Friday afternoon, Antique Daddy and Sean and I were on our way to celebrate Mother’s Day weekend with Memaw when we got the phone call. The father of one of our dearest friends had passed away unexpectedly.
Pa Palmer, as everyone called him, was 85-years-old. On Monday, we returned him to the sandy East Texas soil from whence he came.
Except that we all will miss him terribly, it is no tragedy really. Pa Palmer lived long and he lived well. He loved others and was loved in return. He lived by his faith and he died by his faith. In that there can be no tragedy.
Pa Palmer was a mild and unassuming man with smiling eyes that turned downward at the corners. I remember the first time I met him. He was a greeter at a church I was visiting and he reached out to shake my hand as he handed me a bulletin. His hands were large and warm and soft and perfectly matched his face. As I got to know Pa Palmer, I learned that the only thing larger and warmer and softer than his hands was his heart.
Pa Palmer made his living working with his hands, but he made his life serving with his hands. Someone told the story of how one time when he was delivering a meal to a shut-in, he spied a rusty and broken fan in the trash. He took it home, fixed it and returned it the following week. A fan is a blessed thing to have in Texas. One time I mentioned in passing that a lamp I loved had quit working. Not long thereafter, he showed up at my house and fixed it. As I watched him sit at my kitchen table tinkering with mysterious lamp parts, there was an unmistakable light and glow about him that came from within. To do for others was a joy to him. But perhaps the memory most deeply etched in my mind is watching him pull his 4-year-old great granddaughter up into his lap and those large hands of his patiently and tenderly combing the tangles out of her wispy white angel hair.
As we filed past the coffin, I reached out and touched Pa Palmer’s hands for the last time, the hands that had touched so many lives in the past 85 years. They were not soft and warm this time, but hard and cold. He was not there. The spirit and and energy that had fueled his life’s work had flown away home.
Tears filled my eyes and overflowed. I patted his hand one last time. Farewell Pa Palmer. Until we meet again.