Monday, June 17, 2013

In Celebration & In Loving Memory of Papa Jim

I have no idea where to begin.
My grandfather passed away on April 30th, 2013.

Good looks run in the family- An early photo of James Harold Cox, my 'PAPA'.

His life and his death changed mine forever.
To talk or write about the latter of those is too painful.

Pictured: Papa and Cindy (my mother) at The Minister's Treehouse

My Papa Jim was awesome.

Swinging Papa!

It's hard to write about him, using the past-tense.
I don't like doing it.
It doesn't come naturally and I notice each time I refer to him in the present tense
and then have to backspace, when typing, for corrections.

Photo, a stranger? Stolen with permission from my Aunt Tina's Facebook pictures.

Photo by my Aunt Tina

I miss him...

(Photo credit:  my cousin, Rachel Rice Zachary)
Mamaw Rose, this blog post is not intended to make you feel sad.
I know it will, though-
because I am sad just trying to figure out how to write this...

For that, I am more sorry than I am for anything I've done in my life...
you deserve happiness and my intention is not to cause you more pain.
The pain we all feel right now is a complicated and terribly bittersweet thing to explain.
I won't do it justice.
I won't honor Papa's life and his memory in a way that is worthy of its greatness-
I won't be able to write about Papa in a way that won't hurt.

I have tried, but my many attempts have not been worthy of 'Jimmy'.
Nothing I write will be good enough to summarize the life of 'Poppo'.

Photo by my Aunt Tina, pictured: Papa and James feeding turtles.

Photo by my Aunt Tina, Pictured: Papa, Tony, Katie, and Uncle (David- we call him 'Uncle' because he's awesome.)

Katie helping Papa open a birthday gift in the parking lot, outside a Japanese restaurant where we celebrated Papa's birthday.

No words are noble, kind, generous, and beautiful enough to sum up 'Papa'.
And, certainly no vernacular usage, regardless of how upbeat, positive, and good-naturedness of intent will give you, or any of us the comfort we need and deserve.

But, I must try.
Papa Jim would want me to try.

He'd say, "You can do it, Regina!"

I'd believe him because he believed in me-
and because his encouragement had special powers of motivation and strength.

Jammin' Out. Papa could pull off a pink guitar pretty well. :)

So, this is for Papa...

In honor of my Papa, this is dedicated to the celebration of his life
we were blessed to be a part of it...

Photo by my Aunt Tina. Mamaw and Papa on their cruise ship. I just love this picture. Mamaw may not like it but I think it's wonderful to capture a candid moment! :)

I think about the Fourth of July when I see this photo below...I'd never noticed the Fireworks sign in the background until now. Papa made all holidays special but I recall his enthusiasm for fireworks when I look at this picture...

I remember more than fireworks.
I remember more than just The Fourth of July.

I remember everything I got to share with Papa...

Papa, in his late-sixties, playing the Wii like a champion.

So much makes me think of him and I feel a mix of bittersweet emotions when I recall a random time that we spent together...

Fourth of July at Aunt Tina and David's house.

Papa liked reading my blog.
Photo by Cynthia Cannon (a.k.a., bashful blogger, my Mama) of Mamaw and Papa at the Minister's Treehouse
I remember feeling so proud of myself when Mamaw and Mama told me that.

It was wonderful that my family kept up with my life online, but to hear that Papa did too-

That was special.
Still is.
Always will be.

Even though I disappointed Papa, on occasion, I feel accomplished to know that I did things to make him proud.

 Papa believed in me during a time of my life when I didn't believe in myself.

...and before that.
from the beginning...

My sister, Tracie, and me. Our doll collection was handmade by Mamaw.

Papa always said I was creative and talented.
He said I could do anything.
He said he was proud of me...


He also said that he was disappointed in me when my actions required the help and support of my family, because of my own stupidity.
He said I knew better.
He made me think about my potential.
He helped me overcome the self-inflicted consequences I incurred during my college rebellion years...and,
he gave me advice in the years that preceded, and followed those crazy times.

