Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Granddaddy.

Granddaddy first met my grandma at her job. She worked with her best friend at a little store in Mississippi. Granddaddy's friend had seen Grandma before and was interested, because she was a beautiful woman. He sent my grandfather in to the store to set up a date between the two of them. My granddad was supposed to ask her best friend out and make it a double date.

But because Granddaddy is so awesome, he decided that he wanted Grandma for himself. So when he went in, he asked her if she'd like to go drive with him and got her best friend to agree to go out with his own best friend instead.

They went driving that night after my grandma left work because "that's what we did back then!" my grandma always says. They immediately liked each other and went out every night for the rest of the week. At the end of that week, my granddad had to leave because he was in the military and had received orders. 

While he was gone, they exchanged letters constantly. Over the course of a few months, they fell in love via the written word. When he returned home, he immediately went to see her and asked her to marry him. She said yes, and before you know it, they were at a justice of the peace, signing legal documents and becoming husband and wife.

50+ years later, they were still married. After two daughters, serving in Vietnam, six grandchildren, and one great grandchild, my granddaddy passed away.

The day before he passed, he wasn't having an easy time. He was in and out, there and not there, lucid and gone. My grandma was sitting in front of him, holding his hands, and talking to him. He kept saying, "Mama... Mama..." again and again. "Is Mama home?" he asked his wife. "Yes, James, she is," my grandma replied, not wanting to clarify that his mother was in her heavenly home. "Beautiful eyes, Mama," he said, as if he were talking to his deceased mother. "Mama's home... and I'm going home," he told her.

Later that night, he was being put in bed by his nurses. As they were getting him ready, he requested that they send his wife in to tuck him in. "She knows how to do it," he told them. She put him in bed, and that was the last moment they had together. 

The next day, he passed away.

I know that he didn't die alone, because his mother came to get him and take him with her. I don't think he was scared at all. I think he was ready to be with his mother and brother in Heaven at last.

At the funeral, everyone spoke of how my grandfather was one of the funniest people they ever met. Even when he could barely walk, he still made it to church, he still made fun of people, and he still found ways to drive my grandma crazy.

He was a skilled carpenter who could make any animal I requested. He was a war veteran, who had accomplished so much in his 20+ years in the military. He grew up a poor boy on a farm and built an entire life with his family, thanks to hard work and dedication. You never knew if a story he was telling was true or not, but I always liked to believe they were.

He once told us about the time he hitched a ride with a neighbor on the way back from town. He rode in the back of the truck with his friend and noticed that there were bags and bags of fruit inside. The man driving the truck was very poor and had bought the fruit for his eleven children for Christmas. He stopped at a "friend's" house (so my granddad says), and the friend was not his wife. While the man was inside, my granddaddy and his friend ate every piece of fruit in the back of that truck and took off.

He thought that story was hilarious. "He shouldn't have been messin' around on his wife!" he always said.

We saw him one last time in the casket before they closed the top and brought him to the burial site. A beautiful American flag was draped over the top and the U. S. Air Force medallion was on the side. The honor guards marched out, folded the flag into a perfect triangle, and stood at attention during the playing of Taps. After the last note, the guard turned toward my grandmother, presented her with the flag, and saluted her in honor of her husband and all that he had done for our country.

"This body is not James," said the preacher afterwards. "This is simply the body that James lived in while he was here. James is in our hearts, he's in our souls, he's in our memory. Every time you remember him, he lives on."

Granddaddy, you were one amazing person, and Heaven is lucky to have you. 

But maybe you should try not to laugh so much when you're telling God that story about stealing the fruit, okay?

14 comments:

  1. I can feel the love in this post. Not just for your grandparents but also for the sort of love you want to share with Andy. As with any death, I have two words of advice--keep going, and keep loving. Keep having your days so you can give yourself a moment now and then. Keep having your love so you can have someone's shoulder to cry on, I'm sure Andy's up to the task.

    Would you hate me if I told you I pictured the father from Big Fish anytime you gave your grandad lines? ;)

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  2. This was beautifully written, Sara. He sounds like an amazing man and I'm glad you got to know him in such a close way. Sending good thoughts towards your family during the healing time!

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  3. This was really really beautiful. It was a great portrayal. My grandfather passed away a little less than a year ago, and we were really close. This post made me think about him. And the post is sad but in a good way, and celebrates the life of your grandfather, really amazing. All the best.

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  4. What an incredible tribute. The preacher is so right. Everyone lives on in the stories they inspire us to tell. Sorry for your loss. You did good by your Grandpa with this.

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  5. I already told you how weepy this made me. It's a tribute to the friendships we've made that we share each other's heartbreaks in such a way.

    I'm sorry for you loss, but as you've said, it seemed he was ready and well received.

    I love you so much,
    Lor

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  6. Crying. This is so amazing and just reminds me again of how important my grandmother was to me. I'm so sorry for your loss. ((HUGS))

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  7. I agree with everyone, this was so beautifully written. I am in tears because it hits so close to home after having lost my grandmother a few months back AND makes me laugh as my grandfather loved telling stories that you never knew if they were true or not (OK...maybe we knew he wasn't a 2-star general in George Washington's army BUT he made you laugh nevertheless!)

    So sorry for your loss!

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  8. I love the story of how your grandparents met. He sounds like a really wonderful man.

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  9. How sad and beautiful! It makes me want to drive to Indiana and hug my own grandpa.

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  10. I am way late here, but I love you. The story of your grandparents is probably the cutest, sweetest thing in the entire world. Once again, I wish I could reach through the wires and give you a hug. This is beautiful post, though, and I'm just glad that even though I can't reach through and give you a hug, it's clear that you have so much love around you <3

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  11. I am so sorry for your loss and you honored your Granddad beautifully here! I have read a book called "Final Gifts" that details what people experience as they are nearing death. It is beautiful and explains exactly what your granddad experienced. I know he KNEW his mama was in her eternal home when he asked if she was home. He was making sure it was safe to go there. He sounds like an amazing person and will continue to touch your life forever!!

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  12. :hug:

    This was a beautiful read. And your grandparents had a beautiful story of a beautiful life.

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  13. *hugs* This was such a beautifully written memoir, and I know your granddad is proud.

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