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June 25, 2013
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My grandpa passed away in the early morning hours of this day, June 25, 2013.  He was 92 years old.  Ten days ago, he decided he was done with dialysis.  That night was his last night to have dialysis.  After eight days, he passed away, peacefully in the middle of the night.  He was my mother’s father and the grandparent that spoiled us more than any of my other three.  I can’t really imagine the world without him, even though I saw him only once a year, at best.

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This death thing is strange stuff.  Grief and mourning come in waves.  My logic battles my emotions.  I know it was his time to die (as I talk about it with my children, those are the words I use).  I know quitting dialysis was a huge relief to him.  I know no one lives forever.  I know he lived a full life.

Yet.

I am still sad.  My voice breaks up when I tell others about the reason for our now scheduled trip to the East coast in a week.  I am sad for me.  I am sad for my Grandma, who was married to him for 67 years.  I am sad for my mom, my aunt, and my uncle.  I am sad for my cousins and my children’s cousins.  I know it was time.  I am still sad.

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So I write.  Usually I have some idea of where a post is going when I sit down at the computer.  Today, I have no idea.  What are the words for grief?  How do you express sighs?  Do tears transfer to words?

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I think of what I’ve learned from my grandpa.  My middle child is named after him, John.  In fact, there is a John in every living generation of his family, all named after him.  There is my uncle, known as Fred, but named John (he goes by a nickname of his middle name).  My brother is John.  We have our John, only six now.  My grandpa loved well.  He loved his wife well, who he would tease (and then wink at us when he was teasing her).  He loved his children well.  He loved us grandchildren well.  How does one explain loving well?  I knew doubted his love and felt it unconditionally.  He stood up for the underdog, which was usually whichever one of us cousins was getting picked on–usually the girls.  When he could no longer hold or play with the small ones, he would watch them, smiling when they played happily together (not a fan of the noise of children though, which I think is to be expected as you grow older.  I know I’m not always a fan of the noise of children!).  My favorite picture of him is from my cousin’s wedding.  My little John was not quite a year, just 10 months and started walking at their house.  At the wedding, my Grandpa walked a bit with little John, holding his hands as John explored his new freedom.

The four John's and my Grandma

The four John’s and my Grandma

My grandpa had courage and faith.  I didn’t really realize how much he had until he decided his time to come.  While all my knowledge of this is second hand (and who knows, my mom may tell me I’m way off), I learned a bit about dying from him.  He could have continued to hang to life, until an illness eventually took him.  It was an illness the preceded the decision to end dialysis, but I think if he had wanted, he could have continued dialysis and recovered from the illnesses.  He didn’t want to though.  He decided it was enough and with my grandma and his children, made the decision to end dialysis.  For four days after he quit dialysis, he spent his time surrounded by family.  We each got to say our goodbyes and share our love and memories with him.  When the end came, it was peaceful, he didn’t fight it, they said.  He let go of this life.

That takes incredible faith and courage.  To have faith to know that this wasn’t the end, that there is more.  Even when you live a life of faith, your whole life, I think that end can be scary.  I think it can be hard to let go (and I am just speculating, I have no first hand knowledge of this).  He had the courage to let go and trust what happened next.  I hope when it is my time, I can have the courage I need.

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I’ve heard many sermons on death, especially on Ash Wednesday or Good Friday.  I know the comforting Bible passages, the Psalms I turn to, the passages in Isaiah the allow me to mourn and heal and live with hope.  I know I have only lost a grandfather, whereas others in my family have lost a father or a husband.  I know others have lost much younger people, people who it doesn’t make sense why they died, with no sense that it was their time to die.  I know.

Grief is a funny thing.  We look around at others and make comparisons.  Our grief shouldn’t be as acute as someone else’s.  Our grief should be more intense than other’s.  I wonder why we do this.  Why must it matter how our grief compares?  Why can’t we mourn our losses without feeling like we need to justify our sadness?  A loss is a loss.  Why must we judge and compare even in grief?  I want to just be sad about my grandpa without trying to measure how my grief compares with someone else’s loss.   I know a loss of a grandparent is nothing compared to the loss of a parent, a spouse, or a child.  I can’t imagine what the grief that accompanies those losses.  Right now though, I don’t care where the loss of a grandparent comes on the grief spectrum.  I don’t want to measure my grief against other grieving.

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Nine days ago, a dear friend and her family baptized their sweet baby girl in our church.  I was in the beginning stages of grieving my grandfather, knowing the end was inevitable because he was ending dialysis.  I cried through the baptism.  I listened to the words the pastor said, the song that they sung, and the prayers that were said.

I realized how a similar a baptism is to a funeral.  The same words are said.  Both services lay their blessed into the hands of God, in baptism in hopes of a long life ahead, walking with God.  In death, the deceased is given to God again, remembering the promise of their baptism (as they state it in the bulletin at our children’s preschool).  While the the baptism sings only the verse about being born and baptized, later verses of the song, I Was There to Hear YourBorning Cry, remember the end days, the passing on.

When the evening gently closes in,
and you shut your weary eyes,
I’ll be there as I have always been
with just one more surprise.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. Ruth permalink
    June 25, 2013 8:42 pm

    Melani, grief is grief. You are entitled to grieve as you need to. You had a wonderful grandpa, and grieving his passing is healthy. Not grieving is what scares me! Thinking about all of you. Love, Aunt Ruth (and Uncle Ron too)

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