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Location: San Antonio, Texas, United States

Friday, May 16, 2008

A PATRIARCH HAS PASSED


This is a short, personal tribute to a dear family friend who, although not related by blood, made a grandfatherly impact on my life.

Faithful men leave lasting legacies. Recently, the Lord took Home a faithful saint as Henry James Clee, Sr., received his call into eternity. Known to friends and family alike simply as “Pop,” this one man made a huge impact on many lives during his 75 years on this earth. The secret behind his impact could be summed up by his three main loves: love for God; love for family, and love for others.

Now, let me dispel any notions that the man I describe was a weak, sugary, effeminate man because he was known for his love. The exact opposite is true. Pop was a man’s man. A hunter, a carpenter, a lover of God and of the great outdoors – Pop did not have a sissy bone in his body.

I’ve known Pop and his beloved wife, Honey, all of my life. Our families attended church together for years. I grew up as friends with Pop and Honey’s grandchildren which brought me into regular contact with this dear couple as a young child. Pop was always called “Pop,” and Honey (Betty) was always “Honey,” even if you were not related to them by blood. Both Pop and Honey truly loved children, and as a child you appreciated the difference between their interest in your life and those other couples who simply pinched your cheek while inquiring briefly about your favorite school subject.

Pop was a family man. In fact, I am not sure I have ever met a more devoted grandfather. Even as a little girl I would watch as Pop delighted in the close proximity of his immediate family, with his three grown children and their respective spouses living on property which adjoined his land.

Pop was probably the first person I knew to have a vision for the ever-growing family. Although fifteen grandchildren were born to him, Pop explained to me, during one of my last trips to New Jersey, that he was now the proud grandfather of seventeen as his two eldest grandchildren had married. I’ll never forget him looking at me directly in the eyes and stating that he considered those who married his grandchildren to be his as well. Pop’s philosophy of distaining in-law relationships by considering those individuals as true family additions gave me much food for thought and a desire to due the same in my own life, if the Lord so blesses.

Although Pop was known as a man who whole-heartedly loved his children and grandchildren, it was his love for his wife which shone as a bright, unusual star. In a world full of divorce and older couples who have simply grown tired of each other, Pop and Honey’s marriage stood in stark contrast. Married for fifty-five years, Pop and Honey never lost their youthful love. They still always held hands, went on weekly dates, and could be found sitting side-by-side on the couch in the evening. One could not help but be inspired by their love.

When we returned to New Jersey a little over a year ago for my own grandfather’s funeral, Pop and Honey graciously allowed us to stay in their home. I will always treasure that time, especially now that Pop has passed away. Each morning I would join Pop and Honey in their sunny dining-room for a chat and a cup of coffee. Pop loved to tease, and you knew he loved you if you were the recipient of his playful prodding. Bantering back and forth, we would playfully argue as Pop endeavored to convince me of some of his views on life while I would not budge from mine. I’ll never forget his eyes twinkling in merriment and laughter while seeking to prove a point for his case. My only regret is that I will not be able to fulfill my promise to Pop to have a future suitor call and talk to him before “the big day.” But rest assured, Pop, whoever he is, I’ll be sure to tell him all about you.

Yes, Pop, the impact you made was great. I was just one tiny part of your life, and yet my eyes fill with tears thinking of all the memories I have connected with you and your family. You gave your progeny an incredible heritage: the patriarch of their family loved God, loved them, loved others, and lived his life as a testimony of that love. Thank you, Pop, for a life well lived. You are much loved and missed.

~Cara
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