Though I had never imagined life without him - I was faced with that reality when he was diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer in November of 2007. Even then - I believed that he could beat it - he was strong, courageous and more faithful than any of us could have ever been. He was willing to do whatever it took to defeat this disease - trusting in the doctors, always having a positive outlook - and never complaining through any of the treatments. He even bragged on Well-Star's Cyberknife treatment because it was the latest and greatest of technologies - and he was thankful for the opportunity to try it out.
Two things (among 100's of others) that I will always remember Papa saying to me was that he wanted to:
1. See me graduate college...
2. and walk me down the aisle...
And we did it! He was more than delighted to give me away in marriage to Aaron. Papa loved Aaron as if he was his very own son - and he told him frequently how much he loved him. He knew that Aaron would take care of me and gave us his complete blessing in marriage.
Papa and I practiced walking down the aisle - as he kept saying - "slow down Michele - we'll get there"We practiced dancing to The Blue Danube Waltz because Papa thought that would be the most beautiful song to dance to at the reception. He was a much better dancer than me - but he was patient and we had so much fun! Papa never asked me when we were going to have children. He never pressured us at all for great-grand babies. He wanted us to enjoy marriage and each other to the fullest - then grow our family when we were ready. I just always knew that Papa would hold our children - tell then jokes, teach them things that he taught us - and sing to them "sweetest little fella" like he always sang to me. I envisioned over and over seeing Papa hold our children - and I am so sad that they will never truly know or understand the man that Papa was.
I am thankful however that I got to watch Papa love on Aaron. He was always showing Aaron new things, working right alongside him and every-now-and-then, slipping him a pocket knife, or another treasure that he had been saving for Aaron.
Though some may see it as the cancer won in the end - I would have to disagree. Papa was victorious in the end. He never lost faith, never blamed God and never questioned "why me." In the end his testimony far outlives that disease, his earthly death or any suffering that he went through. He was TRULY a good and faithful servant.
Just last weekend I was at my mom's and she was having her house painted by a long-time friend - that used to paint houses for Papa. The painter's name is Aaron and he was talking to my Aaron about Papa. He didn't talk about the things he had, the homes he built, or the money in his bank - you know what he said? Aaron said that it didn't matter if you were Black, White, Yellow or Red - that "Mr. Bob" loved you and always showed kindness to everyone he met. What a legacy and a testimony to a life lived selfLESSly - with true servant leadership.
There's not a day that goes by that I don't miss Papa, think about him, or even try to call him - he would ALWAYS pick-up the phone! But I am so thankful that somehow - I was fortunate enough to share in his life - from the day he brought me home from the hospital - to the day he was welcomed into his eternal home! I'm sure he's growing prize winning tomatoes, plowing someone elses heavelny field - and most of all glorifying his Father in Heaven!