Goodbyes are never easy

June 13, 2011

Once again, I have to apologize for my delayed absence around here. I’ve been avoiding updating because there’s just no easy way to talk about what I’ve been doing.

My Grandpa died a week ago today.

First I should tell you that being just 4 months shy of my 29th birthday, I’m extraordinarily lucky to have had all 4 of my Grandparents living and an active part of my life. I just lost my last Great-Grandparent in March 2008, while pregnant with Sofie.

But this was hard. Harder than I imagined it would be. We didn’t have long to adjust to the idea that we’d be losing Grandpa soon, and it happened a lot faster than I imagined it would.

Back in March our family gathered to celebrate his 87th Birthday. He was healthy and vibrant and full of life. He enjoyed a cigar and a round of BS with the boys and we all stayed late into the night, spending time together. I’ll cherish that night for the rest of my life because it was the last time we were all together. Ironically, it was the night we announced this pregnancy. I framed a picture of the girls in their “big sister” shirts to give to my Mom, whose birthday was just 2 days later. In the confusion of present and cards, Mom handed the gift bag to Grandpa and he was the first to lay eyes on the picture. Though he didn’t read their shirts or make the connection, he was the first to know. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.

The next week we found out he was sick. The doctors diagnosed him with Small Cell Carcinoma and we were told to prepare for things to happen rapidly. I prayed he’d be around at least 6 more months to meet this little girl and I tried to prepare my heart for what I was about to face. He started chemo almost immediately and due to a compromised immune system, they politely asked us to keep our kids and germs at home. It was hard for me to sit idly by and not do something to help. I cooked meals and sent them with my Mom. If I couldn’t be there for moral support, I was going to be there for nourishment. I wanted to see Grandpa and hug him and love on him, but I kept my distance and continued to pray for him to heal quickly.

On Monday, May 23rd, he was admitted to the hospital with congestive heart failure. Suspecting pneumonia as well, he was admitted to the Critical Care Unit the following morning. We all made plans to go to the hospital. The Hubs took off work early and met me and the girls there. My brothers got off work and drove down, too. My sister and her family, my parents, and my Aunt and Uncle all filled the waiting room. We took turns visiting with him, chatting about this and that, assuming it was just another day in the time we had together. It was nearing dinner time, and shift change, and the girls were losing their patience in the waiting room. So I kissed him goodbye, told him I loved him and that I’d see him later. I had no idea it would be the last time I ever talked to Grandpa.

The next morning he was having trouble breathing due to all the fluid in his lungs. He was placed on a ventilator and sedated. We were told it was temporary to help clear the fluid out of his lungs. But the days started to run together and each day hope slipped away a little more. We all spent a lot of time at the hospital, holding his hand and rubbing his white hair. I talked to him about the baby, about the girls, and about how much I would miss him being in my life. None of us were sure how long he’d continue to live this way. Soon he developed other complications and things kept getting worse. Then around 1:30 in the morning, June 6th, his potassium levels spiked, his heart became erratic, and then it just stopped. My Mom called me at 2 am to let me know he was gone.

I have no idea how to mourn. I’ve been shocked at how abruptly the tears will start, without warning, and I’ll suddenly be sobbing as I drive down the road, or stand in the checkout line at Walmart. I lived through it all last week–the news of his death, the details of the planning, the wake, funeral, and everything that accompanies losing a loved one. But somehow it still doesn’t seem real.

But through all of it, I’m incredibly grateful. I never should have known Grandpa at all. He had a heart attack before I was born and was given a 3-5% chance of survival. He shopped cardiologists, needing surgery, and none would take him on because his chances were so grim. He finally found someone who would do the surgery and the doctor warned if he changed his diet, started exercising, stopped smoking–he might have 5 more years. Not only did Grandpa prove them all wrong by living 30 more years, he outlived all those skeptical doctors.

I’m also grateful for the way things turned out in the end. My girls are too young remember him, but Meredith’s will. They’ll remember him at his Birthday, celebrating life and laughing with joy. They never saw him sick. I’m grateful we went to the hospital that day. That The Hubs and I got to talk to him one last time. That our last words to each other were “I love you.” That I got to be there for his Last Rites.

