Standing at the door. Smiling and waving. That's how I always remember Grandaddy whenever we'd leave his and Nanny's house after a visit. He would walk us all to the car and stand at the front door smiling and waving until we were completely backed out of the driveway and pulling away from the house. It was just one of the many little gestures Grandaddy would show us that he cared.
St. Francis of Assisi is credited with saying:
"Preach the Gospel at all times. When necessary, use words."
I don't know that Grandaddy had a specific life motto that he lived by - but I think this is probably the most poetic description of his life. Grandaddy wasn't a man of many words but when he spoke - you listened. He and I rarely ever had a "theological" discussion but I learned more about the love of Jesus from him than I have from almost anyone. It's a lesson that was passed onto his kids and I know it's something Bryan, Bethany and I all want to pass onto ours one day.
No article or eulogy could ever do his life story justice and we'll have stories to share about him for years and years to come. Grandaddy was a lot of things to a lot of people. I'll try to break down just a few of the roles I saw him play in the nearly 27 years of being his grandson.
Grandaddy was the epitome of what a servant leader looked like. He did a lot of things for a lot of people not expecting anything in return. There were never any string attached. I rarely ever saw him do or buy anything for himself. Grandaddy's concern for anyone's well-being was evident, even in the end. He and Nanny both poured themselves into a lot of lives and would do anything they could to help someone. It didn't matter who you were, what you did or where you came from - I don't recall a judgemental word ever coming from his mouth. He treated everyone with the same respect and helped them nonetheless. I saw him fix washers and dryers all over Jefferson County, provide lots of free electrical labor and counsel for Camp Loucon and do a lot of work for his church. For his family, he would do anything to help.
I think all of us could think of several instances where Grandaddy would offer a labor of love that would sometimes save the day. He built a cabin with his bare hands to provide a place for family and friends to gather and fellowship. He wired both my parents and Aunt Venita's homes. He and Nanny would both drive to Bowling Green about once a month while Bryan, Bethany and I were in school to take us out to dinner - always at Smokey Bones. Even after I started work, he would help me talk through new things in the professional world he would run into and share learnings from his own experiences traveling the world for GE.
The fruits of his labor of love were prevalent in his last days with the outpouring of love, support and prayers that overflowed from his community. Even from 400 miles away in Atlanta, I could feel that impact of everyone lifting him and our family up in prayer. It's the prayers and support from all the people him and Nanny have touched that kept him with us as long as we had him.
The Scientist and Mathmatician
If he was anything, Grandaddy was very methodical about everything he did. Everything he worked on our did was done with a very scientific precision. If you've ever been fishing with him, you know this. During the winters when Lake Nolin would be lowered, we would go out and find out where all the fish attracters were and take pictures of them. He would then go back to the cabin and plot out all those points on a map. Summer would come around and we would get up early in the morning and go out on his Bass Tracker to see what we could catch.
You know how in the Bible there's the story of Jesus telling Peter to cast his nets to a specific side of the boat and they ended up raking in a ton of fish? I can relate to that story. Because of Grandaddy's scientific precision in the off-season, he'd drive up to a spot and say "drop your line right there." Within minutes we'd be pulling in fish left and right. This isn't a fishing story - we really did catch 20-30 fish on multiple outings. The fish never even saw him coming.
Whether it was figuring out what my average miles per hour pace was after watching one of my races, creating his own sudoko puzzle equations or guesstimating the precise time he would arrive at a destination based on distance and average speed, most everything in life was a numbers game to Grandaddy. A game he normally won.
I never fully appreciated it until I had a wife of my own but Grandaddy was a great example of a husband. Sure, he may not have been the best Christmas gift picker-outer (I remember him buying Nanny a treadmill one year...whoops) but Nanny's needs always came first. He took care of her even when he could barely take care of himself.
Nanny and Grandaddy's marriage is one Megan and I have mentioned in our house church here in Atlanta as being one we try to emulate. The amount of unconditional love from each one of them was something you don't see a lot of in many marriages. It's why, even after 50+ years, they were still crazy about each other. It took me becoming married myself to really appreciate how truly special their marriage really was. I hope I can be half the husband to Megan as he was to Nanny.
The number one thing that probably defined Grandaddy were his handyman skills. The guy loved tools and could fix anything. Seriously. If it there was something he couldn't rig together to make work again, it probably wasn't meant to be fixed. Grandaddy's tool belt was the one accessory of his that really defined him. He built a cabin with his bare hands. He wired houses. I saw him make machines work that normally would've been pitched by most people. I remember how he rigged a microwave at their cabin to work by placing a piece of green felt in the corner that you had to push to make it start.
Grandaddy truly was a fixer. Tools were a passion of his and the man loved to work. He didn't idle well. He was happiest when he was solving a problem, building or repairing something. One of my last gifts from him was this cordless drill after we bought a house - a gift that helped me build Megan's Christmas gift this year. I remember how excited I was to call him when I used some of his Christmas money to buy a leaf blower. Sure, it was a simple thing but functional - something I knew he would be excited about and proud that I would be excited about getting a tool indirectly from him - which he was. I think that phone conversation was the last time he and I really talked.
When we visited this past Christmas, Grandaddy couldn't go further than from the kitchen to his chair in his living room the entire weekend. However, when it was time for Megan and I to leave, he stuck to tradition. He didn't just stay in his chair and wait for us to come to him. He made a point to stand up and he and I hugged tighter than we ever have. Neither one of us said a word but both knew that was the last hug we would ever exchange. Grandaddy then made a huge effort and walked us to the door and stood there, smiling and waving at us until we pulled out of the driveway. It was my last living image of Grandaddy and it couldn't be more perfect.
Thank You Grandaddy
Thank you for loving not only your family but everyone around you unconditionally.
Thanks for the trips to Smokey Bones and to the Pancake Pantry in Gatlinburg.
Thanks for making our fifth birthdays really funny as you held up your hand with two missing fingers and said "Are you THIS many?"
Thanks for traveling all over the state to watch me run.
Thanks for teaching me that UK basketball was a major life priority but that making it to church Sunday morning was still a bigger one.
Thanks for setting an example for what it means to be a Godly husband and father and rubbing off on our own parents in the best way possible.
Thanks for the weekly talks after I moved away to Chicago and Atlanta.
Thanks for teaching me that Moon Pies taste way better after 10 seconds in the microwave. They really do.
Thank you for letting Bryan and I make movies with your camcorder.
Thanks for the late night Phase 10 sessions and that if the game was stopped and everyone was looking at me, it was my turn.
Thanks for teaching me how to fish.
Thank you for "only saying this once."
Thank you for walking me to the door that one last time.
Today is a sad day and there will probably some hard days to come. However, this is also a happy day. Grandaddy is in no more pain and finally with the Jesus he emulated so well all of his life. I had the opportunity not just to know this great man but be his grandson. I was Jim Hawkins' grandson and am extremely proud of that. We were privileged to have had his example in our life.
So thank you Grandaddy. For everything. And save us all a seat at the banquet table. I'm sure we'll have some catching up to do.
Jim Hawkins Sr passed away January 12, 2014. These words were just a few of the ones read at his funeral.