Following Easter, my grandfather’s health (Daddy’s daddy) got progressively worse. He’s battled cancer now for numerous years- first prostate, then bone, then everywhere- and endured cancer treatment (sometimes as cruel as the cancer itself) and still remained sharp as a tack and talkative and excited to watch the deer and rabbits in his yard through it all.
My grandparents were/are loving yet not overtly affectionate, and I never quite felt as comfortable with them as I did my mom’s side- where grandparents were a place to snack and snuggle and explore together. So as I grew up, despite living mere miles away, I admittedly didn’t visit often enough. But as I got older, especially after I married Jake (who went fishing with my grandfather as a kid because they went to church together), it became easier to understand their ways of showing love, and talking to them, sharing stories, and relating to them became a lot easier. They mellowed, I matured, and my relationship with them fell into the right place. We played dominos some. We’d watch the Braves some. We’d eat dinner occasionally, and we’d talk about the state of the world and what we’d do to solve life’s issues.
Watching Pawpaw battle cancer was frustrating, because you just wanted him to to feel up to doing what he loved. Piddling. Visiting. Church. Hunting. Fishing. Story-telling. Sometime after the turn of the year, he was given 6 months, and though his children (my dad and his four sisters) didn’t share that with him, one night over pizza he made it clear to me he knew.
He loved me, that was for sure, and he adored my husband. He respected Jake. That in itself was more valuable to me than any of my childhood memories. That night was a good night. I wish I had more of those visits. I loved my grandfather's wisdom and stories. I love my grandmother's way of checking on everything we're working on, planning, and preparing for. With a glass of tea in hand, she's always wanting to know how we are, and seems pleased with each update.
Towards the end, we were over there a lot, and watching him decline so fast was heartbreaking. Watching the toll it took in the family was in someways even harder. Family members, including Jake, took turns caring for him as he lost his ability to feed, clean, and even relieve himself, and when he was finally in Hospice’s care, they continued to do whatever needed to be done until he was finally able to go to the Hospice House in town where he was given excellent care up until he died.
My dad's side of the family is a complicated, bull-headed, stubborn lot. They have big hearts, but big tempers and are often to quick to say how they feel. I struggle with it myself, and I see it often in the complex relationships between cousins, aunts, and uncles. This, plus the exhaustion of going to sit, wait, watch, and care for him over the last few weeks was physically and emotionally exhausting. So this weekend, we’ve cuddled. Watched a few movies. Spent time at home.
May is such a busy time of year, full of events and plans… and I had high hopes of wearing a new Lilly dress, making new recipes like one for Kentucky derby pie, and running our church’s 5K this past weekend, I don’t feel bad about saying I didn’t even take a shower Saturday, or even put on makeup. I just spent time at home with my little family. And after the miscarriage, then Pawpaw’s decline and passing last Sunday afternoon, it was time well spent.
If I’ve learned anything from these past few weeks it’s this:
- Love covers a multitude of sins. Grace and mercy should aways prevail, and grudges only eat away at your own heart. Forgive.
- Take time with those you love. Memories together are priceless. Plant seeds. Invest in those people.
- Cancer sucks.
- Rest when you need it. You don't have to be anyone's superhero.
Losing Pawpaw was hard and I am going to miss him, but I have peace because I knew his heart belonged to Jesus, and I know where he's spending his eternity. I know he's not battling cancer anymore, and his sweet bald head, and soft hands were all just part of the "shell" we are left with. The time spent with my extended family has reminded me, too, (I'm one of them, after all and prone to some of the same familiar flaws) that I want to spend my life being known for forgiveness, for grace, for ministering to others, for honesty, for love.