A Life Well Lived, a tribute to my grandfather
My grandfather lived for almost a hundred years. A century. During that time, Hayward Burden was a son, a brother, a husband, a father, a grandfather, a great grandfather and a great-great grandfather. He was also a carpenter, a lover of Beagles, a good neighbor and devoted to his family. He was a husband of 70 years to one wife. What a great example he was of love, honor, devotion, and commitment.
And what a blessing that my Pappaw lived to see his children grow up, marry, and then to know his six grandchildren. He saw us grow up and have children and become parents. He even was able to see some of his grandchildren become grandparents.
In 1917, when Pappaw was born, Theodore Roosevelt was president of the United States. He lived through the presidencies of Roosevelt, Taft, Wilson, Harding, Coolidge, Hoover, FDR, Truman, Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan, Bush, Clinton, George W. Bush, and Obama. Yep—19 presidents! Much has changed in this world since 1917. But for Pappaw, some things never changed.
He loved my Mammaw. I remember a few years ago visiting them and how they laid in bed beside each other holding hands. He loved his “Polly.” It is actually difficult to separate my memories of him from Mammaw. It has always been Mammaw and Pappaw. They were One. He died with his wedding band on his finger—where it had been for 70 years.
The love he had for his family never changed. Aunt Pat told me how every week, when she and Dad were kids, even before Pappaw was a Christian, he insisted on a “family day.” It was usually on Sunday afternoon and they would go to the park, have a picnic or go skating. His kids just remember that whatever they did, Pappaw joined in the fun. And he did not change as a grandfather. My sister, Luanne, remembers that Pappaw did not just sit by and watch us when we were kids. He joined in the fun and played with us.
Pappaw participated in life. Whether it was building something, playing with his beloved Beagles, talking about his Beagles to Ryan, hunting, being “Third Pappaw” to the neighbor kids or visiting with his grandkids, he was not one to sit still for long. He never met a scrap of wood he didn’t like. The man could make anything out of a piece of wood!
And boy, could he tell stories! I loved hearing about his life as a newlywed, living through the Depression, doing whatever jobs he needed to do to provide for his family, stories about my other grandfather, who he loved and thought of as a best friend. Pappaw could tell a story and then tell it again. And sometimes stretch that story just a little bit! : )
When I think of Pappaw I think of someone who lived his faith. He put action to his words. It began as a young man in the 1930s working for President Roosevelt’s Civilian Conservation Corps (the CCCs). He earned $30 a month and sent $25 to his family. As a father, he took care of his family. He worked far away from his family to earn money and to provide for them. He helped others. If you told him you liked something he would give it to you. He had a big heart. When his church needed a new building he was right there every day helping to build it.
Whether he realized it or not, Pappaw did exactly what we are instructed to do in the book of James: “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like.” When Pappaw looked in the mirror, he remembered what he looked like. He did what the Word said to do. He was an example of faith and action.
He left us a rich legacy. When his great-granddaughter, Jessi Lei, was told that Pappaw had gone to live with Jesus, she put her hands up in the air and said, “Yea!” You’re right, Jessi, “Yea! Pappaw is with Jesus!”
And he is also with Mammaw–his beloved Polly. I can’t help but smile when I think of Mammaw and Pappaw together again, holding hands. And him singing their song to her.
“You are my sunshine, my only sunshine.
You make me happy when skies are gray.
You’ll never know dear, how much I love you.
Please don’t take my sunshine away.”
We will miss Pappaw until we see him in Heaven, but we can be joyful in knowing that he is with his “Sunshine” again.