For those of you who missed the funeral, here is the eulogy that I gave for my Pepaw. It hardly scratches the surface of what an incredible man he was...
Generosity, devotion, kindness, selflessness, humility, and a never ending sense of humor. Those are just a few of the many words that described the man we kids lovingly called Pepaw. The name Pepaw came from my sister Kelli. She was the first grandchild, and when she was a baby she couldn't' say grandpa, so Pepaw was what she called him. It wasn't the manliest or coolest name, but he embraced it with open arms and throughout our lives we have come to understand that the name Pepaw means unconditional love.
Pepaw was an amazingly gentle, easy going man. In all my years I don't think I ever heard him raise his voice at us grandkids. And for those of you who knew me as a kid, you understand how remarkable this is! He might give us an emphatic, “Y'all c'mon now!”, or if we were really bad he would say “Granny's gonna spank!”
If I had to rank Pepaw's loves, it is easy to say God came first, then his family, and after that travel and dessert probably tied for third.
Pepaw loved to go places. His love of travel took him and Granny all over the world. Granny certainly enjoyed their trips, but as the years passed she became decidedly less passionate about those hours spent packing and unpacking. Pepaw had such an itch to go that He would wait until Granny had a beauty shop appointment, and before she left he'd whisper, “I got a little something I want to talk to y'all about. But now don't tell Granny!” After she'd left he'd pull out his new travel magazine and ask about when the kids got outta school and say, “I was just thinking about taking a little trip. Now if it's y'alls idea, then Granny will go”. Granny's beauty shop appointments became the perfect opportunity to get things going. Now Granny was a smart lady and it wasn't long before she caught on, but she mostly kept that to herself. She adored him and would go almost anywhere to make him happy. I will never forget the Christmas Pepaw gave the family a trip to Hawaii. It is a testament to his generosity and adventurous spirit. We had the time of our lives. If there is a travel gene, we definitely inherited it from Pepaw!
For many years we would all convene at Granny and Pepaw's house after church on Sunday for Granny's delicious lunch. We could always tell when there was something especially yummy for dessert, because Pepaw would claim to be full before the rest of us had a chance to go for seconds! We never ate a bite without Pepaw blessing our food. Though he never missed a blessing, we could tell how hungry he was by how long he prayed! If he was really hungry, which was fairly often, he would start praying without warning and we'd all have to quick bow our heads and start listening. Those days were the icing on the cake of our lives. I don't know which was more delicious: Granny's cooking or the easy way we all came together and enjoyed each others company.
The lessons we learned from Pepaw are too numerous to explain here, even though many of us are baptists and we're used to a good long sermon! The thing about Pepaw is that pretty much none of his lessons were given in the form of lectures. He taught by example. His was a life of such purity and grace that we can only strive to be the gentle soul of God that he was. He worked hard, spoke kindly, and always put the needs of others ahead of his own.
He taught us the priceless lesson of undying, unconditional love as he spent 61 years devoted to my Granny. He loved her so much he would do ANYTHING for her. Even paint the shutters on his house pink! His love for her made him determined to outlive her so that he could care for her until the day she died, and he did.
He was a man of astounding generosity. When we visited Pepaw throughout our lives we would always delight in a dollar being slipped into our pocket with his words, “Here's a little something for you. Now you spend it wisely!” He might pull us into the other room before he gave us money and whisper those sweet words, just to make us feel extra special. And boy did he have a way of always making us feel special.
By today's standards, his job as a mail carrier made him a very modest living. He was a frugal man, and often talked about the importance of saving our money and investing it wisely, which he did so well. For a man that only had a 7th grade education, Pepaw was a whiz when it came to the stock market and so many other things. He helped create a comfortable retirement and a platform for which to share his earnings with all those he loved. Few people know that he helped fund my college education, because that was another one of those things that were “just between him and me”. And though we were not supposed to tell, all of us grandkids knew that he was helping the others in some way too. I am forever grateful for the doors he opened for me by helping get my college degree. He was such a humble man, he never wanted any recognition for the good things he did. It just made him happy to be able to help.
Pepaw was always content with what he had in life. It was the simple things that made him happy: fishing, fellowship with friends and family, and lets not forget Granny's blackberry cobbler with bluebell ice cream. He certainly wasn't rich by America's standards, but he was one of the richest men I have ever known.
It may be hard to gauge the impact that one human being has on your life, but I can say without a doubt that he has been one of the most influential people in mine. I am forever thankful to God for the gift he gave us in the long wonderful life of Albert Coker. Pepaw.