My grandfather, Horace Burriss, “PaPa” to me, passed away on December 7, 1999. Days before his death I had the opportunity to sit with him at the hospital in Maryland.
Papa laid on the hospital bed as we talked. I sat in a chair next to him, leaning against his pillow, up close to his head.
While in the room, we talked about different things, including my 4 daughters growing up in North Carolina.
At one point during the chat I told PaPa that my oldest daughter, Jessie was going to get married.
I said, “Papa, Jessie is going to marry Oscar soon.”
He did not say anything for a moment, but I could tell that he wanted to say something and that he was getting ready to.
He raised his head just off of the pillow and rolled it to the left and then back toward me clearly looking to see if anyone else was in the room. There was no one in the room except us.
Then Papa said to me, “Lee, I hope she is not marrying for Sex.”
I was just a little surprised with his response.
I said, “No Papa, I am sure that Jessie and Oscar are in love.”
I will never forget what Papa said next. He gave me two keys that I am sure are related to both marriage and life in general.
Papa said, “I am happy for them Lee. A marriage will last forever if it is filled with love.” He continued on with the second key, “And loving what you do is the best reason to do it.”
Papa, laid back down and relaxed on his bed.
I am sure that Papa had a lot going thru his mind at that moment and that the story of Jessie and Oscar getting married fell right into the middle of some of those thoughts. I saw no reason to ask him why he asked me if they were in love. If he wanted me to know, I am sure he would have said more, but he did not.
We talked for a while longer that day. Papa passed away a few days later.
In early 2000, I shared this story with Jessie and Oscar at their wedding reception.
I told them that if it was important enough for her Great-Grandfather, while on his death bed, to ask if they were in love, then he wanted them to remember to always keep love in their marriage. Nearly 10 years later, I am quite certain they both agree.
Being in love with your spouse was a very important message, then and now.
The second line of his statement – “And loving what you do is the best reason to do it”, was more about life in general. I interpreted this to be a key to living a life filled with happiness and rewards, if you love what you are doing. This has helped me make lots of decisions in my life.
I miss Papa, he was a good grandfather. I loved being on the farm with him, helping him feed the livestock, bale hay and drive the tractors. I loved the corny jokes he told over and over again, that I now tell my grandkids (rooster, hen, pullet).
Papa was a character, playfully teased everyone, especially the girls. No doubt that this gene passed from Papa, thru my Dad, and directly into me.
Papa is gone now, but I have great memories of growing up around Papa. And I have an important message from him that he shared with me during the last few days of his life. A message that I have used to guide me over the last 11 years.
This message is so important, I want everyone to remember it
“A marriage will last forever if it is filled with love. And loving what you do is the best reason to do it.”
Your marriage and life will be filled with happiness and great rewards if you do.