Monday, June 15, 2015

Death and Discovery

My grandfather died suddenly last week. It was a shock and rocked my world in way I could never have expected. Part of how I process is writing so I start this post with a disclaimer that it may be sad as I write through my pain in order to begin the healing process.

I received the initial phone call right around midnight. My mom calling to let me know that Grandpa was taken to the hospital because of an intense headache. He fell unconscious as soon as he arrived at the anuerysm....he never re-gained consciousness. He passed away peacefully after a day enjoying his favorite hobby: trap shooting with his buddies. He won all his rounds that day. The day after was a blur. I don't remember much except trying to figure out how to get out to Idaho to be with the family to mourn together and to celebrate the best grandfather anyone could ever ask for.

Friday morning, we hopped in the car to drive the nearly 3000 miles out West. We left without a plan, with five kids, and a car stocked full of "car" food. Including peanut butter and Fluff (something my children never get to eat), conventional crackers full of chemicals, candy, gum, an anything else my husband found at the grocery store the night before (I was not capable of shopping). We decided we would drive the whole way without stopping to sleep. We drove through two days and two nights and arrived just a few hours before the funeral services. The first stop: my parents' hotel room. To see my mom and dad and realize the grief they were experiencing brought a whole new sweep of emotions. How can we get through this?

Then on to my grandmother's house.....we pulled in, and I realized that Grandpa wasn't going to meet me at the door with his giant bear hug and a "hiya Sweetie" then a kiss on the cheek. We enter and line up to give Grandma her hugs (7 is a lot to get through). She takes me back into Grandpa's room to show us his belt buckles that he won from various shoots. We cry together.

The funeral is emotional, full of good memories which makes it harder. The memories that we will all hold dear but ache for more of.

We all cry but afterward try to pull ourselves together for the luncheon (put on by a family friend who is dear to all of us). We try to re-gain composure and celebrate Grandpa, but underneath is a mood of sadness. One that tugs at my heart and screams, "Let's just all cry together!" Let's talk and process this out loud. No one really knows what to say so we joke a lot. We laugh together and create new memories. We play with the kids because that helps us cope. We eat a lot. We stand next to each other; we hold hands; we listen and we love. We sit next to each other and look at pictures, remember the funny stories.

Then it is time to go. The time is too short. We take our time driving home. I call my mom, my dad, my sister, and my brother. We all talk again. We remind each other that we are here for one another. We are quiet on the phone together or we just talk and talk. We share our love for one another. We express our fondness for one another.

We give ourselves the freedom to take it slow on the way home. What a blessing to experience so much beauty. The terrain in Utah, Fossil Butte in Wyoming, Scott's Bluff and Chimney Rock in Nebraska (the kids were super excited about these because we studied the Oregon Trail in school this year), and Niagra Falls in New York. We cannot escape the mourning, though. It seems that everything reminds us of Grandpa: a postcard in Nebraska, buying batteries in Iowa (because of the distinct way Grandpa used to say "Batt-Ries"). Memories that put a small smile on my face. Memories that keep Grandpa close to my heart. We walk through his death and discover that his jolly face, tight embrace, goofiness, and tenderness will forever remain close. We remind each other and discover more than we ever thought possible. There is comfort in grieving together. There is comfort in remembering together. There is comfort in sharing the small things with one another. We walk towards healing one day at a time.