It’s been three months now since my grandfather passed away and I’ve struggled for that long trying to find the right words to properly honor him. He was the only grandfather I have known. My father’s father passed away long before I was born.
So Grandpa was the grandpa.
He was a hard-working man. A man set in his ways but always let that ‘secret’ fun side slip when my sister and I were around. He was a weird one too liking the thick cream from the top of raw, fresh milk. He enjoyed mustard right out of the little packet. If there was burnt cheese around the edge of a casserole dish he was your man for taking care of that with a spoon and a ‘mmm that’s good‘.
Last year was a hard one knowing that it could be our last Thanksgiving and Christmas with my grandparents. I never thought that it really was going to be our last with Grandpa. For 31 years of my life, he’s always been there – curdled milk and all!
I’ve had people leave my life before but I’ve never really been affected like I have with my grandfather passing. I’ve had Great Aunts, Great Uncles, and Great Grandmothers pass away and have attended their funerals but it’s different when you are there. Yes, I was there holding his hand as he took his last breath. A vision that I have yet to get out of my head when I close my eyes at night.
August 30, 2012
Tucker was just three months old the day Grandpa passed away. My mom was out of town and had sent a message saying he was taken to the hospital and this could be it. I hurried and got the four boys ready to go and we headed over to the hospital.
I didn’t know what to expect – he had faded for a while and we had thought that it was going to be ‘it’ for some time but in Grandpa style he fought on. Walking into the ER room I knew in that moment that this would be the last time I would ever talk with my grandfather. This truly was it.
My sister (who was pregnant and in that pee-all-the-time phase) and I talked with him about the boys, my sister’s new home, and just anything to fill the awkward quiet that hovered over us. The entire time I just stood there holding his hand. I know he knew that he was going to die. You could see it in his cloudy eyes and I felt it in his grip. He held so tight to my hand. It was a strength that I hadn’t felt from him in a long time.
My sister left the room to call her husband to hurry up so he could say good-bye. Once she left I just looked at him and started praying out loud. I told him that we all loved him. That it was okay to go. How amazing he is and how much he’d be missed.
The next few minutes are a blur but all I remember was telling him that he looked tired and it was okay to rest. It was okay to close his eyes and just relax. That moment he started gasping. I heard my sister let out a slight moan “ohh” and both of us welled up with the biggest tears and our eyes instantly were bloodshot.
She left to get a nurse and it was then that he looked at me with clear eyes, fear was gone from them. He squeezed my hand and in the clearest voice said: “I’m going home.” He took one last gasp and the alarms sounded on his monitor. He was gone. I cried out loud “I love you, Grandpa. We will miss you. Lord, please comfort Him.”
He was Home.
“He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever.” Revelation 21:4 NTL
I stood there long after the nurse closed his eyes. His body reflexed and he in a sense took another breath. The doctor waited a bit then listened. I stood there with tears running down my face. The sound of my sister’s deep sniffles filling the room and I held his hand. I couldn’t let go.
As I write this I’m crying similar fat tears. My kids keep looking at me and offering to do silly dances and songs to make me happy again. *melting heart* Parker, in his amazingly sweet innocent voice sings Gods praises of reassurance “You know God can fix people. He can bring people back to life. You don’t need to cry. He can do it.”
Leave it to my children’s innocent hearts to rip me from sad remembrance to life right before my eyes. One of the stories my sister and I were sharing with my grandfather that day was one that to me really sums up my grandfather’s heart.
A Giving Spirit
He owned a local hardware store and any time he came to visit us my sister and I were ready and waiting with our pile of coins to exchange for paper bills. We’d spend hours counting our coins making sure we had an exact total. Of course, no matter how many times we counted those coins we were always off. We’d have sums in the $5 range and oddly when Grandpa counted it there was $20.
No, I’m not saying Grandpa had a way of making us second guess our math skills, but it just shows his giving heart. He would go to people’s homes to help them fix their toilets or broken door knobs. Anything to help people out. That day there in the hospital was the day heaven gained an amazing, loving, compassionate, caring, clever man.
A man worthy of many words that just aren’t in my vocabulary. Words that just can’t make their way from my heart to my fingers. A man that is sorely missed but I know he’s happy now in heaven. We joke that he’s walking around in heaven with a swiss knife in one pocket and dog treats in the other; tinkering and fixing anything that he can find.
That day of the funeral things were different. I had never been to a funeral of someone I had known that well. I just kept looking at my grandmother, his wife of 66 years, waiting for a tear or some emotion but she was steadfast. She greeted visitors. She held her head up. She was never wavering. Until our final goodbye. My two uncles and mother helped her up to the front and before she was within arm’s reach she broke down and let the tears flow. “I can’t believe he left me” was the only statement that came out of her mouth as she sobbed.
Can You Imagine
About four years prior to my grandfather’s death my grandmother had an issue I can’t remember if it was a stroke or something with her gallbladder but either way she had to stay in the nursing home part of their community. I took Parker over to visit Grandpa just before dinner time and he was already in bed. He told me he had nothing to do and no one to talk to so off to bed he went.
Baby Parker and I sat and visited with Grandpa as he told me stories of his Army buddy named Parker. He kept reaching over to the empty side of the bed. I finally asked him what he was doing. After 62 years of marriage, it was surreal for him to not have my grandmother by his side. He kept reaching over to hold her hand. *melting heart* I had only been married to Marty about 6 years when he had his spine surgery causing us to sleep in different beds for a while. That was a weird feeling I can only imagine the loneliness that my grandfather felt those weeks.
A Different Holiday
Not only is this year different without Grandpa there cracking the nuts and scraping the burnt cheese off the dishes. It’s also a time of truly experiencing all the moments I can with my family because you honestly don’t know if it’s going to be your last. This year is full of new life with Tucker and my new baby niece. I know Grandpa would be so proud of my sister’s new role as a mother. I am very thankful that my Grandpa was able to meet my four boys and I find peace knowing that he’s watching over my baby niece from heaven.
You know my mom never knew how my grandparents meet. At the luncheon, I sat with grandma and we talked about Grandpa. Apparently, they attended the same church. There was a social where all the ladies brought picnic lunches and the men received a basket. Whomever’s basket they had was whom they sat and had a picnic with.
My grandfather, a man who knows what he wanted, made sure to let the kitchen workers know that the basket belonging to the beautiful lady was to go to him. Yep, my grandfather already fancied her and that day was the start of a new life for both of them!
Captain William ‘Grandpup’ Ondrasik: husband, father, lover of his Lord & Savior, protector of his country… an example of what a man can be.