From This Valley They Say You Are Going

Originally posted on 13 March 2012 on Goannatree.com.

To be fortunate enough to have a friend for over 40 years, who makes you laugh with his jokes and stories, whose heart is pure gold and who loves your children, grandchildren and great grandchildren as his own is fortune indeed. My heart cries out for my grandfather today. To lose a friend is hard. Poppy Jim, We will miss you for own sake. We will cry tears of sadness at your passing. We will smile broadly because we had the privilege of knowing you.

Poppy Jim was family. My grandfather’s best mate. Someone who loved my mum and her sisters like his own, who called us all ‘my girls.’

And how we were glad to be his girls.

The arguments and mock arguments with my grandmother still make me laugh. They’re both a little stubborn you see.

Oh how he liked to tease her.

A little rough around the edges. A man who lived a colourful life of hard yakka.

He told bawdy jokes, drank with the best of them, and laughed his raspy laugh.

He taught me how to play backgammon, dominoes, and poker…he took me fishing.

His face ruddy. His head and ear misshapen from Doctor’s attempts at removed lumps and cancer from years down the pit.

He turned up at family events with crabs and lobsters and made a beer infused batter like nobody else.

He stood suspicious of any boy or man who came into our lives. Like a forward guard on picquet duty.

Until he was sure they were okay.

And then, if they were lucky, he baptized them with a nickname.

But only if they were lucky.

I don’t remember life without Poppy Jim.

He gave great hugs. And his cheeky smile with lit up eyes. These I will miss.

Whenever we gather as a family, there will always be one missing.

Then we will tell stories.

We will raise a glass.

And we will sing:

From this valley they say you are going.
We will miss your bright eyes and [cheeky] smile,
For they say you are taking the sunshine
That has brightened our pathway a while.

So come sit by my side if you love me.
Do not hasten to bid me adieu.
Just remember the Red River Valley,
And the one that has loved you so true.

James Bates (1933-2012)


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