – the ones we love slip away, and we are left with only their memory and the mark they left on the world.
Andrew’s grandfather passed away on October 30. It has taken me all this time to find the words I need to share about this man, this life. They will not be enough. Words never are, truly.
Before we go forward, you need to know one thing: Grandpa Jim had a million dollar smile. When that man grinned, you grinned, everyone grinned. His smile was infectious and he was always generous with sharing it. His smile hinted at the multitude of fascinating stories he had to tell and at the overwhelming kindness in his heart. Keep that image in your mind and in your heart as you read on, for that is how I always picture him, smiling that wonderful smile.
Okay, now that you picture him as I do, we can proceed.
I lost my own grandfather when I was fourteen. When he died, that was it – no more grandfather. I unwillingly accepted that I would move through the remainder of my life without a grandfather.
But then Andrew and I started dating several years later and Grandpa Jim entered into my life. And somewhere in the years that followed, he became my Grandpa, too. He shared that winning smile with me freely and always made sure to include me, to invite me, to draw me closer in as family.
Grandpa Jim loved his family and celebrated them. He was there for the big stuff: graduations, weddings, welcoming new life into the world.
And he was there for the little stuff, too.
He was a talented storyteller. Easy as pie, he could pick up a guitar and strum a silly, happy folk song that would leave everyone smiling.
He was an independent thinker who enjoyed learning and engaging others in conversation. He took an interest in people and made them feel like their thoughts mattered, that they mattered.
He had the best sense of humor. When conversation hit a lull, he could pull a joke out of his back pocket, said with the straightest of faces and producing the loudest of laughs.
He was a skier, a sailor, the Chuck Norris of home improvement. The man could rewire a kitchen, build a table and make a mean batch of fudge all in the same afternoon.
He loved dogs and went to great lengths to sneak treats to the shy ones to win their love. When our beagle Sherlock was a puppy, the list of things to be inexplicably afraid of included vacuums, the mailman and Grandpa Jim. But Grandpa never gave up, always speaking sweetly to Sherlock and offering him the best treats and toys. Too proud to admit that he was wrong about Grandpa (but not the vacuum – never the vacuum!), Sherlock settled for allowing pets when he thought nobody was watching. I have not a doubt in my mind that they are snuggled up together on a couch in heaven.
Grandpa Jim was fiercely proud of his daughter, son-in-law and grandchildren. He found joy in their joy. When his daughter married a crazy NC State grad and his grandkids went to school there, he happily pulled on the red and white and became a Wolfpacker.
For a long time, Grandpa Jim didn’t seem to age. His vibrant energy seemed to keep him safely out of that ceaseless flow.
And then suddenly, time swirled around his ankles and we had to face the truth of aging, of bodies wearing down, of the letting go of this world to pass beyond its border to our true home.
Grandpa Jim was a good man. There aren’t many.
He loved and was loved. He lived a life that has permanently etched its memory on the lives of his descendants and of his friends. He is missed and will be until we see him again.
I told you these words would not be enough, could not be enough. There will be memories that spring up unexpectedly, and tears, too, just as suddenly because that is the result of loving and being loved by a person such as Jim Duke. His memory stretches far beyond this page and this day, almost tangible.
If you never had the pleasure of meeting Grandpa Jim, I’m sorry – you missed out on a treasure of a man. If you were fortunate enough to know him, then you no doubt realize the light of this world is a bit less bright now.
Carry his memory in your heart and when you come across a shy, stubborn little dog, offer that dog a little treat and a big smile, and know that Jim’s kindness still lives on.
Grandpa Jim, we love you so much and miss your wonderful, beautiful soul but we trust that God has already put you in charge of a small pack of dogs (and maybe a few cats)…. if He doesn’t have you busy repairing the squeaky hinge on Heaven’s gate.