Paw Paw Dying

Paw Paw was big even among the big people.
Way over six feet and three hundred pounds,
when he stood in the pull pit of the little white frame
church in Pell City, Alabama,
he looked as big as god.

Too my little eyes,
Paw Paw was the big promise
to be found at the end of the long drive
out from Birmingham.

The last time I saw him was in the
country house through a crack
in the bathroom door.
Paw Paw was doing
a red pee-pee.
We didn’t go to the country
much after then.

The last time Momma went to see Paw Paw
I had to wait in the car in the parking lot
at the hospital.

Years later she told me that
as she and her brothers stood there
Paw Paw woke up and looked right past them.
He started greeting people in the
empty space behind them,
“Hi brother, yes I remember you,
yes and you too sister.”
He called people by name and after a moment
Momma recognized them as members of the church
who had died under Paw Paw’s ministry.
She said she knew she had watched him
pass in to heaven.

I waited in the parking lot,
terrified at the fragility of the world.


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