Emily wrote this piece shortly before her grandfather passed away. We publish this article expressing her fears, memories, and grief in his honor.
My Pappaw is dying and I don’t know what to do.
My heart is breaking. I know that I’ve been very lucky, luckier than most. He’s nearly 91 and until about a month ago? Feisty and active. Before he went into the hospital, he and my Mammaw were still bowling twice a week. At 90 and 85! But for some reason, people never believe that.
He’d piddle around the yard, picking every leaf and branch up; he took pride in having a perfectly manicured lawn. He was active in their church, taking turns on security walks.
Was? I mean ‘is.’ Is active in their church.
I’m not ready for ‘was.’
The only other time he’s been down this long was 20 years ago. He had a heart attack and quintuple bypass and was hospitalized for weeks. But I was too young then to really realize just how close we were to losing him.
And my kids are too young to realize that they’re about to lose him now.
90 years is a long time. I get that statement won’t win any awards for innovation, but just think back to 1926. His house didn’t have electricity when he graduated high school in 1944. You feel old because, when you graduated high school, you still had to have a school email address to join Facebook.
I’m not ready for ‘was.’
But my pappaw? Think of the things that he’s seen. The changes in technology. The horrors of wars. The Depression. How much our country has evolved. Great victories and stunning defeats, both personal and in the world. It’s beautiful.
My grandparents have been married for 66 years. Sixty-six years. Let that sink in.
66 years with the same person. Waking up every day and choosing them over and over. They literally have the marriage that people can only dream of, real life relationship goals. I cannot think of a single time that they have ever raised their voices at each other. Sure, there have been times that things have gotten a little tense, but never an argument in front of their kids, grandkids, or great grandkids. They have 4 children, my grandparents. Seven grandchildren. Ten great-grandchildren.
And Mammaw? My Mammaw is doing the best she can. But they’re each other’s everything. She knows that the end is coming, but she doesn’t break. My fear after this is that she won’t want to go on without him. And truthfully, I don’t know how to help her through this. She’s always taken care of him and their house. When he’s gone, what is she going to do?
We’ll miss him together, I guess.
You see, my Pappaw is the smartest person I know. I took it for granted for too long. But Pappaw, he knows a little bit about everything, and he has a mind like a vault. He remembers everything; he knows every road in the state of Arkansas; and can tell you how to get just about anywhere. He’s better than any GPS.
But there just isn’t enough time. There just isn’t enough.
And he’s got a story for everything. I guess when you’ve lived as long as he has, you do that. There is just so much that I still want to ask him, but time is dwindling down. There’s never enough time.
We go just about every afternoon. I try to ask him things when we’re there, but he’s so tired lately. I want to know everything. But there just isn’t enough time. There just isn’t enough.
I’ve gone through the loss of a grandparent before. I was 19 when my grandmother died, but it was different. She had cancer, and we expected it. Pappaw has gone down so fast that I haven’t had time to react and process things.
It’s so much harder this time. Maybe because it was so unexpected. I guess it’s never easy though.
“Emy”, he’d say. I want to record him calling me his special Pappaw-only nickname. Just so I can hear it one more time. One more time. But it won’t be the same. When I was little, my Pappaw didn’t think I loved him because I didn’t hug him or sit in his lap. I hope he knows now that I do and always have.
I’ll miss you so much, Pappaw.
My Pappaw left this Earthly plane and moved on to the heavenly one on March 30th. I was lucky enough to be there when he drew his last breath, along with my sister, husband, Mammaw and aunt. He got to go on his terms, when he was ready. He told me in the days leading up that he had no regrets. We should all be so lucky.