My phone buzzes a few minutes after 6:00 AM on Friday morning. It reads, “Are you up?” (from Momma). To be honest, I wasn’t up. My alarm hadn’t even gone off and my eyes were barely open when I read the text, but I knew she would have waited to text or call me until a little later in the morning had it not been somewhat important.
The next thing I know she’s calling me explaining the details of the night spent in the hospital and the current diagnosis, along with plans of hospice in the very near future with a consensus of a 24-48 hour range until death.
[The man has had more than his fair share of 9 lives; he was a tough cookie, but he’d been through a lot. Let me just say that again, he made it through a lot. So when a routine diagnosis was given, my immediate thought was, “he will pull through just like every other time”, that is, until I heard the word hospice come out of her (Momma’s) mouth. ]
When I walked into that ICU hospital room, I had a feeling wash over me that was completely different from any other time I’d visited him in the hospital. I could immediately feel God preparing me for a hardship. I could feel a sense of peace hit me, and I knew it wasn’t going to be easy, but I knew the outcome this time.
Sitting in the hospital room with family at his side, we all cracked the good jokes he used to ramble off, and laugh and cry about stories each of us had with him. (The nurses probably thought we were the most crude family, laughing as we all started going through our anticipated grief stages, but it was our coping mechanism, our way of bonding, and our way of celebrating the life he had lived.)
16 hours under hospice care, and he slipped away quietly through the night when everyone was sleeping – just as he would have wanted it.
This last month, we lost part of the trunk to our family tree – a piece to our puzzle; I lost my grandfather. And although some people would maybe think, “well, he’s just your grandfather; it’s not like you lost your dad or your mom”, I have to think I lost a lot more than just my grandfather.
I have known this day would come eventually; I just didn’t know when. I am a firm believer that God places obstacles or hardships in our path to test us or prepare us for another along the way. I have been looking for signs or situations the past few years that might prepare me for losing a loved one. I just haven’t been able to wrap my head around it, or even begin to mentally prepare myself for what it might be like. Well, the time had come, and I still wasn’t prepared.
As a funeral director, I have learned a lot about living your life, checking things off your bucket list, and creating life-long memories. I have also learned how to be strong for and help families during a time of loss, but one thing I haven’t learned was how to help myself during a time of loss.
I didn’t know where or how to begin. All I could think about was the fact that the day I had been thinking about for the longest time had actually come. I thought about what life would be like moving on without him – no more visits to the farm to have a beer with my old man, no more visits to the nursing home where he’d tell me about his endless trips he’d been on that week, and no more watching westerns and TV Land with him. I will never eat another peanut butter cookie or chew a piece of Juicy Fruit gum without thinking of him. But most of all, I’ll never forget the endless amounts of quotes and life lessons, big or small, that I have gathered from that man along my way.
As I sit here and ponder what my life would be like growing up without my family, particularly my grandparents, I can’t help but think I would have been fine, yes, but I wouldn’t have near the appreciation, loyalty, and morality I have now.
I have closer relationships with my grandparents and their siblings than some people have with their own parents or siblings. I am just as close with my great aunts and uncles as most of my more immediate family members. I enjoy sharing a relationship with them, and I know, they’d do just about anything for me if I needed. But more than that, they are the history of our family; their stories tell it all.
At the age of 25, I lost my first grandparent; and other than losing my 99 1/2 year old great-grandmother last fall, I haven’t experienced death in my family. I’m truly blessed that I have had the ability to grow up and build such close relationships with each of my grandparents.
So I can only pray that my children will, too, have the opportunity to grow up with their grandparents, and great aunts and uncles. I hope they share as special of a connection with them as I have with mine. They truly have helped mold me into who I am, and they are a constant reminder of where I come from. I couldn’t be more appreciative of the love and bond in our families.
So rest high grandpa, “See ya in the funnies.”