Published in The Northeast Georgian on April 12, 2019
The emails would burst forth in early spring.
“Lane, do you know [insert upcoming graduate’s name] middle initial? I need to order the towels,” Papa John would write.
And another round of giving would commence.
The sweetest gifts don’t come wrapped in silver Neiman Marcus boxes but in the form of our impeccably dressed patriarch, the late John Andrews.
His tradition was to give the softest, most luxurious bath towels to graduating seniors and newly married couples.
Monogrammed, of course.
Whether it be heading off to dorm life or to a fresh marriage nest, he wanted his people to have the best.
He wanted the recipients to know they were worth it.
John loved people and designing beauty.
It was his creative gift that captivated me on Easter Sunday in 2000, our first time visiting Grace-Calvary Episcopal Church.
Vibrant blooms spilled from vases and ledges and lapels. Families in matching finery greeted us with smiles of welcome.
The simple white chapel, dressed up for Sunday service, cradled the parish family I would come to love.
Joely, with Matthew on her hip and Carly by the hand. Brandy with Addie and McCall in hand-smocked Easter frocks. Kathy with Clayton and Dylan in matching outfits.
The wee ones searching for eggs that day are now grown, nurtured by a man whose ready smile was ever present in their lives.
John Andrews adorned us all with his celebratory high-church joy, in starched plaid shirts and saddle-oxford shoes.
He set the tone for a life well lived.
Last Friday, I reached out to my children to let them know of his passing.
Perry, 19, in her Sewanee dorm room, just waking up, was speechless.
“I’m coming to the funeral,” she said, firm in her commitment to honor Papa John’s impact on her life.
Jackson, 22, in Athens, was worried about me after hearing the catch in my voice but his thoughts immediately turned to his friend Claire, John’s granddaughter.
And to Joseph, 24, in Montana, via text, I typed, “a life well lived.” Except the auto-correct changed it to “a life well loved.”
He loved us so very well. My children and all the others that came before and the current crop not yet fully formed.
I visited with John in his room at a local rehab facility last month.
We chatted about my trio and his grandchildren. Claire, in particular, as she shared that Camp Mikell connection with Jackson and Perry.
Last summer was Claire’s first summer as a Mikell staff member. John fretted over whether or not she needed to drive to Clarkesville to do her laundry.
I would imagine that stuffed down in the bottom of the smelly laundry basket was her own set of monogrammed towels, gifted by a beloved grandfather whose abundant love we have all absorbed.