As a kid, I was no stranger to funerals. When I was 9 or 10 (I can’t remember exactly!) my great-aunt and my great-grandmother both passed away within a few months of each other. My grandfather (my mom’s dad) died when I was 13 years old. I remember feeling sad and crying at their funerals. But I guess I realized at a pretty young age that death is a part of life. I knew that, throughout my life, I would lose loved ones and I would mourn their loss.
Just a few weeks ago, I had a conversation with my mom about the fact that there hasn’t been a death in our family in a long time… about 20 years, actually, when Granddaddy died. I said to her that all of my grandparents who are still living (my dad’s mom and dad, my mom’s mom, and my mom’s stepfather) are getting older… they’re all well into their 80s now… and obviously they won’t live forever. I knew that I needed to mentally prepare myself for losing them.
My dad’s dad, my PawPaw, passed away earlier this week. And I learned that there is no way to prepare yourself for such a thing.
Just that morning, I had been chatting on Facebook with my cousin. She mentioned that my uncle had been to visit my grandparents the week before and that PawPaw wasn’t doing well. I shrugged it off. Yeah, yeah. I’ve been hearing for two years now how PawPaw isn’t “doing well.” But whenever I go for a visit, he seems fine to me. He jokes and smiles and interacts with his great-grandkids. So, when I saw my dad’s number on my caller ID just a few hours later, I refused to think he was calling with bad news. Even when he said, “I have some bad news…,” I still refused to believe it.
So, I know now that there’s no way to prepare yourself for the death of a loved one… even your 83-year-old grandfather who has been “not well” for quite some time. I also learned that denial is a very real thing!
If you had asked me a week ago how I would react to news of my PawPaw’s death, I probably wouldn’t have told you that I would spend three days in tears. But I have. And I can’t even say that I was particularly “close” to PawPaw. I probably only saw him once, or maybe twice, a year. But I will miss him. The next time I travel to Georgia, he won’t be there to greet me with a good ole back-thumping… to share a joke with me at the dinner table when Julie tries to clear our plates before we’re finished eating… to sit with me in the rocking chairs on his front porch, yelling at the neighbor’s dog… to not-so-subtly slip his great-grandkids some money when we’re saying our goodbyes.
He won’t physically be there, but he will always be in our memories and in our hearts.
Clarence Edward Jessee (1926-2010)