My grandfather, Papa, Jeffery “Chief” Perry died a week ago today. Yesterday was his funeral, and I spoke these words at his service.
The fact that people wanted to let Papa know how much he meant to them while he was still living, speaks volumes about him. The band wanted to honour him with a plaque, the Historical Society with a music room named after him. People visited from far and wide while he was in hospital and later in the nursing home. In all of the long days since he had to leave his home on the hill, “Perry’s Place”, no day went by without a family member or ten coming by to see him. None of this was due to a sense of obligation. It was because anyone who ever had anything to do with our grandfather couldn’t help but garner a first hand sense of what a good man he was.
He was the best man that I have ever known.
We, his grandchildren, will remember him for his love, strength, and stalwart support of all of us, for his cheek pinches and his adoration of our children, for his extensive knowledge and his more extensive stories, which were always at the ready, for his wink and the twinkle of humour and warmth in his eyes. We will remember him puttering up the road in the volley, cap on head. These memories are his legacy, these things that are not things, which cannot be diminished by his absence.
Papa left us at the most beautiful time of year in Rushworth, when the bush is full of gold, and other blossoms among the green. Just as we recall the wattles in all of their glory, and not the time that comes after, when they have faded to brown, so we recall Chief as he was before illness caused him to suffer so, we remember all that he was for his many fruitful years – as the best of men, in all of the roles that he fulfilled.
In fifty or a hundred years, your name will still be spoken around this town, Papa, and even if they don’t know what your tales were made of, they will remember that you were a man of stories, the kind of man whose memory endures.
(Go now, Papa, to join Mama, soon the children will be rising.)
*Image by Andrew Perry.