He Died A Hero

field of sunflowers He Died A Hero

This is the sort of post that requires music but what to play is something that is beyond me, or so it feels. I sit here in my chair fighting to come up with the write words to share about my grandfather. I sit here in my chair and try to make sense of something that seems impossible- grandpa is gone. Though I always knew that one day this would happen I find myself wondering if maybe this was just a dream.  Until today there had never been a time where I didn’t have grandparents to visit and talk to.

My grandparents were a constant force in my life and now they are all gone. Every…single…one has died and I find that the world is a little bit darker than it was. I shouldn’t be surprised. I have been down this path before.  This is not the first time that I have sat at the computer and reminisced about a grandparent. It is not the first time that I have shared some thoughts about talking with the children about death, but I hope that it is the last time for a while.

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I feel numb. I am in a place that exists somewhere between sadness and ambivalence. My grandfathers were my heroes. Two amazing characters who couldn’t have been more alike or more different. Such a contradiction but one that is filled with so much love. And now I find myself trying to figure out what sort of words I intend to share at the funeral. Now I sit here lost in thought and memory trying to find the write words to write about him. Chances are I will speak off the cuff. Chances are that I’ll share a few words and hope that I don’t sound silly. And no matter what I say afterwards I’ll kick myself for not sharing XYZ or for not talking about PDQ.

It is not a tragedy when a 97.5 year old man dies of natural causes . That doesn’t mean that we can’t be sad because I am. I am sad for a million different reasons but the biggest one is that my children won’t ever know grandpa the way that I did. They’ll hear stories about him and grandma. When they get older they’ll have a better appreciation for how incredible it is to be married for 75 years but they won’t know it in the same way that I do.

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One of my strongest memories of my grandparents is of them dancing. I close my eyes and I can see them gliding across the floor together. I close my eyes and hear grandma tell the 13 year-old version of me that if I learn how to dance as well as grandpa I will never lack for a date. I close my eyes and see them in their nineties sitting next to each other in matching recliners. They are both fast asleep but they are holding hands. I close my eyes and hear my grandfather tell me about happy grandma has made him. I hear people asking grandma what their secret is. She laughs, shakes her head and says she doesn’t know. She says that they have always known how to compromise.

Grandpa laughs and tells me that when two people adore each other they find a way to work it out and then he says that it doesn’t hurt to have a hot 85-year-old wife. Grandma blushes, smiles broadly and tells him to shush. I think of grandma as being a very proper lady. She doesn’t swear but she doesn’t have to. On the rare occasion she gets upset she has a look that causes plants to wither.

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Grandpa’s death certificate will say something about natural causes and that is ok. But the true cause of death is a broken heart. He missed grandma terribly and even though she was gone he used to talk to her photo. But it would be unfair of me to paint a picture that didn’t describe him as trying to live a vibrant and active life without grandma. She was his best friend but even in her absence he did what he could to get the most out of his days.

But no matter how fast we run time is always faster and it caught up to him.

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I saw him every day last week and noticed a steady deterioration so I made a point early in the week to tell him that I loved him. Even though he knew it, I wanted to make sure that he heard it.  Even though he told me that he was ready and that he wasn’t afraid I wanted to try and ease his burden any way that I could.

Yesterday afternoon I went back and found him fast asleep. His breathing was labored and you could see that he had to fight for each breath. They had given him some Morphine to make him more comfortable and consequently he was sort of out it. He stared glassy eyed at the ceiling and I hoped that it wouldn’t be long. Not because I didn’t love him but because he was very clear about his wishes. He had a DNR and had told us all that if there came a time where he couldn’t function on his own he wanted out.

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“Grandpa, I have to leave,” I said. I bent over and told him again that I loved him and that if he wanted to let go it was ok with me. This time I just couldn’t say goodbye, so instead I said “so long” and walked out of the room. Six hours later he was gone, but in my eyes he died a hero.

photo by: tfengreen
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  • http://www.thejackb.com/ TheJackB

    @Shonali Hey there. Everyone should have grandparents that help us to build these sorts of memories. They are so very special and important.

  • http://www.WaxingUnLyrical.com Shonali

    … and I hit “post” too soon. I wanted to say I’m thinking especially of you and your family. I hope you know that anyway, but I wanted to say it.

  • http://www.WaxingUnLyrical.com Shonali

    I’m so sorry for your loss, Jack. The way you described your grandparents reminded me of my own. 60+ years of married life, and you could still see the sparkle in their eyes when they looked at each other (when they weren’t squabbling, but that was part of their fun). I miss them terribly, to this day.

  • http://www.thejackb.com/ TheJackB

    @Faryna Don’t worry about it Stan. We all have busy lives and I say that without sarcasm or any agenda. My grandfather was 97. I am sad that he is gone, but he lived a very full life and for that I am quite happy.

  • Faryna

    I’m also sorry that I was not here to comment sooner. A feel that I have failed you. I was part of that world that keeps moving along at the corner of your eye when there you were feeling such deep loss with your family.

