A tribute to my Pawpaw and to life.
“This is gonna be a tough one to get over”
I sucked in air tight through gritted teeth right before ripping my eyes from all the blinking monitors and tangled cords and beeping things– long enough to see him for the first time in that bed.
I was scared to look.
Leaned way over to his right, mouth gaping and dry, eyes drooped with exhaustion and pain, my Pawpaw laid the night before he died. He looked 200 years old. I knew he was sicker than sick, but absolutely nothing could’ve prepared me for that. To see death.
Between soft cries, we all paced and sat and stood and sat again, saying the same things. “What did the doctors say again?” “His oxygen is up” “Can he hear me?” “What can I do?”
I went over and laid into his neck, attempting to hug a person who once could’ve moved a car with his bare hands, now could only move his arm a few inches by himself to try to put around me. I looked up to see a tear well up in the corner of his eye. I bit down on my lip to keep from losing it.
He saw me.
I told him his beard was growing out for the first time I’d ever seen. I told him I loved him. He barely moved.
We tried to muster up laughs as we sat beside him that night, to make him feel included. I can’t imagine how odd it must’ve been to be him in those moments of being talked about like he wasn’t in the room. I can’t imagine being told that it’s okay to die.
My husband and I left the hospital that night before the others. I walked into their too quiet kitchen into the house I’ve only ever known as “Meme and Pawpaw’s” and just sort of knew we’d never see him here again.
He died in that hospital bed the next day around noon. All of us around his bed, watching all the rates slow to lines, holding hands and feeling for the first time what despair truly is. It was and will always be the most terrible, horrible thing I’ve ever experienced.
Mom put her hands over his eyes as he died, trying to help them close as she cried “Go, dad! You’re okay! You can go! We love you!” That, along with hearing his fluid-filled lungs crackle as he struggled to breathe his last, are things I don’t know I’ll ever get over.
It gives me immense peace knowing that he isn’t suffering anymore, but my God it hurt to see him go that way.
I sat in all his spots over last week as we all swapped stories, preparing for the funeral and packing up some of his medication and unused oxygen tanks to give back to the hospital. The left couch cushion on the back porch sinks in deep– his favorite seat in the house. His harmonica left on the table waiting to be played.
I’d forget, and catch myself expecting Pawpaw to bound around the corner, oxygen cords in tow, shouting “Heeeey, Bubba!”
It’s a precious thing, getting older. I am someone who has always been quite sensitive to death, how it effects the people who are left, and how sometimes a wake of “should’ve said’s” and “should’ve done’s” follows. I’ve watched death leave holes in my dad.
It’s absolutely unfair that life is set up like this, isnt’ it? Falling in love with the world- with each other, with our passions, with our lives- to then have to leave it. Or worse, to watch someone else leave it.
I sat in the car with my sister the evening before the funeral service and just blurted out, “It’s been really hard, but it’s good for me to go through hard things” which has, whether I like it or not, rung to be true over the last few years. Lifetime, really.
Whether we like it or not, we will walk through too many hard things. Whether we like it or not, unfairness catches up to us.
To me, great comfort comes from pain having a purpose. Clinging to the belief that nothing is wasted is what gives me hope because I know the Lord wrote it all out- even the seemingly unreasonable pain, and even if I never get to see its purpose on this side of heaven.
It’s a matter of trusting God.
But you know what? I can trust God and I can be deeply, deeply sad about how things turned out. I can trust God and still be confused and angry and wish things were different. I can trust God and be human.
I think the beauty of it is in the balancing.
How can we keep an eternity mindset when all we’ve ever known is here? I’ve tried pretty much everything to heal, process, stay Godly, be mature, kind, gracious, and forgiving by myself and nothing I do alone works out well.
I fill up with warmth as I feel Him say, “Yeah, that’s the point.”
We’re supposed to need Him. He made us that way.
Eternity, that God, isn’t dark for us.
If you don’t know Jesus or have walked away from faith, please message me or someone you trust to start a conversation. Life is a blip, and not only is it important to get your soul situated and saved, but we need God in the everyday. It’s too much to go it alone. <3
Beautiful true words, dearest MC💗
Mary Catherine you have such a gift with words! Watching someone we love suffer and die is heart wrenching and it changes you. But as you said there can be good change that comes from that! I’m so sorry for the loss of your precious grandfather. He was well loved.