Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Home was in the heart of my grandfather....

It was a cold afternoon when I received the call. My mother who was on the other line said its time to go home.The quiet trip up the interstate back to West Virginia was the longest eight hours of my life. We went straight to the the nursing home. My mother and I sat by his bed. I held his hand, fighting back the swelling tears as I swallowed the growing knot in my throat. Crying was just going to make it worse... The end was drawing near. I knew that once his life here on earth stopped, mine would change forever.

My mother and I left, driving just a few miles down the road to the family home. We talked to my grandmother a bit and then settled in for a few hours of shut eye before returning to my Papaw.

I had just drifted to sleep when I was awaken from the ringing phone... I heard my Mom answer it but I didn't have to hear her words. At that moment home died. It was never going to be the same. I already knew the greatest man in my life had just passed away. There would forever be an empty place at the table. The den would remain quiet. His deck of playing cards would go on untouched. There would be no more of the once dreaded bone crushing hugs at the front door. The evening walks after dinner would be lonely. Yes, the sweet comforts of home was lost... I grabbed the keys and headed toward the door. My mom didn't ask where I was going. She already knew.

I solemnly walked through the sterile white halls to his room. I paused at his door. But there was just no hope. A moment to gather myself before entering wasn't going to fix the loss I felt. I huff at the thought now... whats a moment do when you just lost such a large piece of  heart? What can a measly moment due?

I took a deep breath and proceeded to walked in. His face was empty... far more empty than the few hours prior. Inside, the child me was screaming in desperation "Wake up, just wake up, I'll find a way to fix you, if you would just wake up"! I crawled up next to him and laid my head on his still chest. "Please, just squeeze my hand, move your eyes, take a shallow breath, anything, JUST DON'T BE GONE FOREVER"! I had fought it long enough, I shook with tears as the nurse came in and sympathetically escorted me out into the hall. She offered to call someone but I shook my head and sadly walked back down the hallway passing the morgue tech on the way out.

My head pounded as the salty tears stained my puffy face. Finally when morning came I found comfort in the warmth of the sunroom. I curled into a ball with one of my grandmothers handmade quilts wrapped around me.... During my sleep, I saw my grandfather for the last time...

I dreamed that family littered the kitchen and living room, casseroles and deserts lined the table. Everyone was sad. As more guest made their way into the house, here came my grandfather behind them. He was wearing dark brown trousers a white short sleeve button up dress shirt and a brown hat with one single daisy slid in the band. He had the biggest brightest smile on his face! I ran to him and exclaimed "Papaw your suppose to be dead"!? He smile and hugged me tight with his signature bones crushing hugs... "I just did that to get the family back together one last time", he said with a brilliant sparkle in his eyes. Just when I thought I couldn't miss him that much more, I woke up.  I have wished ever since, that I would have had more time with him... even if it was in just a dream.

My papaw was a parishioner at church. He would wear a single carnation penned to the lapel of his jacket each Sunday. During the church services I would find myself tired and full of boredom. The scent of the baking bread from the bakery down the road would seep in through the windows causing my tummy to growl. I would squirm and wiggle in my seat. I would periodically look toward the back of the church. If I  saw my grandfather standing in the back I knew the service was almost over... Every single time I looked back to find him there,  he would smile and shoot me a reassuring wink. I would always smile back. At the end of each service he would give me the flower from his lapel. In my eyes he was the greatest and he never lead me to believe anything different.

I remember as a child siting on his lap with my head on his chest. I would listen to his heart beat until my eyes fell tired for sleep. The night he died and I laid my head on his chest... there was not a  soothing sound to be heard... nothing to put the heart ache to ease... no peace no comfort...

Fast forward two years later... I remember driving to my doctors appointment.There were only three weeks left until his first great grandchild would be born. He lingered in my head the entire trip. As we passed the Kroger's store... my eyes began to once again over flow with grief. Lee pulled over in a panic as I uncontrollably sobbed... "whats wrong" he said frantically. All I could whimper out was, "He would've been so happy". He didn't have to ask, he knew. Lee unbuckled his seat belt and hugged me while I became a slob of emotions. Finally I calmed down and we continued our trip to the doctors.

The thoughts of Papaw still come and go. Sometimes it is a smell, or a deck of cards spread out for a game of solitaire, a blue cloth napkin or a twinkling smile from an elderly man... Sometimes the memories are triggered by a gift of a carnation or the sound of the wheel turning from the game show Prices Right.... There are other times that his memory lingers in my head for no other possible reason than that his spirit is sitting right beside me. Sometimes I find comfort in his spiritual presence and other times just wish he could give me one of those damn bone crushing hugs.... I have never missed something so much in my life...

In my eyes he was the greatest and he never led me to believe otherwise...


  1. Hey Leigh,
    That must have been one of the hardest posts to write. I lost my Nan over thirty years ago now, the pain eases but it never really goes away, just gets forgotten about sometimes while life spins around me but there's always something going to remind and I end up with a tearful smile on my face. Also your right, it's the little things not the grand that spark these memories.
    Truly sorry for your lose, but thank you for sharing.

  2. You were blessed, Leigh - you still are. His heart now beats within you; though you might not realize it yet. Touching post. God bless you.

  3. This is a great tribute. I have only recently be touched by death, but in my case both of the incredible women (Aunt Tammy and Gramzilla had been ill for a long time). I felt and incredible sense of peace with each of their passings, as did they I am sure.

  4. That was so touching. Thanks for sharing.

  5. Wonderful post, Leigh. I really can feel your emotions for this wonderful Pawpaw... really good to have such excellent memories of another's life and their impact on you!

  6. What a wonderful tribute Leigh. In a lot of ways, your story reminds me of my grandpa. There place in our lives is one of the most unique and valued relationships and shape us so much more than we realize at the time. When I was a kid, I called my grandpa 'my favourite adult' to myself, because he truly was and I his. I'm crying now, but it's all good but boy, do I ever miss him soooo much.

    Hugs my dear friend, and here's to the day we see them again.


  7. Thank you for sharing that. What an amazing tribute! He sounds like he was an incredible person :).

  8. beautiful post. I lost my favorite grandma when I was in 6th grade. Still miss her fiercely some days and it's been over 30 years...

  9. Thanks for sharing, Leigh. Death is such a final thing, at least from the point of view of the living. One minute someone's here, available to us, and then they're gone, left to subsist in our memories. I've been lucky in not having been exposed to too much death over the course of my life, but even that was plenty. It is such a part of life, but we tend to forget.It hangs in the shadows, lulling us into a false sense of immortality and then, we we least expect it, it emerges and disrupts our lives. Oh, it seems I'm rambling. I do that sometimes. Anyway, a very touching post, Leigh.