The End of an Era

When I was a child I'd have this recurring dream that my Papa (grandpa) died. The pain in my dream of losing him was so great that I would not be able to stop screaming and crying. The dream always ended with me in a straight jacket in a padded room. I have always wondered why I had such a fear of losing my Papa. I have also always tried to face and conquer my fears, but this one I pushed deep down inside of me hoping that somehow by doing so I would never have to face it. 

Four years ago my Papa had a massive stroke. I was at a movie, out on a date with my husband on his Birthday. I got a text during the movie that Papa was in the emergency room. Chris and I left immediately, drove up to Michigan. We prayed while crying our hearts out in that hospital lobby with my Dad that Papa would make it through the night. He did, but we were told it would probably only be six more months. God gave us four years. 

Papa was a loyal, hard working man, who cared more about being with his family than anything else. When my parents moved to Texas when I was 3, Papa and Nani followed us there. When we moved to Michigan from Texas when I was 13, Papa again moved just so he and Nani could be with us. I could go on and on about the memories. The wonderful things Papa did for us. The excitement each of us grandkids would have whenever we knew he was coming. How we would all beg to go see him whenever we could. When I turned 16 and got my drivers license, the first place I drove to was Papa's house.

I finally had to face my childhood fears on Thursday of last week.

I got word the day after I took my law school final final exams (while I was at another funeral no less) that Papa was in his last hours. I left as soon as I could to be by his side. He was still there when I arrived, but it was obvious that his time was eminent. I cried. I held his hand. I cried harder as he tried to squeeze it back. I crawled up on his bed and tried to remember the old days when he would hold me back. I sang to him. I prayed over him. I read Scripture to him. I spent three days and three nights with him and other family members watching him get closer and closer to heaven.

My stomach ached from all the tears. My stomach still aches from all the tears.

Papa was fighting so hard for his life that Nani had to tell him it was ok to let go, that Jesus was waiting. He didn't want to leave her, but he was in such agony fighting to stay. He had to go.

Sunday I knew I needed to leave him. He needed to be with Nani. They needed to rest. I was only adding to the drama.

I got home in time for my children's Christmas play at church. I smiled bravely, but I was in that padded room with the straight jacket inside.

After we came home from the play I got word that he had passed. That he had waited till we had all left him and had passed in his sleep.

More tears flowed. My siblings, parents, Nani, and Aunt knew that Papa was fighting so hard only for us. Always the gentleman, he let go only after we left.

We had the visitation Wednesday night and the funeral was yesterday. I feel like I'm living someone else's life. So hard to imagine my life without Papa. His Birthday is the day after Christmas. That day will feel so empty now. We will bury him Tuesday, the day after his birthday.

I've dug deeper in to my heart to try to understand why losing Papa always made me fearful. Perhaps it's because Papa never had any expectations of me. He never needed me. He was like my security blanket. All he asked of me was to love him. He was never impressed with my accomplishments or amazed with how much I could do. None of the typical things the world expects of you to finish or be good at did Papa expect. He was always there to give a hug, make me smile, offer me a pastry (he's Italian - you haven't eaten until you've had something sweet), and tell me stories. In his eyes I would always be his baby girl and would stay that way forever.

My son spoke at the funeral on behalf of all of the great grandkids. His childlike words and love expressed exactly the way I still feel as an adult. It's just as simple as what CJ said. He was always there for me. I loved him and he loved me.