I should have always followed Papa's advice.
I should have thanked him more.
I should have...

It's funny how we take people for granted, isn't it. Not funny, 'ha-ha-sort-of-funny', of course...
it's just...

Our family

Papa would say we know better than to do something so silly like that.
He had good advice.

Papa, Kaycie, Katie, and Uncle playing games together and relaxing at Aunt Tina's house.

He always saw the good in people.
He saw the good in me, right from the start...

Papa saw beauty when he looked at a newborn me- near-bald, emergency C-section baby with a cone-shaped head. (luckily, that feature is not one I still have.)

Photo taken in the 1980's. Papa with my sister, Tracie and me. Our jammies are awesome. :)
Papa took one glance at me (on September 22, 1987) and said, "She's got a preeeeetttty chin."

Of course, I don't remember Papa saying this but the story has been verified on numerous occasions.
I don't remember anything about my initial debut to the world. I am told I was difficult from the beginning.
If I'd had any sort of coherence at that time, I would have requested that infant-nudie pictures be limited for my onlooking family. Oh, well...

At least I had a pretty chin.
Papa said so. He saw beauty through imperfection. He always did. The good things in life were obvious to him and he never took them for granted.

Our holiday best! My cousins and I, back in the days when matching sweaters were a must for holiday pictures! :)

Our Mermaid party. Yes, those are trashbags. We are cool. We had theme parties and got really creative. This is one of those pictures you can't help but laugh about! Great memories shared with our family that are hard to explain when you see a picture like this one. We're not weird. We're artistic and expressive...and we totally look like mer-people.

"I have a butt chin."
That comment made Papa laugh the first time I said it.
I explained that our chins look like tiny little butts...weird to some, but makes complete since to the lucky others who also have clef chins...

Papa's chin was passed down to me and he noticed the resemblance of his infant granddaughter at first sight.

My chin was (and- humbly, still is) rather attractive, so I concur with Papa's 1987-established assessment.

We've all seen this look before...
Papa made me want to be better, try harder, and give back to those in need...
He taught me to be responsible, to care, to accept when I was wrong,
to want more out of life than what I'd settled for,
to recognize my potential,
to follow my dreams,
to become more than I ever would've been...

He was funny...

Playing with Photobooth, our entire family took self-portraits that are just magnificent! Here's Papa''s my favorite. :)

He made us laugh and enjoyed entertaining everyone in his company, at every opportunity!

A master of disguise!

Papa's sense of humor had a child-like quality for the enjoyment of things in which we should all find delight. Sometimes, silly faces and costumes are necessary to make people laugh.
Papa knew this, of course.

He was known to wear goofy hats, costumes, and/or accessories to enhance his amusing appeal.

Hats are a must for laughs.
Mamaw was accustomed to her husband's habits and laughed with all of us when Papa wore humorous attire. She encouraged 'Jimmy' to refrain from wearing things like this in public, of course, but we all were entertained when Papa broke this rule every now and then!

Sweet, gentle, ornery, funny, cute little Papa. His smile filled our hearts with joy.

His smile was contagious.

Sometimes, a picture captures the person's personality. Papa's is perfect in this shot, taken at Rachel and James' wedding.
One of the best feelings we experienced was the joy we felt when Papa laughed.

Papa was one of those rare people you meet who genuinely care about the happiness and well-being of others. It was hard to be sad when in his company. Problems were defeated by Papa's smile and you'd catch that smile without realizing it... no matter how troubled you'd been before.
Regardless of your problem, Papa would say magical words and give the medicinal smile that made you all better.

Okay- here's Papa's face when he's up to something or when he's trying to get people to laugh. I love this of him! Taken of Papa and Mamaw on their cruise with Aunt Tina and David. So cute!

He gave the best hugs- the kind that let you know you were truly loved...the sort of hug that
made you feel important and uniquely special.

Papa loved life.
He enjoyed every part of it.

