Monday, June 3, 2013

Goodbye to Grandpop Kady

I had no idea when I wrote this blog post from Brasil that I would be sitting here two weeks later going through all the fresh pain and longing of grief with a new loss. The reality started to unfold as soon as I landed in New York City on the morning of May 20th and reconnected with the world via my cell phone.  There was a text from my Dad which was followed by an email. The news was not good. While I was preparing to depart Brasil the previous afternoon, my Grandpa was being rushed to the hospital and was undergoing lifesaving emergency surgery on his stomach. At age 91, it was risky, but if nothing else my grandfather was a fighter and fight he did. I am so thankful that I landed to news that he had pulled through the surgery ok and not to something more suddenly devastating. It was jarring news for sure, but at least he was alive.

Once he was up for visitors I made a trip over to the hospital. It happened to be Memorial Day weekend so while Domani and I were out that morning we made a donation to the VFW and picked up a poppy to bring to him. For as long as I can remember, getting a poppy and sharing a moment with the veteran selling them has been a part of my Memorial Day weekend tradition and that is because of my grandfather. It just seemed right to bring him one this weekend and the smile on his face when I showed up with it let me know that I was right. I didn't spend long in the room visiting with him, but it was enough to let him know I love him and to hear the same from him. I was so thankful that I got to do that on what was always a special weekend to him and one where I would always make sure to spend some time with him.
Memorial Day 2010 at the VFW with Grandpa

On Wednesday I found myself once again traveling for work when I got more bad news about Grandpop's condition. I had just arrived in upstate NY for a meeting to hear that he had an episode with his pacemaker, that his nutrition level was low, and that his lungs were filling with fluid. It was already Wednesday evening and from the description of his condition it didn't sound like he had much time left. I made the drive home on Thursday morning with a heavy heart, stopping off in Binghamton, NY for a 5 mile run in a beautiful park there. Running is an outlet for me during times like these and I needed the strength and clear thinking to get me through what I knew would be some tough times ahead. 

It was hot and sunny and the 5 miles did not come easy but there was one moment in particular that lifted my spirit. About halfway through the run I noticed a small pine tree off to the side of the path. It was decorated with flags and other red, white, and blue memorabilia for Memorial Day. It immediately made me think of Grandpop. As I was running by that spot, I was joined by a beautiful yellow butterfly which, thanks to the lyrics from Vetiver's song I Must Be In A Good Place Now, made me think of Joe. I felt a sense of peace and connection - exactly the clarity I was looking for when I set out. When I returned to my car I snapped a photo to remember the beauty of the run.

After my run in Otsiningo Park in Binghamton, NY
That night I was able to go to the hospital after work to visit Grandpop. I could tell that he was having a hard time physically, but his face still lit up as he recognized those of us who were able to come to visit. I put my hand on his shoulder and gave him a kiss on the cheek. His obvious joy at the touch was something I will never forget. I told him that I love him and he told me how much he loved me and how good I was to him. It was a very special moment. Remembering back to when Joe passed and what that moment was like, I then simply wished him peace and told him that he would be ok. Shortly after 8am the next morning I received word that he had died.

As it turned out, at the moment Grandpop passed, Domani was playing with his Matchbox cars on the floor of our kitchen. As I often do, I had asked him where the cars were going and I was overwhelmed when I pieced it all together later that his response had been "heaven".  I am always amazed by how in tune kids can be to these things and how we are often just too caught up to pay attention to the thin veil between heaven and earth. Somehow, Domani was in a special moment even in the midst of his play.

The days since Grandpop's passing have been busy and tough. One of the hardest parts of walking through this loss has been not having Joe there to support me. He was my rock when my Grandmom Kady died and even though we weren't dating at the time he was a special support when my Grandpop Luck passed away the following year. When his Grandma died in 2009, we were both heartbroken but having each other helped us through the grief. From the obituary to the photo boards for the viewing to the pall bearers of which he would have been one, there are constant reminders of Joe being missing from this family equation and it makes the sting just a little harsher. When Domani talks about his "Great Peepaw" being in heaven, it is in the context of being there with his Daddy and that is enough to rip any mother's heart out.

The next few days will be tough. But there are many things for which I am thankful. A friend who would run a 10k with me in 90+ degree heat this morning so I could wrap my head around my emotions. The friends who watched Domani while I did it. Amazing parents who in the midst of their own grief still manage to take care of me. Co-workers who understand that the tasks on my to do list are not the most important things in the world right now. Cousins who will stay up late and laugh over drinks. Sharing wine and a good meal with friends. Wonderful photos of my Grandpa and the memories that go with them.
Thanksgiving at my parents' old house in Hamilton.

August 16, 2010

Veterans Day at Applebees - November 2009