My grandfather Pothen Matthews Laplam, aka “Papa”, died on May 30, 2013. I was booked to give a remembrance at his funeral. An expanded version of my planned remarks is placed here as a tribute to Papa in cyberspace. In terms of style and prose, I think it worth noting:
1) This was meant to be read aloud to an international audience with varied levels of English.
2) It was intended as a lead-in to my Dad’s eloquent eulogy.
3) This is not the eulogy I would have given. But it is the one I wanted to give.
What do I remember when I think of Papa?
I remember a man who was very intelligent and yet very humble. We all know that Papa was a brilliant engineer who was one of the first in his family to be educated and who built the first hydroelectric power plants in India. What’s amazing to me is that he never acted as if he was a big deal. When he talked with you, he was always more interested in you and your life.
And as for how he thought of himself…well, I remember when the whole family gathered for his 90th birthday party. My brothers and I performed a song where we parodied Papa and roasted him properly, and he just applauded and laughed. That says a lot about how seriously he took himself, which is to say, not very.
In fact, he was very jolly. I’ll always remember him giggling with that little “teeheehee” laugh so hard he’d catch his breath a few times. Even when he was 90 years old, he had the happiness of a child. He was one of the few people I knew whose smile got bigger as he grew older.
And he was very funny too. But not in the way you can capture in a few jokes or in a comic impersonation. There was just something about his presence that made you feel light and break out into laughter.
He was very loving. He never could tell a story that was less than ten minutes, and he couldn’t pray a prayer less than ten minutes either. But all of that came out of a deep desire to pour into the lives of his children and grandchildren. You can see that in the photo collages out there today. So many of those pictures are of him placing his hands on a family member’s head, praying for them to receive a blessing from God.
And that gets into what I remember most about Papa, which is…well, it wasn’t just that he was very spiritual or that he was a Christian. It was deeper than that. We’d normally say something like “Papa found Jesus”, but that’s not really the truth.
Papa didn’t find Jesus.
Jesus found Papa.
And the reason I know that’s the case is because I know the Papa I’m describing, the one I’ve always known, is not the Papa of some time ago. But somewhere along the line, Jesus got him and changed him. He opened his eyes to reality, to life as it really is and was meant to be lived. He brought him into a relationship and dialogue with Him that affected how he lived every day.
To see the proof of that, you only needed to look at his prayer life. We all know Papa prayed to Jesus for every one of his family members by name every day. You know, you don’t do something like that every day for years and years just because you feel sentimental or because you think it might do something. You only do that if you know your prayers are making a difference.
The last time I saw Papa, a few weeks ago, I asked him how he was. His response, the very first thing he said to me, was, “In Jesus’s hands.” Papa knew he’d be leaving Earth soon, and he wasn’t scared about dying, or unsure about the unknown, or merely hoping that everything he believed was real. He was confident that Jesus had him, and that he’d be with Him soon.
As we talked, Papa wanted to impress on me what was most important in life. He didn’t go with money, a good job, land or power. And he didn’t pick more modern notions like being loved, a spouse, family, children, honor or a good reputation.
Instead, he told me this: “Those who have God have all.”
What do I remember when I think of Papa? I remember the one he was pointing to.
I remember Jesus.