Hugh Lawrence Lucas

I’ve revised and edited this piece so many times just praying it can convey, even in the smallest way, my appreciation and love for my grandfather. Three years ago today my paw paw, Hugh Lawrence Lucas, went to be with the Lord. He waited for all of us to come see him, and I remember the last squeeze he gave to my hand as we all gathered to say “see you later”. Thank you for your extraordinary life, and thank you for waiting for all of us.

 

“There sure are a lot of Boy Scouts here,” his voice heaved from the wooden chair that sat in the corner of the house for as long as I could remember.

“Yes, there are. There were so many buses by the mall,” I said and smiled.

Though I knew he could no longer see the corners of my lips curling, I hoped he could hear the spring in my voice. Paw Paw pressed a button on the clock resting on plastic blue tablecloth, sat back, and sighed as the robotic woman echoed the time and date off the wall of the kitchen. The chair whined as I stretched my legs for the last time before a four hour drive across the state line. I hugged my grandfather, taking in all the musty aroma, cigarette ash, and wisdom in at once, and said my usual goodbye.

 

“I love you Paw Paw,” I chimed.

“I love you too Kristi”.

“I’ll see you again next time,” I offered.

 

As I am sitting in a lacquered wooden pew, listening to sniffles and sobs in a room cloaked in black, the moment peeks in from my memory. My fingers slightly rattle the sheet of paper in my hands as I peel myself off of the pew and steadily take short strides toward the podium. The two Army representatives, suited up in their dress blues and standing as reminders of his service, make eye contact with me, and I quickly avert my gaze toward the congregation of family. Steadying my grip on the sides of the faded wood, my voice strains to get out the first words. Stuck in my throat are the emotions I know I’ll never be able to express and the speech that feels infinitely inadequate for his beautiful life.

I glance around the room to find courage in my words. This room, laden with curling faded carpets and water damaged tapestries, fragrant with tears, is not where he dwells. Paw Paw’s memory is embedded in every inch of the living room on Dickerson street. When we were smaller and could all waddle into the room, his fingerprints were affixed on every ornament of the Christmas tree, speckled over every yard of wrapping paper on presents he wrapped for his children and grandchildren. As we grew, stretching up and filling rooms with more cousins, his feet measured the inches of new wooden ground for our footprints. We sat for hours on floors under his roof, tiles delicately laid to protect our heads, listening to his lips bounce wisdom through the hallways. Now, my voice ricochets in this strange room to offer homage in the smallest way.

“The last conversation we had,” my voice stretches and strains for control, “was about the Boy Scouts”. Hugh Lucas was a man who loved his family. We all piled into the living room, and when we grew too large, bursting at seams of the room, he built us a new one, piece by piece, to cover his family and give us more space to reach and grow. As the words spill out, tears abandon my eyes in rivets, then the sound of my voice cracks with the weight of my resolve. The droplets hold more reverence than written words can contain. His voice peeks back in:

 

“I love you Paw Paw,” I chimed.

“I love you too Kristi”.

“I’ll see you again next time”.

 

I let him go.

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