Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Goodbye Granddad

This weekend we headed to Fayetteville to celebrate the life of Jay's Granddad Hill Simmons.  It was one of those funerals that was definitely more of a celebration than a time of sadness.  We all knew where Hill was at.  After suffering with Alzheimers for several years we knew he was celebrating leaving his body behind for the glory of Heaven. 
Anyone who spent more than a few minutes around Hill found out he was a unique individual.  I enjoyed getting to know him the last 13 years and hearing stories about him.  One of my favorites is how he and Lorita started dating.  Hill and Lorita met at the University of Arkansas, but there was a problem....Lorita was dating someone else.  She happened to be dating Razorback Football player (and future NFL player and sports announcer) Pat Summerall.  Hill's university mailbox was close to Pat's so he started telling Nana that Pat was getting all kinds of letters from other girls.  Eventually he convinced Nana that she needed to go out with him instead of someone who might have other girlfriends.  Nana and Granddad went on a picnic together for their first date and never dated anyone else.  A year later they were married.  After they had been married for a couple of months Granddad finally admitted to Nana that he may not have been totally honest about Pat Summerall....  But it must have been ok with Nana because when Granddad passed away Thursday they were just a few weeks shy of their 62 Anniversary.  At the funeral the Minister said that when their daughter LeeAnn was visiting about a week before Granddad passed away he was able to communicate to LeeAnn that Nana needed flowers and chocolate for Valentines Day.  And he didn't want any of that generic chocolate.  It had to be Russell Stovers!  I'd say that everything worked out ok in their marriage.

Jay drafted some memories of his Granddad and ended up sharing them today at the funeral.  He did a really good job.  Since this is our family memory book I'm going to include it here. 

This evening my Grandad passed away.  While this is normally a sad time it was for me a time of great relief.  I have been watching for several years the deterioration of my Grandad from this disease called Alzheimer’s.  This is easily the cruelest diseases that I have ever witnessed.  It has taken one of the smartest men I have ever met to one that couldn’t even remember his own family’s name.  So I am reminded that this life is only temporary.  I must admit that I was even a little excited to think that at about 11 pm on February 16, 2012; my Grandad was getting to be shown around Heaven.  I mean just think about ole Hill’s odd smile, you know the one that actually looked like a frown, but you could read in his eyes that he was smiling.  And from all accounts he used to be a fast runner so I can just see him running to meet the Lord God Almighty face to face.  What a wonderful night Grandad has had.  The sad part is that I hadn’t seen that smile in a long time.
Some of my favorite memories of Grandad are when I was a kid.  He was just one of those special people that are often rare in life.  Many of the memories revolve around the life on the farm and cheering on the Razorbacks.  I would like to share just a few of those memories.  One summer in London I remember him taking us to the garden to plant pumpkins.  I don’t remember exactly but he made up some big story about having magic pumpkin seeds.  These magic seeds had to be planted with a bull horn.  So we made a mound of dirt and planted the seeds by dropping them down an old hollow bull horn.  We then covered them up with the horn and put some cow poop on it.  The cow poop was disguised as magic fertilizer as we went around the field and picked up dried and not so dried cow piles. What do you know we grew magic pumpkins. 
I also remember upon countless times of showing Hereford cattle that Grandad would always be on our side.  I don’t care if we had the worst heifer or the best heifer in the class he would always say ;” boys now she was the best heifer in the class!”  Sometimes we won but many times we lost but he always said she should’ve won!  What a confidence builder for a young boy to know that my Grandad was always on our side.  As I got older and could evaluate cattle on my own and more objectively it was always funny to hear him say,” boys you had the best one.”
I remember another time as a young boy that Grandad took the time to try to impress us as little boys.  As many of you know Hill would get up in the middle of the night for most of us.  But when we were kids and he was staying at our house I got up early with him.  We heard a mouse scurry across the kitchen counter.  So Grandad took me in there to catch this mouse.  His hands were so quick that he caught the mouse with his bare hands in one swoop with his little head sticking out over his fist.  He then briefly showed him to me and said,” Now you gotta hit’ em on the head fast or they will bite you.”  So he hit it on the head and killed it.  I am sure that he got as big a kick out of doing that as I did watching it.
Just like when we were showing cattle and Grandad was always bias even when we watched Terry play football.  He would boo the refs and yell things at the refs like no one I have ever heard.  Those of you that knew his voice knew that it would penetrate any amount of crowd noise there was.  I think that people in NW Arkansas expected to see Terry suited up for the Razorbacks because according to Hill he was one of the best linemen in the country.  Too bad Terry didn’t make it.  Grandad was just sure that you were the best in the world.
One of the most memorable experiences that we had as boys was a time that Grandad took us and two of my friends to an exhibition game of the 94 Hogs and the 90 Hogs basketball teams.  It was a lot of fun but after the game we were leaving and Grandad was like a bull in the line of traffic.  Normally most people alternate letting people into line but we did not.  We never did and got so close to people to close off the gap that we actually bumped the person in front of us.  The lighting in the parking lot was such that you could see in the windshield very easily.  Grandad began to look from side to side as if he was on a nice drive in the country while the four boys were getting all of the people in the back seat screaming and using hand motions that were less than appropriate.  We all tried the best we could to keep from busting out laughing but it was very very difficult.
Another time just a few short years ago Terry and I took Grandad to the Ole Miss and Arkansas game.  Let’s just say he was done with crowds at this point.  He yelled, “Down in front,” the whole games.  We knew then that he was going to be watching the rest of the games in the comfort of his couch and living room. 
Other memories that I have were:
Getting to buy fireworks when my parents wouldn’t let us.  You know they are a waste of money…..
Going to the Rodeo over the 4th of July
Going to a Hereford Field Day and winning the livestock judging contest as a little kid.
Playing poker and he never let us win.
Nana and Grandad always coming to the county fair and many many others.
Wondering, “ why in the world does he get up so early ……everyday.

1 Corinthians 15:50-57 I declare to you, my brothers, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. Listen, I tell you a mystery, We will not all sleep but we will be changed- in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true. Death has been swallowed up in victory. Where O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?  The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law.  But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through Lord Jesus Christ.
Another thing that I remember about Grandad was that when he prayed he always started a prayer with, “Father, we are indeed grateful.”  I would like to say that we are indeed  Grateful to have known Hill Simmons and to have called him Grandad.

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