Jeff’s Voice: A Terrible Loss…

Not long ago I wrote how dedicated my grandparents are to me. I also wrote how much of a labor of love that it was for them to visit. In particular it was a huge effort on my Grandpa’s part because he had been suffering from congestive heart failure since about March of 2014. His heart, (metaphorically) was as big as anyone’s on earth.

That amazing heart, sadly, stopped for good on the 26th of March. In reality, my Grandpa’s passing was expected because his heart was becoming weaker. It was only a matter of time, but it still did not lessen the shock or immense pain and grief I felt when he passed. Even now at 8 weeks on, I still have to remind myself that he is gone. My Grandpa’s love and dedication to me were expressed until the very end.

Grandpa turned 84 on the 15th of March. He and Grandma came to visit me two days later on St. Patricks Day. His labor of love was on full display this day, as it was all the days of my life. This day was just a true testament as to how much he loved me. He could hardly walk as it was, which made his breathing very difficult. Yet he was up and awake a half hour before my Grandma, at 4 am, to make the 8-hour round trip to visit me.

We had a great visit even though breathing was so difficult for him and he was physically exhausted. Before the visit ended we said the normal goodbye’s and I love you’s. As always, I watched them go. Every time the thought comes to the back of my mind if this will be the last time I see either one. It’s just something that someone in my position has to do. Well, this time it didn’t feel different than all the “other” times, even though I could see with my own eyes that his health was failing rapidly, but, still, at that moment I would not have believed that St. Patricks Day would be the last day that I saw him alive. Or that he would be gone in just nine days.

They made it back home that afternoon. I talked to them on the phone. Everything seemed the same. The next day, Wednesday, I talked to them again. Everything was still the same, except his breathing was a little more laborous and he was very sleepy. Late that afternoon my Grandma took him to the hospital because his breathing was worse.

After he walked the 200 or so yards each way to the visitation area, he never walked again except from the car to the house and the house to the car to go to the hospital. That was a Thursday. By the very early morning hours of the next Thursday, he was gone.

Remember I wrote about my Grandpa’s last days being a testament as to how he was towards me my whole life? It’s so true. The last time I saw him was a great example. Even though he didn’t physically feel up to it, nor was he really that able to do it, he did it anyway. He came, even though it was practically impossible for him. My Grandma told me that he knew his time was drawing near, and that he was bound and determined to see me on that St. Patricks Day, just two days after his birthday. He was right because the next chance to visit me would have been on the 7th of April. My Grandpa’s last exertion of energy was to come and see me. I can honestly say he gave all. Not just to me, but to everyone and everything he ever did in his life.

My Grandparent’s 63rd wedding anniversary was on the 29th of March. Pawpaw was buried the day before. How sad and difficult for my Grandma, who I call Mawmaw. I called at 8:43 in the morning on the 26th of March and got the news. I had just talked to Pawpaw for the last time around 6 pm over the phone the night before on the 25th. It was a very good conversation. The things said between us were affirming and special and were right on time, because he passed about 8 hours later. My only regret is that I didn’t call 10 more times that evening. I certainly wasn’t thinking he would be gone in just a few hours. I fully expected to talk to him the next morning when I called, but it wasn’t to be. When I called the next morning I was told the horrible news.

While I heard the news with my ears and mind, it just wasn’t true or possible to my heart. From my shock, I said, “No, NO, Put him on the phone. Let me talk to him”. Within moments, my heart finally got it. My Mawmaw was very upset too, but she was trying to comfort me. And you know what she said to me in this grief-stricken moment? She said, “I can’t wait for the next visit to be up there to see you”. Talk about love and dedication!

Amidst all of the pain and grief, there is also anger. Anger because I wasn’t able to be there the last 13 years of my PawPaw’s life. Anger because I feel I wasn’t able to repay even a small fraction of the debt that I feel I owed to him. I should have been there to do all of the hard work that was more difficult for him. Who knows? Maybe he would have never gotten to such a state with his health had I been there.

Another hurtful aspect is that I finally got a ruling in my favor after he passed away. The Court ruling came on the 27th of March. Yes…the day after he passed! I’m so hurt and angry that he didn’t live to hear the news.

It wasn’t a total victory, though. However, it was a small one. It is a step in the right direction, that’s for sure. Most certainly it was good news that was otherwise overshadowed by the gloom and doom of Pawpaw’s passing. All these years of fighting to be heard, fighting for some measure of fairness. All these years here in the temporal, physical world with no results.

Maybe it took some motivation from the other side. I think Pawpaw knows all about that ruling.

About Lori Howard

I have long searched for my purpose in life and have come to realize that my calling is to advocate for the wrongfully convicted. I AM relentless.
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