The hardest thing about being a Christian is letting go and letting God. — Pastor Dale Parkhill
Today, one of the sweetest, most loving families I know laid to rest their best friend, fiercest protector, supporter, prayer warrior, and God-fearing man.
I have cried every single day since Poppy’s departure from this life. Five days in and it still feels surreal. And if I’m hurting this much, I CANNOT imagine what his family must be feeling/going through right now.
My heart aches for each and every one of them and all those whom he also loved and cared for deeply. His daughters, grandchildren, great grandchildren, extended family, church family…we all rejoice because we know where he is. However, we’re also in pain because of the massive void he has left in our hearts and lives.
But I know Poppy and what he’d say to me and his loved ones right at this moment. He’d say, “Baby, wipe those tears away. Don’t cry. It’s okay. I’m with Jesus! All is more than okay.” and he’d smile.
Well, Poppy, this article about you is me trying to be strong. I hope it does justice to give others a small glimpse of the massive impact you’ve made on my life.
Friends, as someone who is very private, I don’t share my personal life too often in this little corner of the internet. However, if my mission is to add value to your life, how can I help you become a better person if I don’t try my best to tell you about one of the most influential people I’ve been blessed to know and the lessons he has taught me?
If you’ll allow me, I’d love to give you a tiny snippet of who Poppy was to me (and many, many others) if you did not have the blessing/privilege of meeting this wonderful man.
You see, I was never able to meet either of my own grandfathers as they died before I had a chance to meet them. So when I met Poppy in 2003, he filled that void…twice over. He was my Poppy, he was everyone’s Poppy.
And if I could describe him in one sentence it would be: Poppy loved people.
He loved meeting new people, hugging people, and taking time out of his life to pray and help people. That was his M.O.
I adored the way he held babies, high-fived children, shake hands with new church visitors, and go around and chat with every single person every time we had a special event with food involved. And believe me, there were a lot of events with food, haha!
When someone from church was in the hospital and you’d go for a visit, he’d already be there or miss him because he had already visited. If you lost someone in your life, you can bet you’ll receive a phone call and a visit. And without fail, he’d ALWAYS ask you how you/your family were doing. Family was everything to him.
He hated when my best friend, Rachel, and I would sit in the cry room if we were late to church. In our defense, we didn’t want to interrupt him or distract anyone while he was in the middle of delivering his messages. And let me tell you, his passion for God was extremely evident. I think he actually made some dents in the wooden podium where he stood and preached because he was so fired up!
Poppy was also about having fun, using our God-given gifts and talents to give back, and inspiring others to be leaders.
Moreover, if you’re around him or his family, it wouldn’t take long for you to see how much they care about you and make you feel loved. I know he and Nanny (his wife) instilled love and servanthood into every single person in their household. He was also all about experiencing life over owning material things because making memories was so important to him.
Two of my favorite memories with him were when he was making fun of me using my name (which is pronounced like ‘Wong’). He’d say things like “If that’s Huong, I don’t wanna be right!“ and “That’s so Huong!” and laugh and laugh as he’d walk right past me. I can still hear his voice and laughter when I think about these moments, haha!
However, my most cherished memory with him were the times after church services were over. I’d watch him from afar while he’d stand there shaking hands with everyone, wishing them a wonderful and safe afternoon, and tell them that he hoped to see them at the evening service.
One moment in particular, I waited until almost everyone left because I was so nervous to ask him about a request I had.
I walked into his office and this was our conversation:
::he turns away from his computer::
Poppy: “Yes, sweetheart?”
Me: “Can I ask you for a big favor?”
Poppy: “Of course, is everything okay?”
Me: “Yes, it is. Thank you for asking. Um, I thought your message was so great today. And I was wondering if I could get a copy so I could go back and study it.”
Poppy: “Of course! I still have it up right here. Let me print it for you.”
I went on to ask Poppy two more times over the years. However, the next time I asked him for copies of his messages, instead of going to his office to print them, he said, “Here, you can have my copy.” He stood in the middle of the sanctuary, opened his little book, popped the clips, and gave me HIS copy. That was the kind of person he was.