    Forgive me, Jack. I’ll try to be a better friend. But you also need to shout out when things are darkly, my friend.

  • http://www.thejackb.com/ TheJackB

    @janetcallaway Hi Janet. It is nice to see you again.

    Grandpa told me that he never really saw grandma as being old. He was well aware of the effect of the years on their appearance, but said that she was always in her twenties to him. They had the sort of relationship that everyone wants.

    Thank you for your thoughts and concern, I really appreciate it.,

  • http://www.janetcallaway.com/ janetcallaway

    Jack, aloha. Saw your comment on my post today about needing a smile and wondered if perhaps your grandfather had just passed away. Now that I see it was a few days ago, I am so sorry I was not here sooner to comment.

    Jack, You stories last week about your grandparents touched me deeply. What I so appreciated about them was the love I could feel from you as you wrote them and that your grandpa had for your grandma. Aside, from their dancing, I loved that he saw your grandma as she was in their early days.

    Thinking of you and your little ones, Jack. So sorry for you loss; so happy for your experiences with them and what you have shared with us. Warmest aloha. Janet

  • http://www.thejackb.com/ Livefyre

    @AdrienneSmith Hi Adrienne. Those words are enough. You can’t say anything to bring him back or change things and I am ok with that. I appreciate your being there- to me that is gold.

    All of my grandparents were great and I was blessed to have them longer than most people do. It was gift and I am happy to have so many good stories. Thank you again for your thoughts, I appreciate it.

  • http://www.newsuperaffiliateblog.com/ Livefyre

    Okay, this brought me to tears Jack and I’m so very sorry for your loss. Man, I hate those words but we never know what else to say at a time like this. It just never seems like enough.

    Your grandparents all sounded wonderful and I’m sure you have so many happy memories. At least we have those to be thankful for and all those pictures. 97 is amazing, he was truly blessed.

    My thoughts and prayers are with you Jack.

  • http://www.thejackb.com/ TheJackB

    @marianne.worley You are so right. It was very hard to say them, but it was the right thing to do. His body had just reached a point where the quality of life wasn’t there so…..

  • http://www.thejackb.com/ TheJackB

    @marianne.worley You are so right. It was very hard to say them, but it was the right thing to do. His body had just reached a point where the quality of life wasn’t there so…..

  • http://www.thejackb.com/ TheJackB

    @Chris_Buckley Hey Chris. I told the kids that it only hurts if it was something special and that this is the price we pay. I had my grandfather for 42 years- I feel very lucky.

  • http://www.thejackb.com/ TheJackB

    @Chris_Buckley Hey Chris. I told the kids that it only hurts if it was something special and that this is the price we pay. I had my grandfather for 42 years- I feel very lucky.

  • http://www.thejackb.com/ TheJackB

    @KDillabough Thank you Kaarina, we will miss him.

  • http://www.thejackb.com/ TheJackB

    @KDillabough Thank you Kaarina, we will miss him.

  • http://www.thejackb.com/ TheJackB

    @BrandonPDuncan Those last five words have an enormous amount of truth in them.

  • http://www.thejackb.com/ TheJackB

    @BrandonPDuncan Those last five words have an enormous amount of truth in them.

  • http://www.thejackb.com/ TheJackB

    @Ameena Falchetto Hi Ameena. Thank you for your kind words, I appreciate them.

  • http://www.marianneworley.com/ marianne.worley

    I’m truly so sorry for your loss Jack. Telling someone it’s OK to let go is one of the most difficult things we’ll ever have to do. You say the words, but you want to fight against them, to get just a few more moments with the one you love. I understand.

  • Chris_Buckley

    Oh I’m so sorry, Jack. That’s a sad loss.

  • fluteprayer

    @TheJackB I will play it for you.

  • http://www.kaarinadillabough.com/ KDillabough

    Jack, I am so very sorry for your loss.

  • BrandonPDuncan

    It’s not about the death, Jack. It’s about how they lived. Your memories keep them immortal. :)

  • Ameena Falchetto

    What beautiful memories of times shared. My thoughts are with you all.

  • http://www.thejackb.com/ TheJackB

    @DanCristo He was great. Thank you for your thoughts and prayers.

  • http://www.thejackb.com/ TheJackB

    @bdorman264 This wasn’t a surprise and certainly not a tragedy but as you said it is a piece of my history. I feel blessed to have had this time and now it is my turn to take over some of the things he used to do.

  • http://www.thejackb.com/ TheJackB

    @fluteprayer Thanks FP. If I could play an instrument like you do I would certainly play something in his memory.

  • http://www.thejackb.com/ TheJackB

    @FrankDickinson Thank you Frank. Lots of good memories are here to keep me company.

  • http://www.thejackb.com/ TheJackB

    @Billy_Delaney Hey Billy. I have been enjoying the rush of emotion/memories. Some of the old stories are just fantastic and it has been great reliving them with my children.

  • http://www.thejackb.com/ TheJackB

    @Hajra My grandparents helped teach me how to be strong when things are rough. Though I miss them all terribly- I have lots of memories and more than a few life lessons that I can attribute to their influence.

