Thursday, October 4, 2018

Saying goodbye.

A few weeks ago I posted briefly about my Grandpa dying. It really hit us suddenly because we had just lost Grandma and literally the day of her funeral my Grandpa complained that his stomach hurt. Fast forward a couple of weeks and it turns out he had stage four pancreatic cancer that had spread to his stomach. We knew it would be fast but honestly we all thought we'd get the holidays with him. At least with Grandma she fought for two years and it was a slow decline so we all really had the time to get used to knowing she would be gone. It was a sad funeral but we all knew it would happen and by then it felt like a blessing so she didn't have to endure any more. With Grandpa it just felt really cruel because we all thought we were going to have more time. 

But that's not what we got. 

His decline was actually pretty rapid and my parents were there every step of the way and that was such a blessing. Both Grandma and Grandpa expressed being scared about the end and I think no matter how prepared you are, we all get scared. You are walking into an unknown and nobody can tell us what it was like. They're gone and we just hope it's gentle and not scary. 

Heck- I've technically died twice and I have nothing to report. I don't remember any of it so I don't know if there is a bright light or someone to guide you. It really scares me when I think about it. 

I was really bummed because I had planned on visiting him that weekend because I would have Matt home to watch the kids and I figured I could go up for a while and watch game shows with him. I didn't get that chance because he passed away peacefully on September 11, the day before him and Grandma's anniversary. Honestly, I really hope that was on purpose and I hope we do get to see our loved ones and I really hope him and Grandma are together. That's really the only peace in all of this. So I didn't get to see him and my dad sent me a message letting me know while I was at the Bruno Mars concert and my drive home was pretty emotional. 

When I told Olivia and Jackson the next day they were pretty upset. They had gone to Grandma's funeral so they knew what to expect and I wasn't worried about that. We got the funeral details and planned our day around that. 

The visitation was sad. The moment we walked in Jackson burst in tears. I hadn't expected that but I think maybe the whole thing just overwhelmed him. We sat and talked about the fun things he got to do with Grandpa and his favorite memories of Grandpa. My Grandpa really was a gentle giant. He was tall and always muscular and he was a Vietnam veteran. He saw John McCain's plane go down, he did special missions, he was a big deal during the war. He never talked about it and we all kind of knew it was hard to talk about but he was well respected. He was to get full honors at the burial, and I had never seen that so I was excited to see that and for my Grandpa no less. 

But I was surprised Jackson asked for me to go with him to the casket. Neither kid wanted to go up for Grandma and I said it was OK because it was their first funeral and I'm not going to make them do anything. But Jackson really wanted to see Grandpa and honestly, do you know what I remember the most about my Grandpa? His hands. He had lost so much weight and was so thin but to me, his hands looked just the same. 
He was buried at Fort Snelling and that's where Grandma is so we knew where we were going. The strange thing about national cemeteries is the casket is put on a pedestal of concrete, you say a quick prayer and comment, and then you have to literally go. You get maybe 15 minutes because they have that many funerals there every day. I remember with Grandma when we left I felt so terrible just leaving her there like even though there's a guard there. And with Grandpa, I was such a dang mess I didn't really look as we left. But there was a soldier standing there and it just felt so respectful. 
Flags throughout are at half staff because a soldier was being buried.  
 I had never seen a flag folding ceremony be done and this was the only non blurry photo I got because I was crying and shaking so badly. 
They had a gun salute and I've never seen it happen before and man- it was somber. My dad gave my kids the gun shells from this. 

This was easily, the saddest funeral I have ever been to. I have ever cried that hard at a funeral and literally everybody there was in tears. The funeral home people were in tears because they knew my Grandpa after burying Grandma and it just felt like we really lost a good one. 

Jackson cried the ENTIRE way home. I mean, he was legitimately distraught and I felt like I had no idea what I could do for him. 

But it occurred to me later that night, we were all in our stages of grief, but Jackson was crying at dinner and I had said to him, "It's OK bud, don't cry." and I didn't think anything of it. Until bedtime and it struck me that it's such an automatic thing we say but it's such a terrible message. I want him to know he can cry as long as he wants and that it's totally OK. So I called him into my room and I explain that to him and we're talking about death and dying, and he asks me if I will bring him to Florida when my other grandparents die. My heart broke a little more and promised I would. He wanted to know if he could have something of Grandpa's to remember him by and I said I would see what I could do. 

My dad totally came through and he got a dresser but both kids got these very cool military coin/medallion things and these coin holders my grandpa ALWAYS had. 

But you know what gutted me? My dad was going through my Grandpa's important papers from a safe and he came across an envelope we had sent him a few years ago. I open it up and it was two handmade Veteran's Day card Olivia and Jackson had made him. I couldn't believe he had kept them. With important papers, no less. My kids loved them so much and I know my grandparents loved them so much more in return. 

It just really feels like the end of an era. All of our holidays for the last 20+ years have revolved around getting together with them. I always counted on a cookie plate and pie from Grandma for Christmas. Grandpa would tell jokes. Even when I really messed up a holiday dish they would tell me it was fine. Grandma would tell me I have the worse baster and I needed new lights in my kitchen. Scoff at jarred gravy and quickly make real gravy. I think that's when it's going to really hit me. I'm sad now but I think when these moments should be happening and they don't- it'll hit me. 

Oh! But I have to tell you quick before I go. So years ago, when Furbies where popular, my Grandpa was obsessed with them. He had a LOT. Like a whole room full. We got him one as a joke for Christmas one year but he really took a liking to these. When they moved Grandma finally got him to sell some and we joked at the funeral that man, we hope they aren't in the storage unit and all come to life when someone opens the door! Well it turns out, one Furby was left. It hadn't gotten sold and my dad gave it to Jackson. That kid has been playing with this Furby more than any toy since his Batman Batcave when he was 3. I'm not even kidding. 

"Every plan is a tiny prayer to Father Time." - 'What Sarah Said', Death Cab for Cutie


Kim {Hope Whispers} said...

I am so very sorry for your loss. This post hit me right in the heart. Sending you and your family so many hugs. I am glad that the kids have somethings to remember him with. My boys were tiny when my Dad passed and still cherish anything of his. They were together for their anniversary! I believe that with all my heart! (( HUGS))

Shooting Stars Mag said...

I'm so sorry, Sara. I'm sure this was such an emotional day, and poor Jackson. It's tough to know what to do for people when they are grieving. I'm glad him and Olivia have things to remember him by though, and I love that he's playing with the Furby. :) And I believe there's somewhere after death, and I think your grandpa left when he did to be with your your grandma for their anniversary. Like Kim said, I do believe that with all my heart.


Neely said...

Sara I am so sorry. I am so glad he is with your grandma though!

Beth (Coffee Until Cocktails) said...

It is so hard to say goodbye, especially when it happens so suddenly. I hope both of your grandparents are at peace together. And I loved the Furby story. Thinking of you!