I received a text from my mom on February 16 saying that her dad, my Papaw was very close to death. He had been really sick with his second bout of cancer. I wrote a letter of memories to him and was able to read it to him over the phone on Saturday, February 17. He passed away the next day.
Gerald Dewitt Moody – October 19, 1925 – February 18, 2018.
Here is the letter:
When I was a little girl, I loved spending time with Mamaw and Papaw. I remember spending afternoons at their telephone shop. We’d play games in the office and burn leaves with magnifying glasses outside. I remember playing with all the different telephone models that were on display. My favorite was the Mickey Mouse phone.
At their house we’d play Rook, Dominoes and Go Fish, we’d walk in the woods and ride 4-wheelers and dirt bikes. We’d go fishing, hunting, and gathering – Papaw has always kept a garden. I remember sleeping on pallets on their bedroom and living room floors. The couch in their den also made a great bed. I spent quite a few sick days out of school on their couch watching TV, napping, and drinking 7Up.
I remember following Papaw around outside as he did his chores. My cousins, brother and I would tag along while he fed the dogs, burned the trash, tended the garden, sprayed the ant beds and weeds, worked on the cars, and piddled around in the storage building and work shed. He would patiently explain what chore he was doing and why it was necessary, and he didn’t complain about us being in his way.
He showed us how to drive using his riding lawn mower. He would pick the blade up and let us practice driving up and down the hill by his house—the dirt bikes and go carts were always gassed up and ready for us to use as well.
Papaw would let me borrow his blue truck when I was home visiting from college. I called her Ole Blue. Her a/c didn’t always work and there were a few times when it took her a while to get started, but Papaw always made sure she was ready for me when I got there.
Talking and spending time with Papaw was easy when I was a little girl. He’d laugh, play, and teach me things. But as I grew up, I think he became nervous—not knowing what to say to a modern young lady. I now watch him laugh and play with my kids. Something about little ones puts him at ease.
He still gets a big smile on his face and in his voice when I visit or call. He asks about my car, home, and appliances to make sure they are safe and in working order. I can’t tell you how many visits I’ve made when he would lift the hood of my car and check it out to make sure it was up to his expectations. He is all about care and concern. He makes sure cars, appliances, houses, etc. are safe and running correctly, and if something is off, he and his tools are ready to fix the problem. After a brief check-in, he excuses himself to have a glass of milk. Then he chews on a toothpick while reading or watching the news.
I can see him in the orange and white kitchen sitting at the table perusing a newspaper. He grunts or “humphs” and says, “let’s see” when he reads. He leans in toward the paper holding it wide in both hands while still resting it on the table. Sometimes he lets out an “Eeeee” when something he reads strikes him funny.
He’s not a man of many words, but he listens well and knows what’s going on around him. Every now and then, he’ll speak up with much to say. He can talk on a topic that interests him until you agree with him, change the subject, or leave the room.
Papaw is fiercely protective of his family—he has a family-first mentality. He will drop whatever he’s doing if a family member needs help. Even when he feels the need for “tough-love” his actions are rooted in care. I can’t count how many times he has stepped up to help someone no matter their situation. If it’s money, food, shelter, or anything else he can provide, he will make it happen for his family.
I think each one of us grandkids has lived with him and Mamaw at some point in our lives. Their home has opened for weeks at a time when any of us has needed a safe place to stay. I’ve always known I can count on them any time I am in need.
It’s hard to believe that now it’s time for his family to do the same for him. To love him and take care of him in the ways he has cared for us.
I’m sad thinking of this strong patriarch being so weak and helpless. He’s been a constant strength and source of stability for so many people for so many years. It’s hard to think that he is now relying on the strength of others.
You have lived and loved well. The sacrifices you made for your family and your country will never be forgotten. The ways you have stepped in to help in hard times have been an amazing example to me. You are a courageous, loving, generous, and protective grandfather. I’m thankful for the impact you’ve had on my life. You’ve helped shape who I am, and I’m grateful. Your legacy will live on through all the people you have loved. I love you!