Site-seeing and traveling were two of Papa's favorite things to do.

Papa danced.
He enjoyed himself in this video until he noticed he was being filmed-
I remember dancing here with him and we laughed when we turned the wrong way during the Cha-Cha and wound up face to face.
The fun memories like this one are my favorite!

Papa lived his life for other people.
He lived for those he loved most and he gave to those he did not know.
Because Papa loved them, too.

He loved everyone.

My husband, Josh, and Papa on the Fourth of July at Aunt Tina and David's house. Josh always had fun being around Papa and loved the way Papa made him feel welcome in our family, right from the start. This picture is one of my favorites. Two men I love so much!

My mom, dad, and Papa- relaxing outside in Ashland City, Tennessee. Papa stopped for a visit while on his way to and from Missouri many times over the years. I'm glad I got to be there for this photo.

He delighted in making people laugh and his enjoyment of this was only surpassed when his humor sent those he loved into uncontrollable, side-splitting giggle-fits.
My cousin, Tony, and Papa. These two were inseparable. Papa was proud of all of us, but Tony was like a son to him. The bond they had was tremendous and the love they shared for each other is evidenced by the happy looks on their faces here in this picture. Papa was proud of Tony and Tony was proud of Papa. When the two got together, they would sometimes aggravate you for their own amusement. They'd giggle like little kids when they were together and you'd wonder if they were up to something. Papa loved Tony and all the times they shared together, making memories to last a lifetime.
Aunt Tina, Papa, and Cindy (my mother), all smiles. :)

He took part in adventure, exploration, nature, bird-watching, omelets, traveling, golfing, fishing, biking, fixing, doing, giving, loving, enjoying, laughing, planting, gardening, crafting, constructing, managing, accomplishing, investing, planning, caring...

Papa took his granddaughters on a MONTH-LONG RV trip out west.
Four weeks of Papa's life were spent traveling across the country with six women.
Papa drove hundreds of miles, over terrain that would terrify most professional truck drivers.
He was a tour guide whose mission was to show his grandchildren famous landscapes and historical places beyond Tennessee.

We visited The Grand Canyon, Las Vegas, The Painted Desert, St. Louis, San Antonio, The Alamo, Custard's Last Stand, New Mexico, The Corn Palace, Mount Rushmore, Colorado, The Petrified Forest, Lake Havasu, The Great Salt Lake, Idaho Falls, Yellowstone National Park, Old Faithful, Bozeman, Sundance, Crazy Horse, Hill City, The Badlands of South Dakota, Laura Ingalls Wilder Homestead, Missouri, The Silver Dollar Bar at Wall Drug, The Riverwalk in San Antonio...

 Not many people get to say that about their grandfather, now do they?
Papa was special. We tried his patience a few times, I'm sure...
Still, we did well for living on the road with six other people.
The memories made on this infamous trip will NEVER be forgotten...
This experience of a lifetime happened because of Papa.
He wanted to take us places. He wanted us to see the world. He wanted us to learn, to grow, to travel and experience all the wonderful things life has to offer.
For that, I am truly blessed.

For you, and so many others whose lives have been changed by a man unlike any other...

I love you.

I love Papa.
The love I have for him can't ever be changed to the past-tense.
The words, "I loved..." don't make any sense unless you stop loving...

"Love" is still true...

Because it is eternal.

Because I still feel it.

Because I always will...

Dedicated to James Harold Cox, my grandfather...
My Papa.
For my family. For Papa's family.
For the memories that live on forever...

The garden was one of Papa's favorite places to roam. Countless games of hide-and-go-seek (or, 'Olly Olly Oxen Free', as we called it)  were played here with Papa when we were young. He kept up with his grandchildren and would race us all to base, which was always designated in this beautiful garden.