I will always miss my Grandpa. I will always have beautiful memories of him to share with my girls. I’m proud to tell people about him. He was a veteran of 2 wars, he had a very distinguished military career, and he raised an amazing son–who turned out to be the world’s best Dad.

In the midst of my sadness, I’m finding things to be joyful about. My Grandparents celebrated their 59th Anniversary this year and in my entire life, I can count on one hand the number of times I saw them apart. They’re such a testament to enduring love and devotion. There was never one without the other. And even though my heart is heavy for losing Grandpa, I’m thrilled about the prospect of spending much more time with Grandma. She’s one of the most amazing people you’ll ever meet, and I hope very dearly that my girls will always remember her.

It’s been hard to squelch the resentment I feel that Grandpa will never meet my youngest. It was bittersweet to say goodbye to an old life while feeling new life grow and move within me. So I hold on to the hope that somewhere in the space between when you leave this Earth and when you enter it, their paths have crossed and Grandpa is actually the first to know our darling girl.

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27 Responses to “Goodbyes are never easy”

  1. B said:

    God Bless you and your family sweetie. I’m sending many thoughts of strength and healing your wayy.

  2. Julia said:

    What a beautiful post and memorial to your Grandpa. He sounds like an amazing man.

  3. Jennifer said:

    What a great post and it made me cry. I lose my papaw 5 years ago and even though I had him for 35 years I still was hurt so bad and I think about him every single day.

  4. Bohemian Hijabi said:

    I’m so sorry to hear about your loss. Whether it was expected or not, saying goodbye to a loved one is always difficult. :-(

  5. Marie Gross said:

    Oh, Melissa, I’m so sorry! Your words are absolutely beautiful and I love that he was the first to know you are pregnant with your third, and I love the thought of him crossing paths with her on her way here. :)

    It sounds like he was an amazing man! Love you!

  6. seeks said:

    Sorry for your loss, Melissa. My condolences to you and your family. Losing someone is never easy or simple. We lost my brother this December, and my sister is naming her daughter after him (she’s due in August). I have come to appreciate the concept of legacy so much more these days.

  7. ebz said:

    Melissa, My heart is heavy for you and your familys devastating loss, all the best and i hope those gorgeous little girls of yours, earth side and tummy side, remind you how lucky you are and help you thru your grief

  8. Misty said:

    That was beautiful!

  9. paula said:

    I’ve been reading your blog for awhile and in that weird place called “blog land” I feel like I know you. With that being said, I’m so sorry for the loss you are feeling right now. I cried for you while reading this. Losing someone is never easy….I love your thoughts about your Grandpa and your new baby meeting somewhere between here and there. Sending prayers of comfort and thoughts of love to you. Some days the memories are too painful to visit but I hope when you can, you will visit them often and find comfort in them.

  10. Pippa said:

    Hugs for you. I have just come back to your blog after a bit of an absence because of wanting to make the infinity dress and have remembered how much I like it so will be back more often.

    Reading this made me cry, but smile also. It is mine and some of my familys belief that we will not have much longer with my grandad but he may yet prove me wrong.
    You very frank story here shows that it is going to be hard but also that you should always take the chances to see them. And im so glad that you did get these chances and managed to take them.

    It is so good that you have some lovely memories to remember him by. The days will be hard, and not only for you but the others that loved him too, but by the sounds of it you all have one another. Make use of this.

    May it get easier for you xxx

  11. Liz said:

    I’m so sorry for your loss.

  12. RoseAnneH said:

    I just stumbled on your blog today and your post was so beautiful and moving. I am so sorry for the loss you are experiencing. Family like that is such an incredible blessing.

  13. Sara said:

    I’m so sorry to hear about your grandpa. I can totally relate. I hope you are doing okay and reliving the memories are a great way to keep him alive in your heart.

    I found your blog through my daughter, just wanted to leave a comment for you.

