Long before Jarid was ever in the picture, one of the men that I could always count on to help me feel confident and special was my Pap. Whenever he introduced me to anyone, he always referred to me as “his #1”. I think that struck a chord with me so much because I was always striving to be “#1” at everything… It was important to me to be “the best” and I took it very hard when I wasn’t…failure was my greatest fear. I never even had to do anything to deserve that title with Pap. I just remember feeling like a million dollars when I asked him how he was doing, and he would say things like, “much better now that you’re here!”
Pap was misunderstood by a lot of people, but he was one of the most gentle, sensitive human beings you could ever imagine. Maybe he hadn’t ALWAYS been gentle and sensitive, but as long as I’ve known him, he was. In fact, there were some things I, along with his kids, didn’t even know about him. People’s lives that he’d touched while he was on this Earth that went unrecognized by everyone except for Jesus. I can’t wait to see how many crowns he has when we all get to Heaven and I think that most will be surprised.
Some of his favorite things included Harley Davidson, the Washington Nationals, televangelists (more specifically, John Hagee), classic cars, and Ocean City, NJ — a place where just this Summer, he took his last breaths while we were on our family vacation. Pap had been in the hospital for a little while, but like me, he gets stir crazy. Being cooped up and not allowed to use the bathroom on his own was just intolerable. He was a stubborn son-of-a-gun (which is exactly where my Mom & I get this trait), and he hadn’t always listened to what the doctors told him either — he firmly believed that they were “only after his money” 🙂 Good ole’ Pap. One of the last few times I was able to stop during my lunch break to visit him in the hospital, I’d stopped at Wendy’s to bring him a Frosty (although I knew he probably shouldn’t have had it) — his face completely lit up when I came into that hospital room. I wish I would’ve just taken the rest of the day off to stay there with him, looking back on it.
Some of the things that will always be near and dear to me about Pap were those baby blue eyes that you could see from a mile away and the fact that since I’m always cold, he would always tell me I needed to find myself a good Armstrong heater (meaning a man) – haha. He was always VERY concerned and paid close attention to the guys that I brought around — making sure to tell them that they “better treat me right and take good care of me”. It was the cutest thing when he bought and gave me pepper spray to carry around with me and insisted that I keep it on my key chain so it was very accessible (I think that started when I got my first apartment or when I started my job with the State downtown). Pap enjoyed the fact that my hands were cold and my fingers were like icicles. He would squeeze them and hold on for several minutes, in effort to keep them warm when it was cold outside. When it was hot outside and my fingers were still cold, he would take my hand and put it on top of his bare skin head — thanking me for “cooling him off” 🙂 Pap had some of the best stories — he would tell you anything if you made the time to listen to him — there was nothing that man valued more, than your time.
His daughter, my Mom, gave him one of his biggest desires close to the end of his life. She and my Dad did most of the legwork, making it possible for Pap to leave the care facility he was staying at and come with us to the beach in OC, NJ one last time. He was beyond thrilled and made the trip easily. We’d rented a large house with an elevator, making it easily accessible for Pap to travel up floors and to basically do everything that any of us could do. He wasn’t quite feeling up to going to the beach since we’d been there, but the atmosphere alone was something he treasured — his kids and grand kids all together in one big house, back where our family vacations all started in Ocean City. It was Monday, June 9th, a beautiful beach day, until about 3pm. It barely started drizzling on the beach (which is something that never scares us away–ESPECIALLY my Mom). Before I knew it, Mom decided that we could probably head back to the house now. Thank God she did because otherwise, we may not have all gotten to see Pap again before he passed. I will never understand how God gives people little gifts like these and some can simply brush it off as coincidence.
This year has been a tough one for our family. Two of the greatest men, who have been foundations in our family, have passed on to be with Jesus within just a few weeks of one another. It’s been a real eye-opener for me to see how quickly life really does pass you by and how important it is to make every moment a special one. Pap and I had just been sitting together that very same day of his passing, when I came back to the house for lunch. I never imagined it would be my last conversation with him. The scenario could not have been any better. When we realized that Pap was struggling, an ambulance was called and he was still responding to us when they arrived, just 3 minutes later. The hospital was only 6 minutes away. We always try to make sense of things, wondering “what if” in circumstances like these, but especially in instances like this one, it’s evident that God’s timing prevails. It could be the best case scenario and there is nothing we can do if God is ready to bring a loved one home. There is no question in my mind that Pap is enjoying the beaches in heaven right now — probably sitting up there shooting the breeze with his brother, Joe and his wife, TT, and even his son, who was killed in car accident at a very young age… In fact, it was the first time Pap was able to spend Father’s Day with his son, whom he’d lost several years ago –what a special reunion that must’ve been.
All I know, speaking for myself, is that nothing has taught me more about life than death. This place, this Earth is so temporary, yet so many people cannot see past the here and now. The choices you make and the priorities you keep do have eternal consequences/rewards. I believe that both TT and Pap would’ve wanted me to tell as many people as possible and to share the good news that because Jesus died on a cross to save us from our sins, an eternity in Hell, we can have everlasting life in Heaven with Him instead.
Pap, I love you very much and you’ll always be the best Armstrong heater ❤ Miss you so much!