  • http://www.thejackb.com/ TheJackB

    @Al Smith Hi Al. Thank you. I am very fortunate to have had grandparents for as long as I did. They all touched me in a million different ways and I am grateful for being able to recognize that so that I could tell them they were appreciated.

    Grandparents are truly special people.

  • http://www.thejackb.com/ TheJackB

    @MarkSoFla thank you. I hope you have a meaningful and easy fast.

  • http://www.thejackb.com/ TheJackB

    @torczyner P.S. Have an easy fast.

  • http://www.thejackb.com/ TheJackB

    @JenP_kidsauthor Hi Jen. I like that imagery- it is easy to picture my grandfather visiting in that fashion.

    I expect that you are absolutely correct about my kids getting to know my parents in a different way than I do. I have great fun watching them talk and get to know each other.

    This blog is absolutely designed to serve as a repository of stories and memories. It is one of the things that I like best about blogging.

    Thanks so much for coming by, I appreciate it.

  • http://www.thejackb.com/ TheJackB

    @JenP_kidsauthor Hi Jen. I like that imagery- it is easy to picture my grandfather visiting in that fashion.

    I expect that you are absolutely correct about my kids getting to know my parents in a different way than I do. I have great fun watching them talk and get to know each other.

    This blog is absolutely designed to serve as a repository of stories and memories. It is one of the things that I like best about blogging.

    Thanks so much for coming by, I appreciate it.

  • http://www.thejackb.com/ TheJackB

    @BetsyKCross Hey Betsy. It would be nice if that happened, but the world hasn’t deigned to stop me for yet- though I asked it to. Maybe one day, I am optimistic.

  • http://www.thejackb.com/ TheJackB

    @torczyner The Nine Days always make me feel a bit unsettled, but this year was definitely harder. Eicha will sound different. As always, I appreciate your thoughts.

  • http://www.thejackb.com/ TheJackB

    @John Falchetto Thank you John, I really appreciate that.

  • http://dancristo.com/ DanCristo

    He sounded like an amazing man, Jack. I’m sorry for your loss. I’ll keep your family in my prayers.

  • http://billdorman.wordpress.com/ bdorman264

    It is certainly sad when a piece of history and so many fond memories leave us. The circle of life we all are on, but never makes it any easier.

    My thoughts are with you my friend; it’s good you have so many fond memories to fall back on and it’s certainly quite the tribute being able to put them down in print.

    Take care, buddy.

  • fluteprayer

    I weep with you, friend.

  • FrankDickinson

    My thoughts are with you Jack – may memories of him support you during this time.

  • Billy_Delaney

    This life, this oh! so sweet thing called life. How it pulls at us when it is gone from those we love. I expect that you will enjoy the flood of memories that will rush in now; and I wish you peace during the hardest part of this loss. Billy

  • http://hajrak.blogspot.com/ Hajra

    My deepest condolences for your loss… Grandparents are the like “parents without all that rules”; It’s a pity I don’t them around me anymore.

    Hope you have the strength to bear the loss.

  • http://www.changeurattitude.com/ Al Smith

    Thanks for sharing this Jack. A very touching post that moved me tremendously. In the midst of all the new and exciting stuff thats happening for me and the gratitude I have, this is what real gratitude is all about. The special people in our lives that have had such a profound and positive impact on our lives.

    Thank God for Grandparents. What a special man and family they were. He definitely was a hero.

    Made me think of mine (they all have been gone for some time) and also the fact that my parents are getting up there in age, now.

    Really makes you think ………… and be extremely grateful. Thanks again.

    Al

  • MarkSoFla

    Barush Dayan Haemet. So sorry to hear.

  • JenP_kidsauthor

    Jack, my sincerest condolences to you and yours. I imagine that at some point over the next few days, you will experience something…perhaps a bird that flies by, a cloud floating through the sky, or you may even just notice a feeling of warmth and calmness that will overcome you and you will know that he is still with you.

    While your children may not know your grandparents the way that you did, take solace knowing that they will know your parents as their grandparents. They may even come to know them in a way that you never will.

    Your grandparents will continue to live on in your memories and in the stories you continue to tell about them. For that, I say continue writing!!

    All the best and warmest regards,

    Jen

  • http://betsycross.blogspot.com/ BetsyKCross

    Jack! (crying)…Hope time and life can leave you to grieve for a while. Everything else seems so hard to do when someone passes. Thanks for this beautiful post. It means a lot to me.

    Betsy

  • torczyner

    I’m very sorry to hear it, Jack. Thinking about you. המקום ינחם אתכם בתוך שאר אבילי ציון וירושלים.

  • http://www.expatlifecoach.com/ John Falchetto

    Jack, all my deepest condolences for your loss. His memory will live with all of us thanks to your posts. My thoughts are with you.

  • http://www.expatlifecoach.com/ John Falchetto

    Jack, all my deepest condolences for your loss. His memory will live with all of us thanks to your posts. My thoughts are with you.