Thursday, February 4, 2010

Farewell to a Hero

I've known for a long time that this post was coming. I knew the title of it and had even mapped out some of the things I would say. Still, I kept hoping and praying that God would keep pushing that day further and further into the future.

As a kid in school when we had those "Who is your hero and why" essays, I never had a solid hero per se because I didn't want to hurt anyone's feelings by leaving them out. It was always so important to me as a child that no one's feelings ever got hurt and they never ever felt that I favored one over the other. I shed many tears over the torn ache in my heart as I decided whether to go with my parents or stay at my grandparents' a few days longer. I always based my decision on who I thought sounded the most disappointed or hurt about my choice.

Not long after I got married, I realized who my hero was though, and I also realized that he had always been my hero, I was just too afraid to admit it out loud to anyone. My grandfather passed away this afternoon. He had been sick for over 12 years after miraculously surviving a very serious aneurysm rupture in his stomach while out feeding his cows. His battle to survive that only bolstered my admiration and love for him as did the long road of recovery for many years after.

He got very sick with an infection a few weeks back and the doctors were gentle and honest with all of us, including him. They didn't think he would make it out of there but he surprised them as he always does. Because of the constant and complicated medical care that he needed, he had to be moved to a nursing facility. Once there, we knew he would never leave. He fought his infection and subsequent delirium to spend a week or so talking at very brief intervals with each of us and allowing us all to say goodbye. Last night, he told everyone that he just wanted them to stop everything and let him go. It was the last thing he told us.

I feel like my heart is breaking in two. I keep thinking of the last thing we shared alone together as granddaughter and grandfather. I stayed with him while my aunt went to pick up her children from school and he happened to wake up for a while. I was reading one of my assigned books for class and he asked me to hand him his book off the table. He hadn't been able to read for several weeks by that point, but I understood his point. I helped him open the page and try to steady the book in his hands. He read maybe a page before he dropped the book. It was too hard for him to hold it. He looked up at me with heartbroken eyes and said "Hon, I can't read anymore."

I sat in the parking lot that night before going home and sobbed. That was one of the things we had always shared together was our love of books. When we were together, you could usually find us on the couch eating quartered apples out of a bowl between us as we sat together silently, lost in our book worlds. He told me that day of several authors that he knew I would like and told me to go to the house and get those books soon. He'd been wanting me to read them. I will go someday and get that box of books and one by one my hero and I will read them together again, only this time, I will have to eat the apples alone.


Kristin said...

Oh hon...I am so very sorry for your loss. This post truly conveyed the love and admiration you felt for your grandfather. That last line, "I will go someday and get that box of books and one by one my hero and I will read them together again, only this time, I will have to eat the apples alone." just tugged at my heart and made me miss my Grandpa too.

Anonymous said...

Oh, I'm so so sorry for your loss. I lost my grandfather two years ago and have written about it a great deal, which has helped process that sort of loss. I try to live my life in a way that would make him proud, try to pass on the love that he had on this earth.

Thinking of you.