Monday, December 12, 2011

They played Taps.

A couple of months ago my mom informed me and my siblings that Grandpa wasn't doing well.  He took a few trips to the ER via ambulance, was fixed up as best as possible and eventually sent home time and time again.  At one point we were told he would live only another 2 hours, 2 days at the most.  That was a month ago. 

My aunt researched homeopathic medicines to give him for anything that ailed him.  She gave him medicines for the ringing in his ears - he suddenly went from needing the TV volume cranked up high to overhearing conversations that his children were quietly having across the room.  My aunt also gave him medicines to help with the pain in his joints and to help with his kidneys.  He had a perforated bowel and he also had kidney failure.  There were so many things that were hurting my Grandpa but I tell ya, the man kept his spirit! 
My two aunts and my mom stayed by his side as much as possible this past month.  As time went on and he still lived, vacation times were running thin so Mom and one aunt had to return to their full time jobs.  They lined up help from various places - Catholic Charities, other family members - like my sister-in-law Brandi - and friends of the family.  This past month my Grandpa didn't spend one minute alone.  He would call out at any hour of the day or night.  "Theresa Ann!"  was the most commonly used holler, but I do believe "Mary Christine" and "Cindy W." were used, as well.  I'm told he even called out for me once at the hospital - I think it is because I shared some of my coconut oil with him to use on some wounds. 

A week ago this past Friday Mom called me at 3:30pm.  She works for a bank and she has drilled into our heads not to call anytime around 3 because they are busy doing end of day business.  So when I saw her name pop up on my cell phone "around 3" I knew it couldn't be good news.  She told me she didn't want to worry me but my Aunt Tina had called her at work and told her to drop everything and come over.   I got another call about 15 minutes later.  Again, I knew it couldn't be good news because, well, "no news is good news" right?  
It turns out he had already passed before my aunt had called Mom at work.  But knowing that Mom would have to drive the 15+ minutes to Grandpa's house Aunt Tina didn't want to give her the news and have Mom drive while so upset. 
After I got off the phone with Mom, I got a little teary eyed.  But that was it.  See, I didn't break down and cry because I was actually happy for him.  I knew how much he missed Grandma, who passed 5 years ago, and I knew how much pain he was in.  I was excited for him because I knew he'd be busy getting reacquainted with his Home.  I imagined it to be like a big reunion party where you get to visit with a lot of people you haven't seen in ages and everyone is happy and slapping each other on the back and leaning back from an embrace saying "Man!  Look at YOU!" 

When Ajay got off the bus that afternoon (barely 45 minutes after I got the call) I met him halfway down the block so I could walk back home with him.  I held his hand and asked how his day was.  Then I said "Well, Kid, I have something to tell you.  Grandpa's soul went to heaven today."  He thought for just a moment before asking "When did he die today?"

As we walked along he looked down at his feet but when I peeked I saw no tears.  He and I had actually shed our tears a couple of weeks ago when I first told him Grandpa was very ill.  That was when we sat on the couch and held each other and cried.  I've worked very hard over the years to help Ajay (and Alex, now, too) to understand our beliefs in God and heaven.  I hope he feels the same joy I feel for Grandpa, despite being sad that we won't get to see him in this world again. 

Biju's company allows him to take bereavement days for the death of a spouse's family member, so even though Biju was actually supposed to be on overtime last week he was able to take some time off.  It was a real blessing to me because I was then able to leave Ajay and Alex at home while I went to grieve the loss of my grandpa.  My sister drove Aren and I the three hours to the visitation on Tuesday night.  We walked in and saw a lot of family members I hadn't seen since Grandma's funeral.  We prayed the rosary (during which I noticed some petals falling from a flower arrangement and I could just picture my grandpa standing there picking at them, causing them to fall) and then we continued on with our visitation. 
I kept my composure until I saw my brothers crying.  Logan, my 3 year old nephew, had asked a question which had my older and younger brothers in tears.  I walked up to my younger brother and slipped my arms around his belly (he's much taller than I am) and tried to comfort him.  I then lost all ability to keep it together.  I started sobbing and couldn't stop.  I tried to cry quietly but I just couldn't hold it in anymore.  I was actually quite glad that most everyone had left already and it was mainly family members around.  I was suddenly surrounded by several hands rubbing my back and loved ones crying with me. It was nice to let it all out.  Although, I do believe I might have stained my brother's shirt with my mascara.  I joked with him later that at least we now knew the wet spot was from my tears and not my snot. 

After the visitation we went back to my Grandpa's house where we ate from the casserole dishes that some kind people had brought over.  We talked awhile and got the whole business of seeing the house without him over.  We then headed to my parents to get some sleep.  Some of you may be wondering how Aren did this whole time - he screamed most of the car drive even though I was sitting right next to him trying to comfort him.  He's just not a big fan of long car rides!  Then he was a total sweetheart the rest of the evening - even though he refused to go back to sleep until we were headed back to my parents at 11pm!!  I can't believe he stayed awake for so long. 

In the morning we headed back to the church for his funeral. We pulled up and I said "Oh, I think I'm gonna cry!" - the sidewalk to the church was lined with American flags and there were men standing alongside them.  My grandpa had spent some time in the service and had even been wounded, earning himself a Purple Heart, so there were men at the funeral from both the VFW and the American Legion.
Father Mark did a really good job of eulogizing Grandpa.  Then as Father blessed the casket with holy water there was a song about angels coming to meet Grandpa and escort him Home.  Again, I broke down.  As I stood there holding onto Aren, crying, I couldn't help but think back to Grandma's funeral when I held a one-year-old Ajay and cried with him. 
After the funeral we started to head over to the cemetery when we were notified there was a glitch - something was wrong with the vault and we would have to wait a few hours before we could have the graveside service.  (We all chuckled a bit, saying Grandpa had his mischievous hand in this!)  We ended up having the luncheon before the service. 
By the time we headed back over to the cemetery (which is basically in my grandpa's back yard!) the weather had warmed up a bit - thankfully!  Aren fell asleep during the 3 minute drive so we let him snooze while we went graveside.  It's interesting how certain things trigger more emotion than others.  I cried thinking how Grandpa will never tug on my ear anymore.  I cried when they presented my uncle with the flag that had draped the coffin.  I cried when three men fired three rounds from their rifles.  And I sobbed when the trumpeter played Taps.  It turns out I wasn't the only one who was a tearful mess.  My brother, who spent three years of his young adult life in the Navy, said he was expecting the tune but it still got to him.  I was surprised to later learn that it was played in-person - I had assumed it was from a recording. 

Before we left we took another look at the headstone and we all gathered some of the cut flowers to bring home.  Here's my bouquet:

For those of you who managed to read this long post, thank you.  I think it helps me to remember if I'm able to get it all down.  I'm still sad we won't have any more Christmases or other holidays with Grandpa but I'm so happy that he is in a more glorious place. 


Michelle said...

Losing a grandparent is hard. My grandpa had been in the military also and they played taps and fired shots. It made the burial all the more emotional. So sorry for your lose.

mommyjoymarie said...

I second Michelle's comment...losing a grandparent is hard. So sorry for your loss.