Papa knew about plants. His knowledge of gardening and nurturing growing things was extensive. If you wanted to know anything about a particular plant, tree, flower, or bush- Papa had the answer. Each growing thing in this garden was strategically planted by a green-thumbed master. Quirky ornaments and beautiful birdhouses are placed in spots where Papa could enjoy them. The mixture of beauty, spunk, grace, and humor that is found in the garden conveys Papa's spirit. His personality is reflected by the composition of a garden we have all enjoyed since childhood. There is truly nothing like sitting on the purple bench, listening to the wind chimes, breathing in sweet aromas, and watching the birds. All things were well cared for by Papa, who took the time to make a perfect garden for all to enjoy.
Papa loved being outside. Like a roaming antelope, he wandered the earth in search of what beauty he knew lay beyond the confinements of interior structures. Papa spent his life surrounded by the beauty of nature and all created things. He preferred the freedom and open spaces afforded by the endless boundaries that are only found beyond man-made walls. It was common for Papa to rise before dawn to beat the sun's arrival over these Lenoir City hills. If you were visiting Papa, you'd know not to worry when you woke up to find him absent- You knew that nature had beckoned him and he'd joyously answered its call. A free spirit, Papa wandered the earth with curiosity, exploration, and appreciation of its majesty.

Watching birds was a fascinating past-time of Papa's. He marveled at the habits of winged creatures and, much like plants, Papa knew just about everything about birds. He could recognize a call and tell you what bird made it, what that bird looked like- and, sometimes, where that bird lived. Birdhouses and bird feeders were visited frequently by a man whose intrigue for these creatures was only matched by his diligence to care for them.

Papa carved numerous walking sticks to assist all family members with steep climbs on his property. Venturing into the woods required the craftsmanship of one who constructed these useful and beautiful hiking tools. Smoothed to perfection, a slip of the hand on the wooden staff would not incur a stubborn splinter that one would need remove after hiking. No, these were built with love and designed to withstand the hardships of weather, as well as the wear they would suffer from being placed in the hands of energetic- yet, destructive, grandchildren. Built to last as long as we live, these staffs represent the dedication Papa put into all he did, made, and gave for those most precious to him. We all have stumbled on the trails of life- because of Papa, we made it out of the woods without a scar. Our helper made these helpers for us and holding the stick as you wander down one of Papa's trails, you can't help but feel gratitude, love, respect, and security. In your hand, you hold something that will protect you, when needed. You hold something made with love, kindness, care, and dedication. You feel the wonderful things that Papa left to us, gave to us, made for us...and you feel his spirit as you carry it with you on the walks down the trails that he traveled. 
Broken objects have a place in the garden, which allows beautiful display of imperfect objects. It may seem silly, but the mixture in Papa's garden shares some of his characteristics. One trait of Papa's was that he had an ability to see purpose and goodness in people. Here, in the garden, that trait is made tangible by the placement of broken flower pots, worn furniture, and bits of decor. Papa had a way of finding usefulness in just about everyone- even in broken people and things that others may forget or see as being useless. The good things in life are often imperfect, it seems. Papa just had a knack for making the good in everything more obvious to the rest of us.

The walking staffs have rested in this spot for as long as I can remember. I know I've already addressed the significance of these once already but this photo reminds me of more memories we shared with Papa...

It was a cold winter, many years ago when I visited my grandparents as a child. My cousins, Tony, Jessica, and Rachel were tired of being cooped up in the house- and my sister and I felt the same sort of stir-craziness.  Papa introduced us to a game and our boredom dissipated as he began to explain the rules. The game was called 'WAR' but the materials we'd need to play did not involve a deck of cards. Papa told us that he'd played war with his brother, long ago. Battle scars had been inflicted upon him by a BB gun. Intrigued by the assumption that we'd be using guns, I remember feeling nervous about playing 'WAR'. Papa reassured me when he clarified that we would not be using guns of any kind. The walking sticks were designated as weaponry, and "bang bang" would be our battle cry to convey the defeat of an opponent whom we spotted. Rules were similar to those of hide-and-go-seek. Except, 'WAR' sounded much cooler to our boredom-ridden brigade.

