What exactly do you say to a person who is dying? I mean do you just ignore the elephant in the room and talk about the weather? Is it rude to just come out and say what is on everyone's mind? Is it better to leave some things unsaid?
Nah. Not for me and grandpa. I feel like we've always had a pretty honest relationship. I wasn't going to walk away from my trip knowing things had been left unsaid. But, I also knew I wanted to say the things that were most important.
He knew I loved him. He shared the same memories I did. I knew he worried about me; he knew I ignored his consistent advice to sit up straight. He tried to coach me to sing; I could barely squeak out a single note because of my stage fright. He loved the wild west, riding horses, and history; I was a horse trainer and outfitter and had lots of great stories to tell.
Grandpa was pissed about being at the facility. He's an independent and determined kind of guy. He doesn't ask for help. He sure as hell has never needed any, right? He let everyone know that he was going to be heading home so don't get comfy there.
The night after we took all of those pictures, I had them developed at the local Walgreens. Lexi and I picked them up, got some frames, and a picture hanging kit. I showed up and told him, "Word on the street is you're breaking outta this joint so you don't want any pictures. But, while you're here, you might as well have something good to look at. So here's some pictures of my family." That got him chuckling.
We laughed easily that last day together. Even in the face of death, he found humor in life. After we talked about the superficial things, I plainly asked him to tell me the story. He didn't beat around the bush. He was direct. It was bad and the doctor hadn't given him false hope.
He said he was ready. His body was tired. He couldn't run, or jump, or do the things he wanted anymore. According to him, "My bird watching days are over."
I asked him if he was scared.
No. Not a bit.
No. Not a bit.
I was shocked. He'd attended church for years and every once in a while told me to get serious about life. In this moment when he was actually going to make that walk, he let down his walls. He told me he wasn't so sure about "that heaven crap" and "floating around".
I asked him how he thought he'd get there without a body. I mean, isn't floating kind of the only option at that point?
Eh. I'll hitch hike.
Yeah, well you better be careful who you take the ride from. The road goes two ways there.
We laughed hard at that one.
I asked him if he was worried.
He was. About Grandma. But, he said, nothing lasts forever.
Oh, grandpa, but it does.
No, Grandpa. I KNOW. I know families are forever. I know I'll see you again. I know there is a heaven and we can be together. I love you. You are my hero. My heaven isn't heaven without you. I'll meet you there, man.
Hell yeah. I'll pick you up when I get there; I'll bring you a horse and we'll ride. I know it. I love you so much, Grandpa.
Sport. Let me tell you one thing. Never say mean things to your husband. Always have something nice to say on the tip of your tongue.
Ok, Grandpa. I will.
After that, it was time for me to leave. I had to rip myself away. Who wants to leave when you know it's the last time you'll ever hear that voice? Or see those bright blue eyes filled with wit and humor? Or see that smile that lit the room? Or feel those strong arms engulf you in a massive bear hug? And the swagga! My Grandpa had swagger, man. Just watching him walk into a room was a treat.
I'm so glad that I didn't leave without saying those things. I'm so grateful that I could share with him my faith about the life after this.
I do know I'll see him again. He'll be strong and tall and stand up so straight. He'll be there with that smile and he'll pat me hard on the back and call me Sport. I know this to be true. It's so damn hard to lose someone, but I look forward so very much to that day when he'll be there waiting for me.
I'm gonna say I told you so, too.
- What started as a way to communicate with far away friends and family has become a place for this horse trainer/HR manager turned stay at home mom of 3 girls to hold on to a bit of her own identity. It's my take on the ins and outs, the ups and downs, the thoughts and feelings, the mistakes and triumphs of this family as we bumble our way to eternity.