Good bye Pop
This past weekend my family buried James Elsworth Mizell, known to his family as Pop. He is my paternal grandfather and namesake. As you might imagine, his death was an emotional event made more so by the fact that I couldn’t help but think back to 2005 and the death of my father, James Elsworth Mizell II.
I’m now the last standing Elsworth. Of course, I expected such a time would arrive. But if asked whether this time would arrive sooner or later, I would have guessed later. That, of course, all changed to 2005. And, more recently with the increasingly fragility of Pop’s health, I was all to aware of my impending status.
As I sat in the audience at the funeral, and later at the wake, my pain was too consuming to consider speaking. I count that as one of my major failings. I owed it to my grandfather to speak at his funeral.
If I had it to do over I know exactly what I would say: Pop means so much to each of us. We each remember him slightly differently and honor him in unique ways. But, if there is one thing, one overriding lesson, he managed to teach all those who lived or were close to him, it was to live with conviction and honor. This was reflected in everything he did. From his many successful businesses to how he raised four kids and taught their children. By way of illustration, there is a particular moment in my adult life when this was especially clear. In 2001 I began law school. Pop was glad and it gave my dad and him something to talk about. As my courses progressed and I was close to graduation he pulled me aside one Thanksgiving. He said, “Tripp, are you going to be an ambulance chaser? Or, are you going to do something good for this world?” After a short pause he added, “Remember that you’re a Mizell. We treat people properly. Don’t let me down.” Pop lived with conviction and honor. That is how I’ll always remember him. That is how he deserves to be remembered. It is my greatest wish that he is now relaxing with his son Jamie and they are both looking at their families and thinking that we’re living up to everything they could have ever hoped for us.
My brothers and paternal extended family might read this and think that I’m taking liberties in thinking I’m somehow special. I don’t assert that I am anything more than one of many mourning family members. My name, however, is one of the more concrete connections I had with Pop and it seemed an apt analogy to my feelings. No disrespect or minimizing of others’ pain and suffering is meant. Please don’t take it that way.
Instead, know that I love all of you more than anything and I know each of you is making our grandfather and dad proud.