For those of you who follow Coffee Lunch Coffee, you’re likely doing a double take. I can certainly relate. It was just one week ago today that we lost my wonderful father-in-law, Steven “Poppi” Hammer. Then, proving that lightning does strike twice, or, if you prefer, when it rains, it pours, my sweet, sweet grandfather, “Papala” Sidney Carr, passed away on Friday morning around 3 a.m. Yes, I am devastated… my heart is broken and I’m in disbelief that these two incredible people are gone. One bit of clarity that I am clinging to is that I have been blessed by an unusually loving family and am so grateful to have had these amazing men in my life. Below are the remarks I made today at Pa Sidney’s funeral. It’s not much, but I hope it gives you a glimpse into the actions of a kind soul…
Wow! If he were here, Papa Sidney would have looked at this crowd, opened his eyes wide to express their sheer disbelief and said something like, “that crowd was absolutely mammoth!” or “did you see the massive number of cars in the parking lot?”
My grandfather was in the automotive parts business. As such, it should surprise no one that he brought me my first vehicle on my 5th birthday. It was a stagecoach pulled by four St. Bernards – each two times my size! Whenever the story is recalled, I’m told I was very sick that day with the flu… it’s funny though, I don’t remember being sick… all I remember is the big, furry, sweet dogs and my Papala as the one who them brought in to celebrate my special day.
And talk about work ethic… the man wouldn’t quit! Papa Sidney served as a solid role model for me and I was so proud of him. In fact, the opening lines of a 2012 piece I wrote for CNBC.com were as follows:
My grandfather is still going strong at 88. And I don’t mean just getting by. Perhaps he’s slowed a bit, but his clients wouldn’t know it. An entrepreneur with an automotive parts aftermarket distributorship, he services his customers’ needs with “high touch,” often showing up in person to deliver their goods. And who is helping him keep his books? You guessed it. My 82-year-old-grandmother.
That wasn’t the only time Papala was the subject of an article in the media. Just this past June, he was featured by The Kansas City Star in a write up about retired men’s networking groups – a topic near and dear to my own heart. When asked why men like himself were so committed to meeting each week for breakfast with the guys, he said, “That’s part of why [we] meet — so [we] don’t forget. It’s easy to get in the habit of just staying at home and sitting around or watching television. Getting breakfast [together] gives [us] something to do… everyone has their own stories to tell — decades worth of them.” Turns out I am just another of the generations of Master Networkers in my family – so glad I have had such fabulous role models as my Pa Sidney to show me the way.
He showed me the way countless times during my 43 years… he was kind and generous and loving. He was my friend. He proved to me that love transcends bloodlines and traditional family trees. He was my grandfather, through and through. As a child, he would get down on the floor with me to build card houses… decades later, it became one of Ian’s favorite activities to do with his Pa Sidney. Oh how they adored one another. As a teenager, he sat with me at the little table in his and Nanny Rosie’s living room to teach me how to pen bubble letters – a skill I actively use to this day. As an adult, he embraced me for who I am and welcomed my husband, Marc, into his life as if he’d been his grandchild from the start. That’s the kind of guy he was.
I’ll close with this… just a few weeks ago as Yom Kippur, the Jewish Day of Atonement, came to a close and my family and I gathered at my home to break the fast, Papala did something unusual. He asked if I had a bottle of wine. I opened one and in an uncharacteristically loud voice, he asked us all to gather around the kitchen island for the bracha, the blessing, over the wine. He said how happy he was that we were all together and that he hoped everyone would be together again next year. It was his way of expressing how important family really was to him.
I love you Papala and I will miss you always.