  14. Elise said:

    Going through a loss while pregnant is such a horrible, bittersweet thing. My father-in-law died when I was 7 months along with my youngest (almost 3 now), and the shock of it all – when he’d been told he’d have longer, and we’d expected him to be able to welcome his youngest grandchild into the world – was very difficult to digest.

    My thoughts are with you and your family in this difficult time. I hope you all find peace… Unfortunately, I think it’s the best we can hope for :(

  15. Lauren said:

    my heart is with you! xoxo

  16. Angela S said:

    That is one of the most beautiful posts I have ever read. I feel like I knew your Grandpa after reading it. You have an amazing gift for writing, among other things I see, after perusing your site. I pray that you and your family are and will be blessed. I too lost my Papaw (is what I called him), only he raised me because my father was across the country. The sudden outburst of tears will wane but will always catch you off guard in a moment of remembrance. They do become a little less bitter over time.

  17. Dana said:

    I am so sorry for your loss. Losing my grandmothers was some of the most difficult times for me as well.

    Because of your love for your grandfather, your new babe will know them through stories and images you share. Sometimes I feel that my daughters connection with my grandmother transcends the stories and photographs I have shared with her – almost as if my grandmother has a hand in their relationship as well.

    It is beautiful in its own unique way, and I hope that your children know the love of their great grandfather is never far away.

    Blessings to you all.

  18. HollowSquirrel said:

    I am so very sorry for your loss. Your grandfather seems like a wonderful man. Take care and (hugs).

  19. Cheryl said:

    I’m sorry to hear about you losing your grandpa. Your story is sad but necessary to tell for healing. I pray that the God of all Comfort will continue to comfort you, your family, and especially your grandma.

  20. Shanna said:

    I am so sorry for your loss. It is wonderful he was able to share in so many wonderful times with you and your family. Prayers are with you!! {hugs}

  21. Kathleen said:

    What a beautiful testament to your grandpa. I admit to being choked up while reading it. My dad passed away 4 years ago. He was just entering his 80th year. Many times I still feel his presence. If you hold your grandpa in your heart, you too will feel his presence. You will even feel he is helping you if that is what you need. God Bless.

  22. Kath said:

    I was just following a link over from moneysavingmom’s site regarding your skirt tutorial. I decided to start with the most recent page, and read about your recent loss.

    I am so very sorry ((((hugs)))) Sounds like he has been such a wonderful blessing, and dearly missed. Prayers for you and family

    Blessings,
    Kath

  23. Bri said:

    I’m so sorry for your loss. Your grandfather sounds like such a wonderful man. I lost my grandfather 8 1/2 years ago and I still find myself crying when I think about him. Time doesn’t make the sadness go away, but cherishing all of the wonderful memories sure helps!!! You and your family are in our thoughts and prayers!

  24. Tara said:

    Learning how to mourn is one of the hardest things we as humans have to do. I lost my grandfather quite awhile ago, but I still remember all the details. Try to keep the good times in the fore front of your mind. I hope that when you think of your Grandpa you remember his smile,his fight for life (amazing that he got 30 extra years!!) and his love. That is what I do when I think of the people I have lost. God bless you and the entire family.

  25. Anne Bell said:

    What a lovely tribute to your Grandpa. I had to dab my eyes.

  26. Ashley S. said:

    I just lost my Pa less than 3 weeks ago, on July 6. I have not come to grips with it yet; I have lived with my grandparents my entire life and having him not home is just unreal. I miss him dearly and cry myself to sleep most nights. Reading your blog gives me a sense of comfort that I am not alone in my grief. I am truly sorry for your loss and pray you can find some comfort in knowing he is at peace. God bless.

  27. Ashleigh R. said:

    I can’t imagine what it feels like to lose somebody who has been there for as long as I could imagine, but I understand the grief that comes with losing a loved one. My best friend, though only having known each other for 3 years, died of heart failure on April 12th at 2 am of this year. She would have been 18 this November and I miss her dearly. Reading your post, a beautiful tribute to your grandfather, showed how dear this man is and reminds me of my dear Adi. My condolences to the loss of a wonderful man. God bless.

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