Our lives have been fairly calm and uneventful for awhile now. However, our family will soon encounter one of those bumps in the road that everyone bounces over from time to time. My granddad whom we have always called "Pappy" is letting us know it is time for him to release his hold on this life so he can experience the next. It's not major trauma, but it does bring some sadness and a bit of a rough spot on our life's journey.
As grandchildren go, my brother and I have not exactly been highly attentive in recent years. "Pappy" has spent several years in the local nursing home. We've certainly not visited him enough. There's no escaping that guilt. My brother can legitimately claim the "want to remember him like he was" excuse, and I cling tightly to the busy mom excuse. Nevertheless, we both knew it was time to say our goodbyes.
Andy was there first. I don't know what was going through his mind, but I have a feeling his few alone minutes were spent longing for what once was. You see, he and Pappy spent lots of time together when he was a kid. He was the first grandchild, and he was an all around boy. I truly believe Andy and my cousin Brit were the glue that held Pappy together through the deaths of two wives. Batchin' with a grandpa, huntin', fixin' some dinner, and cleanin' a few birds or rabbits was a young boy's paradise and a grandpa's pathway through grief.
When I arrived at Pappy's bedside, Andy stepped out for a moment to take a phone call, or maybe to give me some space. I love my Pappy very much, and yet my relationship with him is very different. He wasn't the granddad I snuggled with. His wasn't the house I cried to visit. None of that really matters, because I have so many incredible memories of the adventures my cousins and I encountered while in his care. I remember sliding down the wooden staircase on my backside over and over again. I remember him putting sugar on his tomato slices. I remember greasy bacon and runny fried eggs and the crystal salt and pepper shakers that flavored them. I remember Coke floats and cans of Hershey's Chocolate Syrup. I remember a single red rose for my birthday.
I can probably still recite the prayer he said before every meal. The exact words might take a bit to come back to me, but I can hear the inflection of his voice rise and fall as he asked the Almighty to bless our food. Oh, and I can remember a king sized bed that wasn't designed to be a trampoline, and when two energetic girls bounced once to much, he didn't make a fuss. I guess those two bricks stayed under the corner of that bed for years.
As Andy and I left the nursing home where Pappy lay sleeping, I saw the sadness weighing heavy on my brother. A piece of his childhood is slipping away and it is so very painful to watch it go. I drove off knowing that I needed some solitude to think, to question, and to process this experience. I also knew that somehow, I had to be a voice to allow Pappy to say some things that he desperately wanted to say to his family so his next journey could be light and easy. I'm guessing there are many who think this notion is pretty kooky, but then every family has to have one of us so the rest have someone to laugh at.
I began walking around the perimeter of the pasture. I felt pretty sure Pappy's spirit was already moving beyond the boundaries of his physical body. I don't believe God has a magic Spirit Straw that sucks a person's spirit out of their body at the precise moment of death. I think our spirits have opportunities to venture lots of places without our bodies throughout life if we allow the journey to occur. Pappy has been exploring more and more the past few weeks. He was certainly enjoying the cool evening breeze in the pasture as much as I was.
I felt a need to ask Pappy what he wanted to tell his family. His physical body is no longer able to speak to us, yet his spirit still has words and feelings to express. At that moment, I was overwhelmed with emotion for him that I had not previously experienced. There was no audible voice, no misty aparition, and no handwriting in the sky. There was only a flood of thought that engulfed me as I walked and as I cried. He filled me with his feelings and his words. He shared with me that which he wanted his family to know. He told me things that were sources of great sadness and those that have given him tremendous joy. If I had stopped at that moment to write down everything that he sent flooding through me, I would have been there all night. As it is, only the most important points have stuck with me now.
He wants his children to know that he loves them with all his heart, each one as much as the next one and he did the best he knew how to do. He also wants each of his grandchildren to know how special they are to him. To Brit and to Andy, you are his whole world. You have brought him so much pride and joy and you allowed him to be your hero. To Alisa and Angie, you are beautiful young women and he is so very proud of your accomplishments.
Even the longest of physical lives is much too short, and yet those whose paths we cross leave a series of indelible marks along our own journey, painting the roadway with their experiences for us to observe and use as we choose. As Pappy lets go of his physical body, we know in our hearts that his spiritual journey continues on through eternity, and we celebrate the experiences he shared with us along the way as well as those he will continue to share if only we open up to them.
Epilogue: Pappy passed away in the early morning hours of November 5th, 2008. The last thing I would wish for him is to rest in peace. Instead, my wish for him is wonderful spirit companions, beautiful wide open spaces, a body that feels young again, and wildlife surrounding him everywhere. I'm tempted to include a beautiful shotgun and an endless supply of ammunition, but I haven't quite figured out how that would work in the spirit world yet. :-) Enjoy enternity, Pappy.
Stills from the shoot. :)
6 years ago