In the early hours of Tuesday morning, David got a phone call. We're so used to in the middle of the night calls, they don't scare me anymore and it barely registered when he handed the phone to me.
It was my Dad, calling to tell me my grandfather had passed away.
It honestly didn't register at first. I was just like "okay?" and hung up. After some time for it to sink in, it hit. The tears started to flow and they honestly haven't stopped since.
I'm no stranger to death. Death has seemed to be a constant thing in my life, even as a child. I've lost numerous people close to me over the years. I've always kinda believed that there are the have's and have not's with death. Those who have experienced the death of a spouse, parent, or child are kinda the elite of those two. Once you've lost one of those main people in your life, the death of others are easier to handle. Obviously, at some point and time, we'll all be in that group. You just kinda compare every other death in your life to that one. Being I lost a parent an young age, I've always kinda walked around with this attitude that death is easy for me to deal with.
My theory has proved me wrong though.
Eleven years ago, after over 40 years of marriage to my grandmother, my grandfather made the choice to leave. Not only did he choose to leave her, he choose to leave the entire family.
When your entire immediate family only consist of ten people, that's big hole left.
He seriously walked out the door and didn't look back.
We went from having a daily relationship with him, to years of not seeing or hearing from him.
I was hurt and angry.
He not only chose to leave her, he chose to leave all of us.
He chose to leave me.
He is the only person I can say in my life "you abandoned me."
After five years of no contact, the first big event in our family since his leaving occurred. David and I were getting married.
The subject of whether we should invite him came up. We knew by now where he was living, but still had no contact. When I say I was the worst, I'm not lying. I was pretty stuck on that I didn't want him there and went till the end kicking and screaming. However, I luckily had a few older and wiser people who said I needed to.
He showed up and we saw him for the first time in five years.
He asked if he could see me before the wedding for a moment and I agreed. I was unsure of how things would go, I imagined myself being standoffish and having an attitude, but when the moment came, all I could do was stand there hugging him and bawling.
Crazy is the fact, that exact moment was caught on film.
Words cannot explain how much it meant that he had actually came.
It was a beginning to a long journey of forgiveness. The next few years, we saw him off and on. My Aunt started talking to him on a more regular basis and we started exchanging cards back and forth. For a few years, he would even come down every so often and we'd all meet for dinner. He even got to come to my cousins wedding this past summer.
As much as I wish I could say things were fully restored, they weren't. We were all dealing with years of hurt.
David, my Dad, and I actually sat with him through dinner at the wedding reception. I wish I could say it wasn't awkward, but it was. At one point, both David and my Dad got up and it was just the two of us at the table. I didn't know what to say to him. We sat there and stared at each other and finally I just shrugged my shoulders and gave him a half smile. I was still struggling with my hurt and anger and couldn't find any words to say.
To be honest, his death isn't so much a surprise. He was in horrible health. In fact, just weeks ago, we had a conversation within the family of how bad he was doing.
The emotions that have come with it is what has been a surprise.
Though my earlier theory has rang true for every death I've been through before, I didn't count in the factor of dealing with a death that involves a broken relationship. Every death before, I had a peace with within the relationship.
His death leaves lots of hurt, anger, and unanswered questions.
The worst of all though, the realization that there is no longer any hope of the relationship being restored.
How do you find peace in a relationship after that other person is gone, when you couldn't find peace when they were right in front of you?
Almost two years ago, my bestie Amy lost her ex husband suddenly in a car accident. I will be the first to admit, I was not a good friend and had a very hard time understanding her reaction to his death. I for a long time had the attitude of "get over it and move on already." I've always looked at their relationship as a severed one, but it wasn't, it was a broken one just like I've had with my Grandfather.
Though we've made up and I've apologized (and though I probably didn't deserve it, she forgave me), I had still honestly never understood her feelings from then, until now
Broken relationships are hard. They are filled with hurt, anger, and usually, many unanswered questions. Those people are in and out of your life, so there is no period to really sort through and move on and though you've been hurt, you still have some type of love for them. So, my I know-it-all theory of it being the "relation" of the person to you, is blown out of the water....its about the relationship with the person.
So, just as every post about death, this post (that has become a book now) is a reminder to hold those you love close to you, even when they choose to walk away. Don't waste days, or even worse, years without telling them and showing them you love them. In the hustle and bustle of everyday life, we too often forget life is short and precious.
As in the wise words of John Mayer, "say what you need to say" .......even if all you can think to say is "you hurt me, but I still love you." Its better than a shoulder shrug.
With all that being said, I want y'all to know that my grandfather was not a bad person. Like we all do, he had his demons he had struggled with his entire life and a lot of times, those demons made him into a person we could not understand. Why he made the choices he did at times, we'll never know the answers to. In all honestly, regardless of how many years he had left on this Earth, we would never have known why.
However, I have realized these last few years that regardless of the choices he made, he did love us. My grandfather would have never won the father of the year award and he was a crappy husband, however, he was a good grandfather. He loved his grand-girls.
This past summer when he came down for the wedding, he got the chance to meet his great granddaughter for the first time and see our home. I realized as he was walking around my home that day, that it was the first time he was ever getting a real glimpse into my adult life and the person I was becoming. He was here only a short time and as we said our goodbyes, he hugged me and what are now his last words to me, he said "I'm proud of you kid."
Through all the years of hurt and anger, those are the words he left me with.
Words that will start the healing process and to finding peace from these past eleven years.
Words that I never expected to hear from him......he left me with words of love.