It was a normal morning as far as I can remember. My recollection of my childhood is pretty foggy besides the obvious things I remember because of the photographs I have to remind me of them. But for some reason this event is burned crystal clear into my mind without the help of any photographs.
My grandpa was an absolutely amazing man and I can say that despite the fact that I was fairly young when he died. I don’t remember everything about him but I do know how much he adored my sister and I and everyone else in our family. He used to haul us up on top of his little horse named Blackie and lead us around the house for hours. I used to show off for him in the living room while he sat in his beat up old brown recliner. I would twist myself into a weird positions and walk around on my knees like I was the only one on the planet who could perform this maneuver. He was always so proud of these weird little accomplishments that I’m sure made no sense to him in the slightest. I remember that him and my grandma would take us to their friends restaurant before it opened and let us eat the sugar cubes off the set tables without batting an eye. Either they didn’t actually know we were doing it or more likely, they pretended we weren’t doing it. He was amazing!
The day he died was the first time in my life I had ever experience death. I was too young to understand the true magnitude of it but I was fully aware that he was leaving and he would not be coming back.
My grandma called my dad that morning, along with the rest of our family, and told us it was time. We all needed to come say goodbye.
He had been suffering for a long time but it got really bad over the few months before his death. He had esophageal cancer and had miraculously fought it, despite the doctors predictions, for five years.
I don’t remember driving over there or interacting with anyone specifically but I can not explain how clear the memory is of the events that happened right before and after his death.
He was laying in a bed that they had put up in the living room because he could no longer walk up the stairs. It was my mom, my dad, me, my sister, my uncle, my aunt and my grandma. My grandparents are really religious so my grandma had us hold hands and surround the bed to say a prayer. I have no idea what was said because all I could think about was how bad I wanted to just give him a hug. That is the one thought I remember having. I wanted to let go of the hands that were holding me and run to him and hug him. I didn’t do that and regret it all the time. We finished our prayer and let him rest.
Something must have happened soon after that because my dad called to my grandma that she needed to come downstairs. Everyone spoke softly to her out of earshot of us children and then she walked over to his side. She sat with him and held his hand and then she leaned down and whispered these final words “I love you, it’s OK, you can go now”. And he did. He was waiting for her to set him free and when she did, his body died.
My mom told me once that she felt him leave. She felt him get up out of his body and walk out the front door. On to somewhere better, somewhere where he could watch over us all and keep us safe.
It was all a blur after that. I remember bits and pieces. He laid there lifeless until the hearse arrived that took his body to the funeral home. I remember sitting curled up in my dad’s lap crying but not fully understanding. I Remember they shoo’d my sister and I upstairs when the hearse arrived because that wasn’t something we needed to watch (them removing him from the room). The same thing happened when our horse died. My dad made us go inside when the cow truck came to pick her up. Kids should not have to watch their beloved animal being tugged into a disposal truck. I watched them move our horse anyways, from my bedroom window. My dad was right, kids should not ever have to experience that, not with a horse and most definitely not with their grandpa. So we stayed upstairs.
The rest of the day is gone from my memory. I don’t remember going home or sleeping that night. I don’t even remember my feelings or if it affected me in the days after his death. I don’t really remember the funeral either but I do remember the tree he was buried under. It’s still a beautiful spot to lay in rest.
We went on with our lives after that. I was a kid and kids rebound well from situations they can’t quite grasp on to at the time. The memory lingers though. It was the first time I saw my dad cry and the first time I witnessed how out of this world strong my grandma is. I never saw her cry but I know when we all left and she had time to think, she let go and wept for her love. She was a nurse and will always have that mind-set. Along with the fact that she truly believes she will see her loved ones again in heaven. Those keep her going and make her absolutely unstoppable.
She’s 87 years old and just called me to tell me she is going to a church retreat in April and wants to take a bus to Idaho afterwards to come see us. I only hope I’m that outgoing and spry when I’m her age. She recently lost her second husband, the man who helped fill the void that she had after my grandpa died. I witnessed her cry during the burial, for the first time in more years than I can count, and then she wiped those tears and pushed forward.
I’m not religious by any means but because of her strong will and faith I can understand how it must be extremely comforting to truly believe you will see your loved ones again in a better place. It keeps her going and I don’t see her slowing down anytime soon.
Remember the moments that pushed you down, they are key in helping you choose how to pick yourself up. Use them to shape your life in positive ways. The memory of my grandpa’s death is extremely sad and something I think about all the time. I’m glad my parents didn’t shelter me from watching him pass. I need that memory to put me in my place every now and then. Life isn’t forever, enjoy what is given to you and always tell the ones in your life how much you love them.
Seemingly insignificant moments shape people and seemingly insignificant people shape the future. Make those moments count, make it a good future.