A few years ago there was a church meeting that my grandma couldn't go to (I think she was sick). When I walked in during the opening song and saw Grandpa sitting there alone, I quietly sat in the chair next to him, slid my arm around his and laid my head on his shoulder. Neither of us moved until the song ended. Since that day, there have been several times that Grandpa has told me how special that moment was to him.
My grandpa didn't seem like an old man to me. Sure, he was hard of hearing and didn't get around quite as well as he used to, but for an 80 year old man he was in awesome shape! Part of me thought he would be around forever. We all used to joke that he was just too stubborn to die.
Several weeks ago, my Grandpa started feeling ill. Last Tuesday he was diagnosed with cancer in his colon, liver and spine. Five days later he passed away peacefully, surrounded by loved ones.
It's hard to explain the way I felt seeing the man I once thought was invincible laying in a hospital bed, weak, frail, and exhausted. It was such a comfort to know that although his body was languishing, his soul was still larger than life. He was Grandpa right up to the end -- winking at the nurses, insisting he wasn't staying in that bed... just as ornery as ever!
Because he was so heavily sedated (not because he was in pain, but because he kept trying to escape) the last time I was able to speak to him was the night before he passed. He wasn't very coherent even then, but was experiencing occasional lucid moments in which he could respond by squeezing a hand or mumbling a few words. Before I went home for the night, I took his hand and leaned in close to him. I told him that I loved him and was really, really going to miss him. He opened his mouth as if he was trying to say something.
"I think he's trying to say he loves you too," my grandma said. But then, clear as day, my grandpa whispered to me, "You're special".
People have asked if I'm okay, if I'm really handling this alright. The truth is, yes, I'm okay. I'm sad and I've cried a LOT. I'm really going to miss my friend. I'm heartbroken that Morgan won't have the chance to know her great-grandpa the way I did, or even remember him most likely. I'm concerned about my grandma and how she's going to cope without her partner of 46 years. But mostly I'm just so damn grateful for the memories; grateful it was a peaceful passing and that he's in a better place; grateful he's been reunited with his loved ones on the other side.
Thanks for all the good times, Grandpa. Thank you for making me feel special, and thank you for being special. Thank you for always sneaking me cookies and sips of your Dr. Pepper. Thank you for telling me I'm beautiful. Thank you for loving my girls. Thank you for all the memories. I love you "with all my heart and half my gizzard".
Like I said before you left, it's not goodbye, it's see you later. Since I know there are going to be a lot of people up there and I might have a hard time finding you, I'll be listening for that familiar tune "Oh, Lord it's hard to be humble".
And I have a feeling I know just what you'll say when you see me... "Jenny SUE!!!"
For those of you who knew my Grandpa
and may be interested in reading his
obituary, you can do so here.