Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Letting Go

Most of us have lost loved ones, especially grandparents. I was fortunate to have been close to both my maternal great-grandparents until their passing when I was in my late 20s and early 30s. I never doubted their love for me and I certainly hope I never gave them cause to doubt mine. A few weeks ago my maternal grandfather, my Papa, died. His almost 90 year old heart finally gave up and he went peacefully in his sleep with his wife by his side. We’ve had him about three years longer than his cardiologist expected. He was stubborn, my Papa (runs in the family). My grandmother, mother, father, aunt, two uncles, and I spent that first morning saying goodbye to him and making the initial plans and phone calls for his services.

We ended up having two separate services for Papa. First was a memorial at his church on a cold, wet, windy day. The parishioners played piano, set lights, and served lunch. They didn’t complain a bit when we stayed too long, not wanting to let go of cousins we hadn’t seen since my great-grandfather passed in 2000 to go back to our respective homes and go about our lives. Second, and four days later, we had a private burial at the National Cemetery in our area on a beautiful, sunny day. Because my Papa was a submariner in WWII in the Pacific and occupied Japan, he was eligible to be buried there. The US Navy provided two sailors: one played Taps, both folded the flag into the triangle we’ve all seen presented to the loved ones of the departed, and the other made the presentation to my uncle who then said a few words. During Taps, most of us covered our hearts with our hands but another uncle, my father, and The Captain, all veterans, saluted as we said goodbye. After each of us placed a rose on his casket, they wheeled Papa from the pavilion, the last roof he would ever be under, to his final rest.

And we went to lunch.

How strange it felt to chat with my cousins and hold their babies knowing Papa would have loved to have been there with all the people he held dearest. Of course, during the car ride home with my parents and The Captain, we discussed our later options and that, as my Nana will be allowed to be placed with Papa, both my mother and I would be allowed to be placed with our husbands in that same cemetery. I sincerely hope that it is a very long time before I have to consider placing my father and mother there, let alone The Captain.

My Papa was a good man. He was always loving and strong. It was so hard to see him looking really old. I still picture him the way he was during my childhood: in his Calistoga Police Officer’s uniform. I can still hear his greeting, “Hello, Machol” in his sometimes exaggerated southern Missouri drawl kept alive even though the majority of his life was spent in California. He called me Stinky; he called us all Stinky. He took us for rides on his Shetland Pony and ancient tractor. He played his guitar and sang songs. He could jump straight off the floor and hit his rump with his feet. He let us use him as a horsey. He lay on the floor with us and ran his train under the Christmas tree. When I was in college he gave me a commemorative tin of Oreo’s for Christmas addressed from Papa to Kind because he knew they were my favorite since I was just old enough to ask for that “kind.” He fell asleep during church and on the sofa at family functions. He was very smart. He was passionate about his politics even though none of the rest of us agreed with him. He prayed in his deep, rich tones prayers that were honest and humble. He loved his God and he loved us.

It seems strangely fitting that Papa left us so close to Easter. We sang Easter songs during his services, which made it harder to sing them again at church on Palm Sunday, the next day. And I have realized this week that I am frightened by my Papa’s death because there is no longer that buffer of a generation (or two) between death and my parents, which brings me closer to my own mortality… which doesn’t actually frighten me as much – as long as it occurs after The Boy is well grown. He still needs his Mama and no one can love him the way I do.

Papa and The Boy, Easter Sunday 2006
The Boy had just cracked a confetti egg on Papa's head

Papa and The Boy, mid-April 2006

We lost The Captain’s mother while on our honeymoon. We had earlier been lamenting how we had to pass her off to his sisters more than we’d have liked due to it being the week before the wedding and all that that entails. However, she went home and told her friends how loved she felt that she was constantly with her children, one or another. She passed peacefully in her sleep ten days after we wed.

The Captain’s dad passed due to cancer six weeks before The Boy was born. It was fast and he went with dignity at home with almost all of his children at his side. We regret The Boy not meeting his grandpa. I know what that’s like, never having met my paternal grandfather who my daddy assures me would have adored me (what’s not to love?). The Boy is so much like The Captain who is, in turn, like his father. The Boy even has his grandfather’s breathy laugh where he slaps his knee, which I would have sworn was a learned trait, however, it must be innate because The Captain doesn’t do that.

This is a depressing post and I’m sorry for that. However, part of the point of this blog is me organizing things; this time it's my thoughts. I do this better on paper than when things are simply allowed to wander around unfenced, unleashed in my brain. My point is that we’ve been through this before but with every person it’s completely different since each fit in a different place in our hearts, leaves a gap that is never filled except as a placeholder for a loving memory.

I am not ready to let go.


  1. So sorry for your loss, Micol. Art & I lost 4 of our grandparents in one year, a few years back. It definitely does bring you closer to your own mortality. My prayers are with you!! ((Hugs))

  2. Wow, that must have been quite a year! I know you found comfort in one another. The Captain has been very supportive. I'm not surprised. :)