Monday, July 16, 2012
Tonight, I am devestated. My beloved Papa put up such a great fight against cancer and his other maladies, but in the end, he left this world, and headed up to Heaven. At this very moment, he's checking in at the Pearly gates. He's probably telling a silly car joke, then is making sure his entire family is on the guest list. He's asking for the fluffiest cloud with a view, so he can check on us until we make it there with him.
What a man, my Papa.
We've known that him moving out of this world was an almost certainty for years—ever since he was diagnosed with cancer. At first, the outlook was pretty bright; with treatment, he could live another 10 years. But life isn't always fair or decent, and before we knew it, he was met with kidney failure, cancer that spread and inoperable kidney cysts. These past few weeks have really been the most difficult on him, leaving him in considerable amounts of pain.
I pride myself on being a realist, so while that attitude came through in this situation, I think I was just in shock.
I listened to everything that was wrong with him, and understood that his body wouldn't be able to take much more. It made sense that he was ready to stop treatment, and I knew what stopping the treatments would mean. He would die. He wouldn't be a phone call or plane ride away.
Today, with final arrangements being lined up for him, I allowed my emotions to take over. I found photos of him and me together... him holding me as a baby, his very first grandchild... him trekking overseas to visit my brother and me while my dad was on assignment...
My grandfather was...no, IS a good man. He was always so funny and gentle. He was quite regimented though—being an officer in the Air Force made him that way—which is something I so loved about him. When I was little, he taught me about God, and Jesus, and Heaven. He told me that because I believed, I would be in Heaven one day, and he'd be there with me. As a child, I never feared dying, because I knew he'd be there with me. Of course, I don't think I understood death, either.
He used to have a silly mustache. He always wore a thick chain bracelet (and I think necklace, too). I would fiddle with that bracelet whenever he held me. To me, that kind of bracelet is "home".
As I said, I pulled out a few photos of him and I today. Something else about this situation struck me: the circle of life is really real.
I've experienced loss before, no doubt. My great-grandmother and step-dad both died while I was a teenager. I lost my first child via miscarriage in 2009. Papa's in good company up there, along with his own parents.
In looking at a photo of my Papa with me as a baby, I see my own father with my son. In 20 or 30 years, it could be my parents that leave me. I understand that they'll go on to a much better place, but yes, the selfish part of me doesn't want to be left. Beyond losing my Papa, I can't imagine life without my parents. And yet, that's exactly what my mom has to do. She has to say good-bye to her first love. Her daddy.
There was nothing I could do to stop it. He died. He wanted to die. He was ready to die. The pain had to stop... at least he was able to go on his terms.
My Papa was one of the smartest men I know. For real. Just about everything he tried, he succeeded at. He was a respected officer in the Air Force. For a time, he was a race car driver of sorts. His hobbies included collecting treasures (antiques) for selling on eBay. He was one of the very first eBayers, and taught loads of classes to people in the area on how to use it. When computers became a big deal, he built my family's first tower. That got us through high school, and then some.
Just when I didn't think he could be any more selfless and giving, my high school graduation present came in: I received a few thousand dollars (he had been saving every single month from the moment I was born) to pay for college. Seriously, he thought of everything!
I was so blessed to have him dance at my wedding. He loved my husband, which was so important for me.
I never was able to see him interact with his very first great-grandchild in person, but I know the week they spent together was memorable for everyone. In recent years, I will hold on to our FaceTime conversations, with him trying to set my mind at ease.
I had months to prepare for this day, really. But now that it's here, I'm still in shock. It doesn't make sense to me that I can't call him if I needed something. That he will no longer be jumping in his van to travel cross country with my grandma and their dogs to come visit.
I am angry, and yet at peace with it all. Angry at cancer, the cysts, the medicine flub ups, and all the other maladies that allowed him to deteriorate as quickly as he did. I'm angry at myself for being afraid to talk to him after his stroke. Yes, it hurt when he didn't know who I was, but I needed man up and be there for him. I'm so glad I eventually did.
I'm at peace with him being gone, because he is in a much better place than all of us. He's no longer in pain. He doesn't have to deal with all the politics that come with dying. Who gets what, and what goes where... tracking down old papers and files and mementos... It's all done for him. Instead, he can go live on his cloud, and watch over his family, and send all the lovely signs to say he is with us. I can't wait to hear from him soon.
Love you, papa.
—Your Jenny Bean