This is the eulogy that I gave at Papaw’s funeral. He was a wonderful grandfather, and we will never forget him.
J.C. Francis was many things over the course of his life. He was a son, a brother, a husband, a father, and a friend to many, but to me and my five brothers, he was simply our Papaw.
Since our father was Papaw’s only child, the six of us were his only grandchildren. He loved us, and showed us that by spending lots of time with us. When we were growing up, we spent a lot of time at Papaw and Mamaw’s house. We would call them on the phone Friday after school and ask if we could come spend the night. Papaw would always say, “You know you can.” We would stay with them till our parents would make us come home Saturday night to take a bath for church on Sunday. In the summer, we practically moved in. I don’t remember there ever being a time when Papaw told us he had other plans. We always felt like we were the most important to him. When they lived in their old house, we slept in Papaw’s big undershirts. I don’t remember if it was because we got scared by ourselves or just because they wanted to be close to us, but I would sleep with Mamaw in their bed and Papaw would sleep in one of the small beds with one of the boys. We always felt special.
We weren’t always just left to our own devices while we were there, either. Well, unless Nascar was on. Papaw did things with us. He took us fishing in his pond, watched cartoons with us, and played with us. When my brother tied me to Papaw’s worm tree and then forgot me there, it was Papaw that came looking for me and rescued me. He gave me some butter pecan ice cream to make me feel better.
It was the little things that I remember that are precious to me. Holding Papaw’s hand when he took us down to the pond to feed his catfish. We stood on the big rock, he would rattle the fish food around in an old coffee can, and then then he would throw it out onto the water. We watched till the fish were gone, and then we would hold his hand again and walk back up to the house. Papaw’s hands were so big, we often just held onto his finger. He was silly with us, and made us laugh. When one of us said grace over our meal, Papaw would end it with, “Amen. Bro. Ben. Shot at a rooster and killed a hen.” He was a little irreverent, but he had a fantastic sense of humor.
He always took us places, especially when I was really little and there weren’t so many of us. He took us to see interesting things, like a cattle auction, or to visit relatives, and every trip usually ended with a trip to Jim’s Burgers in Harriman. He would ask us if we wanted to go get one of “those little hamburgers”. Papaw took us to the only circus I’ve ever been to. He was kind and generous, but a little overprotective. He wouldn’t let us ride the elephants, because he was pretty sure we would get hurt.
As we got older, Papaw continued to be a big part of our lives. Mine and Aaron’s first cars were hand me downs given to us by Papaw. When my first car died, Papaw took me and bought me another one that I paid him back for twenty bucks at a time. Unfortunately, it was a granny car, because Papaw insisted a smaller, cooler car was entirely too dangerous. He gave us special things over the years…pocket knives and old jewelry. He always gave us himself.
When we were grown, and began having kids of our own, Papaw continued to be a wonderful grandfather. He couldn’t be counted on to remember our kids’ names, but, even though he was in his seventies, he would get down in the floor and play with our babies. He carried them out to look at the cows and throw pebbles in the pond. They don’t remember him the same way me and my brothers do. They were all so little when his health began to go. However, they know him through the stories we tell about him, and there are a great many stories to tell.
In his last years, as his health failed him, his grandchildren had the opportunity to return some of the time that he invested in us. My brothers have taken him to doctor’s appointments, dressed him, shaved him, and cared for him in every way possible. Watching my brothers, young men and teenagers, care for their elderly grandfather was a testament to everyone to the kind of Papaw he had been to us.
When the time came to say goodbye, each one of us had the chance to come and be with Papaw. We got to tell him we love him and thank him for everything he did for us. When he drew his final breath, two of my brothers were with him. Today, as we prepare to lay him to rest, I just want everyone to know that, among all the things J.C. Francis was in his life, he was the best Papaw that any kid could ask for.
This is my Papaw J.C. and my Mamaw June.
Baby Me and Papaw
Mamaw June, me, Papaw, Lucas, Jason, Aaron, and Malachi (Seth wasn’t born yet.)
Me and my kids with Papaw and Mamaw, after Papaw’s stroke.