I know memorials can be a time to idolize a person, to forget all their faults and make them sound like saints, but that is not the case with my grandfather. Everything I desire to share with you is not exaggerated or changed to make him sound better or to protect my rose colored thoughts of who he was. This is who he was, at the core of his being. There is no way to sufficiently describe the depth of who my grandfather was. I could spend countless hours telling you about him but I could not do justice to his kindnesses, gentleness, patience and humility.
He never needed to be the center of attention, never wanted to be first, did not have to have his way. He was always content to simply be with you, to talk with you, to sit and listen. He was not one to often offer an opinion, but instead gave words of wisdom at just the appropriate time. He had no expectations. He gave everything and expected nothing in return. Who does that and how does someone live like that?? I believe if papa were here today he would tell you in death what he told us in life, it is because of his personal relationship with Jesus Christ.
There are two passages of scripture that most often the Lord brought to my mind as I have considered what I would say at his memorial. Two passages that I feel speak the most truth about Papa and share something that my own words cannot adequately express.
The first passage shares the first and second greatest commandment…
Matthew 22:37-39... He said to him, "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.
The second passage shares the fruit of the life of a believer....
Galatians 5:22-23 ... But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.
Because Papa loved the Lord his God with all of his heart, mind and soul he was able to love others as himself and exhibit great spiritual fruit in his life. I feel I can say honestly that he did exhibit each fruit the scriptures talk about. He gave intense love; he was perpetually joyful, showed great peace in trusting his Savior with every circumstance in life. He practiced kindness, shared goodness, was continually faithful, he was overtly gentle and humbly self-controlled. Of course he was not perfect, no one is. What he was though, was a man who had a personal relationship with Jesus Christ and lived the truth and fullness of that relationship each and every day.
I am so thankful for the opportunity to have traveled and lived with Papa and Gigi throughout my life. I love the memory of going to Chuck E Cheese, Chubby Chicken and Godfathers Pizza all in one day, just because I asked my Papa. Being “spanked” with a fly swatter…it doesn’t hurt in the least. Learning to play poker with popcorn kernels, watching Murder She Wrote, eating cheese, crackers and pepperoni together. Having running races with him on the sidewalks and holding his hand as we walked down the street, even as a grown woman. Hearing his voice sing the hymns he loved, sitting between Papa and Gigi and being “kitzeled” in church as a little and not so little girl. Sunday afternoon hospitality with other families, going out for pie after Sunday evening service… the memories could be recounted for hours.
There are so many everyday things I miss about Papa. I miss terribly the gentleness in his face, the kindness in his eyes and the softness of his hands. I miss his wit, humor and fantastic stories. I miss his gracious and plentiful compliments at mealtimes, his multitudes of “thank you’s” in every situation, each and every day. I miss caring for him, kissing his forehead and cheek, the smell of his skin, receiving kisses, holding his hand, and simply sitting with him. I will miss most hearing “I love you precious girl, more than you will ever know" from his lips.
I am eternally grateful that God sovereignly chose for me to be the granddaughter of Edmond Richard Panici. That He allowed me to be so greatly and intimately impacted by the life of Papa and his heart. I am infinitely thankful that he allowed Papa to be in essence an earthly father and grandfather to me. I am indebted to him for his love for my husband Chad and the influence he had on him as a husband, father and friend. To have been the recipient of such a personal and great love from a human man gives me a tiny glimpse of the great love our Heavenly Father must have for us. Papa’s love for us is just a snippet of the Greatest Love of all, the love of a Heavenly Father willing to sacrifice His Son for the lives of sinful man. It gives me great comfort and joy to know that in death Papa is receiving, to the Greatest Degree, the fullness of the love he freely gave in life.