Blessed are those whose strength is in you, who have set their hearts on pilgrimage . . . They go from strength to strength, till each appears before God in Zion.
~Psalm 84:5

Monday, June 25, 2007

So far, my summer's been

Have you ever experienced something that was so real it felt like a dream?

Or have you ever had so many words to say or write you can't help but say or write any of them?

That's been my life so far this summer. The past few months, really.

On having too many words: School ended but there was still the stress of cleaning out my classroom, then pre-prep for next year, then subbing for summer school. Plus trying to tie up loose ends w/ Mr. Lying-South-American (who turns out to not have a girlfriend or fiance back in his country, but a WIFE! yeah, i know!) Add to that buying a house, packing and moving. Suddenly, in the midsts of it all, my Grandpa Jimmy (my dad's step-dad) was hospitalized for high fever due to his pneumonia. Simple enough, right? Not so much. Turns out he has a problem w/ his blood. After nearly a month of tests, the doctors figure his body is producing too many antibodies, which began attacking his platelets and then his red and white blood cells. So the grandparent we believed would out-live them all, is dying. We've known for months that my mom's dad was also dying of liver (and possibly colon) cancer. He just got weaker and weaker (thankfully w/o any pain) until he went to sleep in his home last Sunday night and woke up in Heaven Monday morning.

On things that are so real they feel like a dream: When my dad called me at 7:15 a.m. Monday morning and told me "Grandpa died," I wasn't sure which one he meant. He and my mom had gone over to her parents' house late Saturday night when my grandma called to tell them Grandpa was complaining of being in pain. They called the doc who didn't seem to think he needed to go to hospital and called in a pain killer for him. He slept most of the day Sunday, hardly eating or drinking anything. Then, he went to "bed" that night, insisting he wear his dentures and glasses (something he has NEVER done before). When they went to wake him up Monday morning, he was peacefully lying there, with his hands folded across his chest.
In a daze I called my brothers to give them the news. I had a last minute trip to England planned for that night, so I immediately called to cancel that (I had been planning to cancel it anyway, since it looked like Grandpa was getting worse). I got dressed and left home, not really knowing where I was going. I stopped by work to close out my timesheet then talked to one of my good friends for nearly an hour. I left there and decided to call my mom to see if I should go to Grandma's. She told me to come on over, that they had just come for the body and one of my uncles and two of my cousins were already there. So I made a beeline to my grandma's house, crying most of the way over. I composed myself once I pulled into the driveway, only to lose it again once I stepped foot inside the door and saw my mom. And my poor Grandma. She kept telling me, "I can't believe he's gone . . . " I can't imagine saying your final goodbye to the man you've been married to for 60 years . . .
I stayed the whole day and then spent the night. It was precious, seeing my uncles arrive one by one. They would quietly make their way over to their mother and then bend over and embrace her with tears in their eyes. I cannot put the words together to describe the sight of seeing these grown, middle-aged men crying in the arms of their 4'11" 80-year-old mother. It's a sight I shall never forget.
The rest of the week seemed a blur. After I got home Tuesday morning, my brothers and I went over to the hospital to visit Grandpa Jimmy. That was hard. Then his daughters and sons coming over as we were leaving to give their condolences made me break down again, something I NEVER do in front of my brothers. But I got used to it by Thursday night, when it took what seemed like ages for me to compose myself long enough to read what I wrote at my grandpa's wake, in front a room of nearly 200 people.
The funeral on Friday passed as quickly as the days leading up to it. But again, there are things I shall never forget: Grandma saying, "Bye, darling" as she looked at grandpa for the last time; my mom crying at the coffin as she, too, said goodbye for the final time; my brothers and uncles lined up, teary-eyed, waiting for the coffin to emerge from the hearse; hundreds of people speaking of the wonderful things Grandpa did to help them while growing up, even though it had been no less than 13 years since they all last saw him; the veterans firing their rifles, folding the flag and handing it to Grandma; all current and former military men saluting him for the final time; grabbing a fistfull of dirt and watching it slip through my fingers, onto the coffin; seeing the coffin slowly descend into the grave.
Grandpa was 89. He will be greatly missed by his wife, daughter, four sons, son-in-law, two daughters-in-law, eleven grandchildren, six great-grandchildren, and countless others he touched through the years. He was an orphan and spent his life taking care of others who lost a parent(s) or who had a need he could fill. The greatest inheritance he left us is having his same type of servant's heart and the joy of the Lord as our strength. I am ever so grateful for these two gifts.

1 comment:

dani said...

Hugs Deb. That was beautiful.

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