There’s a voice mail that you never want to receive. It goes something like this:
It’s your mom. Call me. It’s an emergency.
I returned the call hoping that the emergency was that her wireless Internet was giving her fits again. It wasn’t the case. She told me that my paternal grandfather had a heart attack. I asked if he was okay or if we needed to come immediately.
He didn’t make it.
And my world crumbled.
My grandfather, fondly called Papau by the lot of the grandchildren, was a rock in our family. A strong, loving man, he taught me how a man should love a wife by the way he devoted himself to my wonderful grandmother. He taught me to stand up straight, correcting my posture so I wasn’t slump-shouldered. Maybe that seems silly but it was something important that I learned in how to carry myself. He loved me even in the most difficult times of my life.
He was one of my heroes.
As we were driving around on the day of my dad’s surprise birthday party this past September, we had a discussion that he felt he needed to have to set things straight. I wonder now if he knew. I wonder, now, if I didn’t know something was up. Two weeks ago I thought about what I would say at his funeral. He wasn’t sick and I chastised myself for even entertaining the thought. On Saturday morning, almost exactly 24 hours before he collapsed, I bought a new black dress for the funerals I assumed we would be attending this year. Some members in my husband’s family are sick.
I didn’t realize I’d be wearing it a few short days later to my own grandfather’s funeral.
I am devastated. The family is devastated. BigBrother doesn’t quite understand. And, sadly, LittleBrother will be the first to forget him, eventually likely to claim that he never remembered him. That, in itself breaks my heart. More time. For them. For myself. I hate that I didn’t get to say goodbye.
The family is flying in from all parts of the country. His sister, eleven years his elder, will be in this evening from Arizona. The youngest of grandpa’s three sons, my dad’s youngest brother, arrived this morning from Philadelphia. The middle brother arrives via a flight from Tampa and a layover in Charlotte early this afternoon. While I love when the whole family gathers on The Farm, creating a cacophony of noise and laughter, the truth is that the whole family won’t be gathering. We’re missing one. And I’m just heartbroken.
I prefer to remember him these ways. With my children. With the woman he loved so dearly.
I have so much to say about the loss of a man who meant so much to me. I have so much to say about how this loss has clarified why people do turn to the Internet in their hour of need. I have so much to say… but all I could do yesterday was take a picture. It was raining. It was appropriate.
The sky cried with me.
Please keep my family in your prayers. Most of all, please keep my grandmother in your prayers. She is understandably crushed by the loss of the only man she ever loved. 53 years of marriage and a story that began when she was an infant. Theirs is the most beautiful love story. So, please, say a prayer for her.