We put on layers of clothes, snow hats, mittens- you name it.- Anything to protect our warrior bodies from the frigid winds of winter. We headed outside, grabbed walking sticks from the shed, and trekked to our forest battlefield. The rules were simple: One must not be spotted by any enemies. One must be vigilant, or one would be "bang-banged" and dishonorably discharged from the war. If one were spotted, one must shout "bang-bang" and aim their weapon at the enemy before said opponent announces one's defeat by saying "bang-bang" first. This game may not sound like fun to you. That's because you didn't play it. You didn't leave the warmth of your home to fight for your honor. We did. We ran and fought all over wooded lands with a vengeance only fellow soldiers may respect and understand.

We covered ourselves with leaves and watched for trespassers who dared enter into our silently claimed territories. 'Gunshots' were heard all over the forest. Our walking sticks were true to Papa's purpose of helping us climb, hike, and fight like men. They were given special powers that prevailed to save the day. 

I don't remember who won. Probably means I didn't. :)

I just remember the war. 

Alliances were made and broken by my we cousin comrades, for no soldier could be completely trusted. 

It was an epic battle that Papa creatively invented to entertain us.

And it shall go down in history, never to be forgotten.

I've posted this photo before, but think it is appropriate to share again. This little guy has been a part of our lives for decades. Papa used to build block castles with us when we were young and this little man would often be placed atop the highest point of our Fisher Price towers. Papa had a red tin container that held blocks and little people like this one. We'd dump the bin every time we got a chance and Papa would join us in our construction projects. This little man has retired from standing on top of block castles, though, and he now keeps watch over Papa's garden. Reminding me never to take the little things for granted, this little decoration keeps garden visitors company. With him, one finds many fond memories of the simpler things in life. 

The making and tearing down of castles was something we all shared with Papa. The sound of the blocks when they were poured from the tin onto the carpet comes to mind. The imagination of childhood that was encouraged and shared with Papa is remembered when one scans the garden and spots this little blue man. With him, one finds contentment and delight in the beautiful memories made with Papa. The memories of blocks, Hotwheels cars, and childhood wonder that were made sacred by Papa's participation in our lives are all here. In these memories, we find a man whose heart was kept young by its enjoyment and love for living life to the fullest with those he loved most.


Papa was not a grandfather, as the word can imply distance and disconnection between the young and the elder. Papa understood us and connected with us in a way that 'grandfather' does not suggest.
Our relationship with Papa was like that which is shared between the closest of friends...

Papa was a friend who understood the hopes, dreams, goals, mistakes, and visions of the young.
Because Papa was young at heart, we bonded with him to share a love of the closest and purest nature- Papa aged, but he did not ever grow old. He never lost sight of the beauty, delight, and innocence that is found in the heart of a child.  He carried the imagination, humor, appreciation, and wonder of childhood with him to share it with us each day of his life.

Papa's zest and enthusiasm for life was contagious and we honor him by sharing all he gave to each other, to strangers, to the world.

'Keep your heart young' Papa, for Papa-
 for all the memories he gave us-
for all the things he taught us-
for the examples he demonstrated-
for the life he lived and shared among us.

'Don't go growin' old before your time has come'. 
For Papa, that time never arrived. 

In Memory of Papa, whose heart never grew old-
whose life we honor 
whose love we share
and whose memory 
lives forever. 

Dedicated to Mamaw, whose strength is tremendous-
whose laughter fills my heart with joy-
whose hand guides me through life
whose tears I share
whose love heals my soul
and whose life
I am blessed to share. 
I love you. 
I always will. 
I am thankful you love me. 
Thankful I have you. 
Thankful that you are my friend
and that  I am your granddaughter. 
Your life touches mine 
and my heart heals 
each time I see you smile. 
We will laugh 
We will cry
We will remember
We will honor
We will heal
We will find peace again-
as we travel down the stormy roads of life together-
and the sun will shine again.

Dedicated to my Mama
my Daddy
my sister
my aunt
my uncles
my cousins