The word eulogy literally means "good words." So when I was given a couple hours notice that I was going to eulogize my recently deceased father-in-law, I was really stumped for just a few good words. As I thought about how to capture his life, I turned to a familiar saying, "a picture is worth a thousand words." So my mind searched for some "photos" of his life. Three actual pictures came to mind.
Picture #1 - A photo of Poppy and Nanny (in much younger days) with some dear friends of their's (the Cottons) dressed in Razorback attire (including some wild looking cowboy to hats!!) ready to go to a game. I noticed looking more closely at the picture, all four are smiling broadly; all four look happy and excited and I really hope the Hogs won whatever game it was... but Poppy was standing just behind the other three. In my mind this represented well how he supported many of his friends. He was right there but also willing to step in just behind you to be there when needed. He was that kind of friend. Never captivating the attention of a room full of people, and usually overlooked in that same room, but always there when needed.
Picture #2 - A picture of his support of family. In this case, he is "actually" supporting Stephen (now 16 but 2 or 3 in the photo) on his shoulders. He was always there for his family. During the time that this picture was taken there were some tough things going for our young family and in the midst of the storm, there was Poppy. And that smile on Stephen's face exemplifies how much he enjoyed and loved his grandfather. In a providential twist of events, in Randall's last days in the hospital, it was Stephen staying the night with him. One night as Poppy began to hallucinate and rip his IV's and tubes out, it was Stephen stepping over to him and holding him until the nurse could come. What a great legacy to leave - one of support for the family. I have to be honest, during the days of the funeral our family was pretty tense with one another. I know I snapped at the boys and their emotions were running high as well. The thought of this picture made me stop and think about what that lesson of support means to me now.
Picture #3 - A picture of Randall with some of his Democratic political buddies (Susan MacDougal, a former professor of mine at the U of A - Steve Smith, and a few others). There he is proudly wearing this donkey tie too. Now, Randall and I never saw eye to eye on politics but we had a mutual admiration for the other's commitment to the cause. He cared about this country and he wanted to see a difference made. He was adamant about many issues of policy, personal ethics, and faith. On these things he did not waiver. In this day and age of riding fences, that is a great lesson to challenge each of us. What do we really care about?
There was one other picture that came to my mind's eye; after a tough day at work, Poppy would sit down in the recliner and promptly fall asleep. He'd open up one eye when a noise caught his attention, and if you suggested he just go to bed, he'd say, "Nope I'm wide awake..." and off he'd nod. He'd wake up just in time for the late news, get the latest sports and off to bed. That was a picture of how tired life had made him and how he needed rest. I think in the last couple weeks Poppy realized that life had made him tired and he needed rest. 80 years on this planet and a life full of family, friends, faith, and unwavering commitments can make one really tired. He is getting a much deserved rest now in the waiting arms of God.
Randall Eugene Bailey - born October 18, 1928 - died September 29, 2009. Someone once pointed out that those dates weren't that important, but what your life represented in the "dash" between the dates. Poppy filled that space with a lot of things - mainly a love he shared in a quiet and soft spoken way. You will be missed. May you truly rest in peace...