Boompa was my (Heath’s) grandfather. His name was Don Many, but somewhere around middle age, when he became a grandfather, he assumed the name Boompa which was the name of Jimmy Stewart’s character in “Mr. Hobbs Takes a Vacation”. We usually just called him Boomp and he was married to Myrtie Many, my grandmother, who we called Ma. Ma and Boomp had nine grandchildren, and for years lived in an A-framed house perched on the side of Hickory Mountain near Sparta, North Carolina. Visits to Ma and Boomp’s house are some of the best, most vivid memories I have from childhood. I can still smell the scents of their mountain home and see their warm faces as they greeted us when we pulled into their steep driveway. Trips to their home were full of adventure. I would explore the woods and hills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, and there, planted the first seeds of my love for the outdoors. In fact, I still have a book which they bought me when I was a young teenager called Edible Wild Plants of the Eastern United States. Using this book, I would scour the hillsides of Hickory Mountain looking for wild plants I could eat with the thought that if I was ever to be stranded in the wild, I could survive by eating roots from wild carrot or something. Once I ate some wild potato (I think?) which rewarded me with a sleepless night of profuse diarrhea. But I digress…
Boomp was a great story teller and jokester. He generally cycled through a series of 7 or 8 running jokes, which in looking back I really didn’t understand or get, but somehow still make me laugh today. Like many of his jokes, his dinner blessing was a constant: “Our heavenly Father, we thank you for life and the joy of living. We thank you for our family, our friends, our home; for health and strength. And for these blessings that I love. Amen.” The first few words, “we thank you for life and the joy of living”, in my mind, characterize Boomp. He was gracious and from my perspective as a grandchild, he truly embraced the joy of life. Ma and Boomp’s joy of living overflowed into the lives of their grandchildren. I think I can confidently speak for my sister and my cousins by saying that times spent with Ma and Boomp were a joyous escape and something we all miss.
This past week, at the age of 92, Boomp went to be with the Lord (and with Ma) after a long, blessed life. The current complexity and direction of my family’s lives has led us to Colorado Springs for a month of training prior to leaving for Kenya in June. When I heard the news, I scrambled to get a flight to North Carolina hoping spend time with my extended family. Unfortunately, a mechanical problem with my flight resulted in a domino effect which prevented me from getting there in time for his funeral. I was forced to cancel the trip. So instead, on the day of Boomp’s funeral, Angela, the girls, and I went on a hike in the mountains surrounding Pike’s Peak. Throughout the day I could not help but to think about Boomp and his blessing that I had heard so many times: “Father, thank you for life and the joy of living…” These words, combined with the thrill of being “out”, brought me such peace and rest during a time in our lives which has been so incredibly stressful and difficult. We have been consumed by “our plans”: leaving our practices, selling our home and the stuff in it, and preparing to depart for Kenya. God commands us to take Sabbath, to rest, to recharge. Boomp, even after he is gone, reminds me of the importance of taking time to enjoy and to be grateful for this life we have been given. Thank you, Lord, for the blessing that you gave us in Boomp.