31 July 2006

A Few Words About Pop

I read these words during the graveside service for my father.

My dad died on Sunday morning as a happy and peaceful man at the house with his wife of 39 years. Some of you knew him as John (by the way he couldn't stand the name and all its deviations) if you grew up with him Johnny, Uncle John, his first grandchild, Cole, named him Pap Pap, to me he was Pop.

Pop liked hotdogs, steaks, barbeque, Johnny Cash, trout fishing, butter pecan and chocolate chip mint ice cream, and the news. He loved the homeplace at Ten Mile, Mortage Lifter tomatoes, sleep, getting a bargain, his friends and his family. He was a stone mason who took great pride in his work. While flying in on Wednesday I looked at the window and saw his work throughout the valley: the Columbia Gas building, the Cultural Center, adn the Veteran's War Memorial. He would refer to himself as a dumbass bricklayer, but we all knew better. Once I saw him tear apart a project that was one inch out of square; he said he never wanted anyone to ever say that John Norvell built something out of square. He was also impossible to shop for; he was never satisfied and always took items back to exchange them.

He lived his life his way with his hat creased on the top and cocked to the side. When I arrived in Rochester, NY to attend Divinity School they all wondered how a kid from a dirt road in WV got there. Pop always thought he had no impact on me; I point to Pop that's how I got there. He would always correct folk when they would ask why I was a clergyman and I would point to Pop. But his legacy will always live on in me. I am who I am because of him. It wasnt much of a leap to go to Christian Social Justice when your dad schooled you in the importance of labor unions; to go to Christian environmentalism when your dad went to painstaking efforts to clean up the streams we fished; to combine faith and reason when your dad would quote his aunt Artie who said, rather bluntly, God gave you the gift of a brain: use it; and its not hard to inclunde humor in my ministry when you had a dad who loved to laugh, tease people, tickle kids and tell great tales with a straight face leaving people never knowing if he was serious or not.

In the hospital during the week he recovered from surgery we talked and talked and talked. He said we had some good times, indeed we did. I didn't think cancer would get him, the ordinary man sure, but Pop, no way; but it did. I asked him how he made it through life when he lost his dad at age 31, my age. He said it seemed someone always came along to replace them. Pop died around 10AM on Sunday morning, @ 2:41PM our third child whom we named after you Pop was born.

Pop you can't be replaced, we will live with good memories of good times, great laughs. God, thanks for sharing John with us. I wish he was here with us longer. We sure are gonna miss him.

Peace of Christ be with you Pop.

While at the homeplace I found this picture, it is blurry sure, indeed there are better pictures, but I thought this was a fitting for the eulogy.


Rev. Elihu Smails III said...

Thanks for sharing this with your friends who are far away...a powerful witness to God. Peace be with YOU.

Tripp Hudgins said...

Peace and all good things to you and your family, Travis.

Mrs. Popping Culture said...

You've had to do this too much in the last year. Your dad sounds like a great guy.

Woody said...

Nice to see your dad, through your word, is still filling hearts.