Dear Poppa Dean,

It may have only been five years that you were in our lives, but it may as well have been 20 for the impact you had on us.

Five years ago, you were just a “beau” to that special lady in my life, Grandma. After Grandpa died, she didn’t expect to ever remarry. She was OK with the life of a widow, filling her time with sewing and visiting and grandkids. You opened up the world, taking her places and keeping her on her toes.

And, Poppa Dean, you transformed what “Grandpa” meant to me. You were the grandpa of my grown-up years. You were the great-grandpa to my kids, and especially to Babby.

Remember how you two used to play “Iza Doozy”? When she saw you in the casket, she told us that you were “Iza Doozies in heaven.” And I’ll bet you are. Have you met our boys yet? Play some “Iza Doozy” with them for us, would you? Oh, and give them hugs and kisses from their moms and from all of us. We are so eager to meet them someday!

Poppa Dean, I didn’t cry much about your death, because I’m so very thankful for the last five years. Seeing you hold my first baby at the hospital, and hearing about the stories you told other people about her…well, it just made me feel about as special as I could feel. Seeing you hold my grandma, who’s been a beacon to me throughout my life, and knowing that she was having some joy in married life in the twilight of her life…well, that just gave me hope in a way that few things ever have.

Death is not easy for any of us, is it? I know it wasn’t easy for you, but you taught us all that it’s necessary. It’s where we’re all headed. It can be done. As we begin Lent this year, with your funeral, we look to the Cross and see that He did it too. Did you gaze at the Cross at the end? Did you feel the agony and despair? Did you find the hope and joy of the Resurrection as you passed over?

Poppa Dean, I’m sure going to miss you. I’m going to miss having you teach the new baby “Iza Doozy,” and I’m going to miss eating with you (we were always eating, weren’t we?), and I’m going to miss how we all teased and laughed (we were always laughing, weren’t we?). I’m going to miss how you got an idea in your head and about drove Grandma crazy with it, though you usually succeeded in talking her into it, whatever it was. (I’m quite sure she did the same to you, though you never ratted her out about it.)

Babby’s going to miss you too. I wonder if she will ask where you are the next time Grandma comes over. Remember that, last summer, how she would ask for you when Grandma walked through the door? I know we told you about it.

Bob’s going to miss talking shop with you, from tall tales of the fishing kind to down-and-dirty stories of the everyday kind. He’s going to miss meeting up at Indian Lake for an impromptu fishing trip, and you bringing bait and fried chicken while he brought “his girls” and his fishing poles. Did you guys ever catch anything? Did it ever matter?

And Grandma. She’s been so strong during the last four months, but I know she’s hurting inside. She’s alone again, Poppa, so I hope you’ll reach down every so often to give her a little nudge, a little shake, a whispered kiss.

Poppa, you sure were an example to us in the last five years. You showed us how long five years can be, how rich and full of meaning and sweet. You taught us to laugh more and to hug more and to drop it all and take a drive for no reason other than that there was gas in the car. You shared with the best of them, from stories of the “old days” to discussions about modern events. There wasn’t a newspaper in the house that you hadn’t devoured, and you never could quite believe it that I didn’t like reading the newspaper (and you never could quite understand just what I did on the computer). You instilled in me a bona fide eagerness for grandparenthood, and you were never too busy to share your lap with the small person who was in the house.

Yeah, we’ll miss you, Poppa. It might have only been five years, but it was a full five years. Thanks for sharing yourself with us. Thanks for giving us a model of how to be as we continue on this journey through life.