I had only seen him cry one other time. But he was crying now. And Crying. And Crying. My granddaddy. He was a strong man. A little man. A good man. Even thinking of him now brings tears to my eyes. No nonsense, he was. Cut and dry. Say it as it is. Period.
I remember him in a pair of overalls much more than I don’t. Remember him sitting underneath the oak tree much more than on the sofa – or even in the tobacco patches for that matter. And, oh, how he loved my grandmother. More than I realized – until she was gone.
It's been about seven years now. She wasn’t supposed to go before him. He would say that – a lot. It was sudden. He had been sicker than she had been. Battled cancer. Won. Everyone thought he would go first. Especially him.
I never remember watching him look at her adoringly. Never remember him kissing her. Never remember him even holding her hand. But, oh, how he loved my grandmother. More than I realized – until she was gone.
Years of holding in tears came crashing down when she died. Crying became second nature there for a while. I remember not wanting to leave his side at the funeral. I couldn’t make his tears stop or bring back his Love – but I could be next to him. Sometimes that’s all there is to do.
I don’t remember a lot of it, but there is one moment that I will never forget. Never. It was time. They were getting ready to close the casket. To roll it away. My granddaddy stood up. Suddenly. Forgetting he was feeble, he rushed up to the front. Frantically.
“Don’t let them close that casket. Don’t let them put her in the ground. Don’t let them put her in the ground…..” He bent over the casket and began kissing her. Kissing her. And as family pulled him away, he kept trying to Kiss her. First time I had ever seen him Kiss her. First Time. Last. Time.
Oh, how he loved my grandmother. Never knew. How much he loved her. Ever - Until she was gone.
I have what I call “over the casket moments” that I talk about in session a lot. It’s a moment. A moment imagined in the future when we are looking over the casket of a loved one and we experience: The Moment. That ONE moment of……..something. It could be peace. It could be regret. It could be filled with thoughts of “if only…, did she know…. why didn’t I just…. I wish I would have…. I’m so glad I…… OH, how I loved her…..” The moment.
Helps to imagine what it would be like if we didn’t do anything differently – or if we did.
Why am I telling you this? Not sure really.
But I do know this – death has been surrounding me for the past year or so. I have seen it to the moon and back over the past year or so. Death. Life. Hope. Despair. Longing. Hoping. Disappointment. Breath. Suffocation. Survival. I often feel God taking me deeper and deeper into the creavesses of life to show me more of His heart and more of Life’s pains and more of what it’s truly all about. Living as a soul with a body rather than a body with a soul. Mr. C.S. got that one right.
“Have you ever heard of anyone committing suicide in Congo.” Dominique said. I looked at him blankly. We were in the middle of this intense conversation about Congo – why it is the way it is. Why the rapes? Why the darkness? What the answers were…..and what they were not. “No” I said. “Do you know why? Because they survive. Because they are strong” And they are. So. Strong.
Death. Facing it lately. Two teenage girls hung themselves in the past 6 months in a school in Tennessee. One other attempted. Another shot herself and missed. Another man hung himself about a month ago in Nashville. Why? Isn’t that the age old question?
Death as a means of pseudo survival in one mind. Life lived as something undesired in another. Life hated in one heart and ferociously valued in another.
To my granddaddy? A life loved. And lost. Did she know? How much he loved her? I don’t know. I wish she could have seen how much he really did. Or did she? Know?
The bright spot in this dark blog comes here. Emma. Four letters making up one word that is a pumpkin of a little girl. I was with her this past weekend as we all gathered around the table in the center of Macaroni Grill – center of attention we are……as I shake my head and smirk. We get so caught up In To ourselves, enjoying Our Selves, all By ourselves that we forget other people are around. I look up (realizing there are other people around us) and notice that they are watching us. Kinda like being at a zoo and watching the monkeys in the cage as they play and pick bugs off each other. Kinda like that. Hilarious.
So, in the middle of the monkeys there is me and Emma and Emma and me. She doesn’t know anyone else is around either. Taking my earrings off my ear, necklace off my neck, whispering things in my ear. In our own world. Miss Emma and Me. And I looked at her and thought.
“I love you more than you realize. More that you know.”
Does she know? Will my world stop long enough to make sure she does – today – and not – tomorrow – not until she is - gone.
In an attempt to be less morbid and more real: The fact is that caskets come in all shapes and size. In all stages of life. Death knows no heroes. It is something that will come. Will Come.
My granddaddy…..My sweet granddaddy. I had never seen anyone die before. Not before my eyes. But it was time. He was in the hospital. Emphysema.
“Is it time? Am I going now?” He would say. He was ready – but he wasn’t ready. Are we ever – ready? The nurse came in and told us the day was probably today. I had driven to Kentucky from Nashville for the day –just in case it was my last time. Momma was taking an orange slice and putting it to his mouth to wet his dry lips. So sweetly.
“Just tell him that it’s gonna be ok. Tell him it’s ok to go.” The nurse said.
I was on the outside looking in as I watched my momma love her daddy away to his home. She would stroke his bald head. Swab his mouth. Pat him. Love him.
He would try to breathe. Gasp for breath. Reach for breath. She was holding his hand. “You’ve been a good daddy. We love you. It’s ok, you can go now.”
Another gasp. Another reach. Another breath. “You have fought the good fight. You have finished your race. It’s time to get your crown.”
Gasp. Reach. Breath.
“It’s ok daddy. You can go home now. Go home to be with momma.”
One. More. Gasp. One. Last. Breath.
And he was gone. That’s all he needed to hear. All he needed. I have never experienced such stillness as I did at that - Moment.
Oh, how he loved my grandmother. More than I knew. More than she probably new – until she was gone.
But……I think she knows now.
As I look at my Own reflection - speaking loudly to my Own self I say this: May we tell them now. May we love them boldly. May we forgive just as freely. May we tell them today because we may never get a tomorrow. May that over-the-casket moment be full of peace and anticipation rather than regret and longing. We only get one. L I F E.
May it be full of living. May it be full of love. May it be…..