Posted by: deerharas | June 18, 2006


Last Saturday evening my mother called to tell me my grandfather had passed away.  Six months ago he was diagnosed with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) or Lou Gehrig’s Disease.  Although he had grown much worse over those six months, no one expected his death this soon.  After a very emotional week of much travel and tears, I am back at home and beginning to get back to life.  However on this Father’s Day, I want to share a little about one of the greatest fathers there has been.

A year and a half ago my grandparents celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary with all of our family at the beach in Corpus Christi.  They asked me and my uncle Jack, who’s a pastor, to organize and speak at a little worship/celebration service just for our family.  This last Christmas, because of the ALS, it was difficult to get out to go to church, so we again had a family worship time.  My grandfather insisted that my grandmother lead us in worship on her harmonica and that I give the “sermon.”  So when my grandmother asked me to speak at Papa John’s funeral, as scared as I was, I couldn’t think of a more appropriate way to honor him. 

So I don’t forget, I want to try and recap the words that I shared on Tuesday.

Over the past couple days the grandchildren have talked a lot about our favorite memories of Papa John. 

There are silly memories such as the ongoing game of “hide Papa John’s pillow” that Carlee and Jayme liked to play.  And there are all the arguments between the cousins about who got to sleep on the orange thing, a giant couch cushion Papa John picked up off the side of the road and brought home.

There are memories of quality time he spent with us.  The countless games of Rook and Chess, hunting trips with JD, and telling Grace bedtime stories.  He drove many miles to watch his grandchildren play all kinds of sports: basketball, volleyball, baseball, cheerleading, soccer, boxing, and track.  Although he loved to watch his grandkids excel in sports, he was so willing to support us in whatever creative endeavor we might choose from watching JD perform in a play, to listening to Ericka play the guitar or Daniel play the violin, to sitting through several four hour dance recitals to watch me dance maybe all of ten minutes on stage. 

We have memories of what he built.  There were blocks for us to play with as children and birdhouses for us to paint.  I spent countless hours playing with my five-foot tall dollhouse he built just for me.  He built me my very own tree house and my brother a flying airplane swing and backyard fort.  He built Jayme her very first basketball goal, getting her off to a great start.

We have memories of what he gave.  He never forgot a birthday and always made Christmas so special.  I remember as a little girl when Wiley and Zackry would come to visit, Papa John would set out all of his antique pocket knives, letting the boys pick out their favorites.  He promised his musket to Daniel who wants to pass it on to his own grandson someday. 

The most important thing he gave to us grandchildren was his example.  Papa John left us quite a legacy … one of humility and service and especially love.  He had such love for our grandmother, love for our whole family, love for all his friends and neighbors, but most of all love for Jesus Christ.

Ericka shared that one of her favorite memories was going to an Easter Pageant with Papa John.  When it came to the point that they were crucifying Jesus, Ericka looked over and tears were streaming down Papa John’s face as he looked upon the sacrifice that was made for us.  On one of Carlee’s last visits with Papa John, he asked her to get out his Bible and read his favorite scriptures to him. 

There’s a song that perfectly sums up the kind of legacy that Papa John has left for us by Nicole Nordeman called “Legacy.”  I’d like to read some of the lyrics and then share the song with you.

I wanna leave a legacy

How will they remember me?

Did I choose to love?

Did I point to you enough to make a mark on things?

I wanna leave an offering

A child of mercy and grace who blessed your name unapologetically

And leave that kind of legacy


The entire funeral was incredibly meaningful.  A close friend of my grandparents played guitar and sang “I’ll Fly Away.”  My uncle Jay spoke about how even in my grandfather’s condition the last days of his life he asked for his prayer list every morning to pray on behalf of others.  My uncle Jack said that he’d personally rather see a sermon than hear one any day, and that is certainly the kind his father preached.  As I look back on the words that I spoke, it doesn’t even come close to capturing who John Thompson was.  I can’t even imagine all of the lives he touched.  I heard my aunt call him the best man.  I certainly can’t think of one better. 




  1. […] in 2006, my grandmother asked me to speak at his funeral.  I represented the grandchildren and shared all our best memories.  A couple of years ago, my grandmother made a comment in passing, something along the lines of, […]

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