Dear Ethan,

I need to tell you that Poppup died. I was with Poppup when he died. He was so happy to see you when you came to see him a couple days ago.

Poppup is my dad and for a very long time he taught me how to live. Frankly, some of his lessons I still don’t understand, but the most important lessons I remember well. For instance, he taught me how to use a rubber band to shoot little pieces of paper. And when I was your age I remember him taking two pieces of wood and nailing them together at right angles to make a wooden gun with a site for the attached rubber band, all of which makes shooting the little pieces of paper much more accurate at a longer distance.

These are important lessons indeed, especially for little Italian kids. He wouldn’t let us shoot them at each other, but only out the open cellar door. As time went by, we learned that shooting them at each other was much more fun, which as  you might expect, is another on of those cute inherent Italian peccadilloes. (Don’t worry yet if you don’t know what a “peccadillo” is. When you are old enough you will see that there are many of them in Texas, usually lying on the roadside as road kill.)

Poppup taught us how to go fishing. That is another important life lesson–just as important as playing cars and jumping off mom’s kitchen table dressed as a Superhero. Fishing is not as easy as it looks. The best part is putting the slimy bait on the hook while the boat is rocking and then picking up your peanut butter sandwich with the same hand and wondering why it tastes a little different than normal.

But the most important lesson comes when you actually have a wiggly squiggly fish on the end of the hook. That’s when dads are most indispensable, because it’s dads who are the ones who get you off the hook. That too is another one of those cute inherent Italian peccadilloes.

Poppup taught me how to steer the boat and navigate the rough seas. Some might think he was two cannolis shy of a bakery case for taking two young boys and grandma out in a 16 foot motor boat into the open ocean during a hurricane. But how else would I ever have learned to steer the boat directly into the wave even if the bow was entirely submerged in the wave? (Don’t worry about knowing the word, “submerged.” You will learn it soon enough. It has something to do with the mortgage business.)

I also learned a lot of theology from him on that particular day because I clearly remember on that day that there is another place beyond heaven that didn’t sound too inviting. Poppup squinted at the horizon as wave after wave pounded our little boat, first pushing it into the depths and then popping it up like one of John Tetzle’s souls springing from purgatory.  (Don’t worry if you don’t know John Tetzel. He was one of the causes of the Protestant Reformation, which had something to do with Martin Luther King and equal rights, even though that affected many more people than just the Protestants.) And as Poppup’s gaze was transfixed on the horizon, I learned the real name for Purgatory as Poppup shouted out, “Where the hell is Cedar Point?”

To this day, I am not sure why  Poppup was trying to steer the boat toward Purgatory, which must have been close to Cedar Point, but the most important lesson I learned was how to keep my bow up in the middle of a storm. Every since then, every time life’s waves knocked me over, I would learn that if I just keep pointing straight that sooner or later my bow would pop up again and that all would be okay–as long as I stayed clear of Cedar Point.

But the most important lesson I learned from Poppup was not about life at all. Poppup’s last lesson to me was not how to live, but how to die, and that turned out to be the most important lesson of all because in dying he showed me that the most important thing in life was neither living nor dying, but loving. Poppup loved Jesus and is now home with Him. And even when he was dying, I knew Poppup loved me as you know he loved you.

Poppup loved all of us and that love never ran out because all that love he gave to us came from Jesus. And that love from Jesus is even stronger than death. That’s what God told us. He said that He loves us so much that He gave Jesus who makes sure that even through death we will live.

And one day, we will see Poppup again. But in the meantime, there are many things I need to teach you about life–about rubber bands, fishing, and theology. We need to learn about life. Death will come in its own time, but life always wins because of love.