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Friday, July 13, 2007

Goodbye Opa

For the last six years or so, I have called him Opa. Before that he was Grandpa. Having children, they had to distinguish between their various grandparents, so my dad became Papa to my kids and Grandpa became Opa.

The last time I saw Joseph Wilson Bordeaux, I was just ready to leave to come back to Greenville from visiting my home place. For years, he lived across the street from my parents with his wife, Esther. I can remember him driving his tractor a short distance to his garden to keep the weeds down. I can still hear his "pssshaw" when he wanted to express incredulity. Oh, there are a lot of things to recall!

I had stopped by to see him earlier that Sunday morning and he was breathing with labored breath. He was unresponsive. I really thought I would leave that day never having an opportunity to tell him goodbye. I remember saying goodbye many times in the past because they used to live in Virginia where he worked in the Newport News shipyard. I remember his pride in having been a master welder on the first nuclear aircraft carrier "Enterprise." It was the same pride he took in his vegetables!

We forgot something before we left that day. I had to stop by his house to pick it up before the 250 mile trip home. I decided to take one last look at him. There he was sitting up in the bed! Uncle Jimmy was there holding a cup for him to help clear the fluid that was building in his lungs. He was so weak. He could not talk, but he looked at me as I walked in. It was a tired look.

What was going on his mind? It was his body that was failing. His mind was having some trouble with memory and he would recall many things from the past, but he had been able to communicate well enough. I wondered as I stood there if he would be able to understand me. "I love you, Grandpa," I said. I patted his leg. "I have to go, but I wanted to tell you that I love you."

He could not speak, but he did not need to say words. His eyes turned to me and said what his words would have. How clear was his gaze. He let me know he understood and I could see he was saying goodbye. I walked backward out of the room still holding his gaze. I then turned and joined my family.

The next Tuesday a week later he had his last moments before slipping into a coma - or deep sleep. Then today after I returned from a ride over the Paris Mountain, I received a call from my mother. She let me know that Grandpa - Opa - had passed away quietly shortly before 6 PM. It was not a surprise or a shock. In many ways it was a relief. I felt a great relief for him. He was ready to go. I believe he was only holding on for his family.

Now his gaze sees the most amazing things! It is like I told my children this evening, he is not dead. Sure, his body is here, but that body is not what made Opa. The part that made him what he is and the part we loved is eternal. What a joy to know that future eternity is with God.

We'll see you again, Grandpa.


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