My family is going through a rough time right now with the pending loss of my grandfather. Read on if you'd like to know what's been happening. I more or less just wrote this as my way of letting him go. Somehow it is easier to write the words than to speak them...
On May 16th my grandfather went to the hospital because he thought he had pneumonia. While he was at the hospital he had a heart attack. Or at least that is what they thought at first. It actually turned out to be what is called A-fib, where the heart pumps the blood to quickly which can lead to clots.
He left the hospital that weekend but was admitted again on Monday because of some of those A-fib issues again. After his return visit to the hospital where several test were run we all received some devastating news that his lung cancer had returned after 21 years of being cancer free and it had come back with a vengeance.
Things took a turn for the worse very quickly and the family called me home on Wednesday that week. I was able to see my Pepaw and have a conversation with him and he told me he loved me and that he was proud of me. I also was able to listen in while he gave my brother a speech about being the best man he could be and to always stand by your word. “A man is only as good as his word”, he told us.
He also told us both to keep on doing what we are doing. That he was proud of how we had turned out and that he loved us. Then he told us goodbye. It was the single most heart breaking moment of my life but I somehow managed to hold back the tears as I leaned down to kiss his cheek and tell him that I loved him too.
At that stage almost everything makes you emotional be it a song, a quote, a memory…I’d watched as my mother cried, my grandmother cried, my aunt and even uncles cried but up to that point I had held it together.
When my brother and I left the room and found my dad waiting in the hallway, he looked at us and asked “did he tell you goodbye?” and at that very moment I lost it. All the pieces I was so carefully trying to keep together just came crumbling down. It really hit me that this was the last time I would see my Pepaw.
Throughout my life Pepaw has been solid as a rock. Outsiders would think him callous or grumpy or even mean. We’ve always joked about him being a “grumpy and stubborn old man”…but to me, he was just Pepaw and it was the way he had been for my entire life. I adored him. All of us did.
He is the one who would fix everyone’s car. He had a shop built in his backyard. If I needed a break change…”hey Pepaw…when can I bring my car over?”…or if I had an engine problem…”hey Pepaw…need your help again…”
He would always complain…”Damn foreign cars”…”piece of junk Nissan”…”should have bought American”…but he always did the work for us. He will never, ever know how much I appreciated him for that!
Growing up, he was the type of man to never say I love you. None of us needed him to; you just knew that he did. There has never been one moment in my 29 years that I ever stopped to wonder if he loved me.
There is this thing between us about Chapstick. For as long as I can remember he has always had a Chapstick in his shirt pocket. He says that it’s used for all kinds of things, not just for chapped lips. As a child I would climb up in his lap and beg to use it and now as an adult I am addicted to using Chapstick and I 100% blame my grandfather for that! Every year for our birthday (I was born on HIS birthday!) and every year for Christmas I would give him Chapstick. That is our thing. I have given him Chapstick every year of my adult life, without fail, and he always laughs with me when he starts to open his present, knowing exactly what it is.
This cancer has taken him away from us ridiculously quick. Today is the 3rd of June, just 2 and half weeks after he entered the hospital, and as I write this he lay dying. He cannot eat, he cannot drink and he doesn’t speak or even open his eyes. There have been several times when my family thought it was his time to go but he keeps holding on. He always was a stubborn one!
Never in my wildest dreams did I image him only living to be 70 years old. Just a few weeks ago he was staining their front stairs and working on cars. I've always seen him as being so strong, so capable. It’s so hard to see him as anything less.
It’s truly hard to put words to the bond that you share with someone but I literally feel as if a piece of my soul has died. Things will never be the same and I know they say time heals all wounds but I truly believe that this one will leave a big fat scar across my heart.
I love you, Pepaw. You are an amazing man and the most perfect grandfather any girl could ask for. Take some of that chapstick up to Jesus for me. I will miss you forever!
Below is a poem I wrote after returning home from the hospital...
I write this for you, Pepaw,
As the tears roll down my face.
A part of me just died tonight,
A part I can’t replace.
Last week they called me to your bedside,
It was almost time for you to fly.
Into a single, short goodbye?
Slowly I bent over,
To give you one last kiss.
Seeing your brown eyes filled with sadness,
How did it come to this?
I’ll miss you dearly, Pepaw.
We will all miss you so…
How could He take you from us?
It’s hard for us to know.
I thought that I was ready,
I thought that I’d be fine…
“Be strong, Kristine”… I tell myself,
Accept that it’s his time.
But the tears come so freely,
My heart is broke in two.
We’ll never have another day…
To be and spend with you.
I do have something special,
And it’s something I will cherish!
Our birthday means much more to me,
That day is our, we shared it!
We have to remember all the good things,
Like Mr. Salty, Chapstick and cars.
Remember how you loved us…
It will help to heal the scars!