The messages in this photo above mean the world to me because they came directly from the pulpit. These are originals of Poppy’s studies of the Bible, notes he put together for services, papers he physically touched as he passionately delivered God’s word. And I will forever treasure them.
A little over a decade ago, Poppy preached a message and said something I’ll never forget, “The hardest thing about being a Christian is letting go and letting God.”
He taught me so many life lessons through every day conversations and his messages about God, but that one? That one hit home because it taught me to live more faithfully, to trust God in the good, the bad, and what would seem like the impossible.
I haven’t attended his church services in several years. However, in perfect divine timing, I watched a recording of one of Poppy’s last messages last night. He, once again, continued to teach and inspire me because his words were what I need at this time in my life, right now, at this very moment:
“If you are ever going to live for Christ, now is the time to do it. If you are ever going to get faithful, now is the time to do it. And if you are ever going to get faithful in church, now is the time to do it. Put yourself in a place of being blessed. Put yourself in a place where if the trumpet should sound right now, you would be happy and ready to go; you wouldn’t have all the excuses you would have to make…Church, never settle for just good enough. Do the best you can. Make it about God. Make it about your relationship with God.”
He taught me many things, but these were the top lessons I learned based on his own actions:
He wanted me to live a life of faith.
My unrelenting faith in myself and in God is because Poppy instilled in me to really believe in myself and in God. Many years ago, he preached a message called, “The Words of the Wise.” It was about how God is always there to guide us. To find the answers from Him, we must allow God to show us the way. When we are wondering about what He wants us to do, we shouldn’t hesitate, and wait for a clear cut sign (I do this a lot more than I care to admit). Instead, we should trust God, get moving in a direction, and if it’s where God wants us, He will open the doors. To this day, this is still a perfect message for those who are/feel lost (like I am feeling right now). Now is the time for me to increase my faith.
He always encouraged me to use my talents.
I’m sure this is why he asked me to sing/sign a lot during worship. He also cheered, supported, and celebrated our achievements because he knew success isn’t easy. Now is the time for me to use all of my gifts and talents.
His desire for me to be a leader was very strong.
When we wanted to do something in the church, he’d always tell us, “That’s great! I approve, but I want you to take the lead.” Now is the time for me to rise up and be a leader.
He wanted me to laugh and enjoy the people around me.
This was very evident when we had a game night after church one evening and he was talking smack to Rachel’s dad, Rachel, me, and TJ because we were the youngest ones playing. He’d say, “Richard and THE KIDS.” Mind you, we were in our mid-20s, hahaha! Now is the time for me to laugh more and make more memories.
Love was important to him.
When he baptized my best guy friend and I, he asked me, “You know that nothing you do or will ever do will ever make God stop loving you, right?” Now is the time for me to love myself and others more.
They say that “It gets easier with time.” when a loved one leaves this earth and to me, this statement is an outright lie.
No, it’s not going to get easier with time when someone you love dearly and care about deeply passes. It does NOT get easier. Even when someone has been gone from your life for a decade, you’ll see something that will trigger you and you’ll cry, feel sad and nostalgic, and you’ll feel the pain all over again.
The truth is, you have to learn how to live without that person. And there’s a difference between living and existing.
Existing is just going through the motions, doing the same thing, not growing, and not contributing.
Living is experiencing life and people to the fullest extent. It’s about trying new things (or even trying old things in new ways). And it’s about growing and evolving and giving back to those around you.
And let me tell you, Poppy truly LIVED.
The only way I feel I can honor Poppy and his legacy is to live, love, and enjoy the blessings of life no matter what life throws my way. Now is the time.
I count myself tremendously blessed to know this loving man of God for as long as I did. And I hope this article gives you an idea of who he was and how much he meant to me. This is the beginning of me learning to live in a world without him. And you can bet that you’ll hear more about him in the days, months, and years to come because I have a lot more stories about Poppy and many more lessons he’s taught me.
Iron sharpens iron, right?