Fortunately with weddings and ironman and our summer adventures in the Pacific Northwest, I was able to spend time with Grandpa in his final years. He was a trooper. One of the hardest working people I've ever met. He built everything he had, including his beautiful home on the Spokane river, from ground up. He never had a penny of debt or IOUs.
A lot of my early memories were with my grandparents. Every Holiday spent at their home or ours. Weekends with them picking fresh raspberries and playing with grandma's makeup and jewelry. Fishing in Montana on Grandpa's boat. Asking for fresh peas from his garden, then cursing myself when I had to go out and pick them all. We have a very small family, so with them so close, they pretty much were it, except small get togethers every few years on my mom's side.
They helped me out in college, bought me my first car, and when my mom drove it a few years later and realized it wasn't safe, my grandpa was first in line to help me purchase a brand new one. I cried at the car dealer when I got the keys. They hosted my college graduation party (er, keg) at their home.
My grandmother passed away a few years ago. It was probably the hardest thing my grandpa ever went through. I can't tell you how many times he spoke about how "he was never supposed to live past her." The day she left him, it was as if he stopped living. It was so sad to see, him so alone and just wanting to be with her, yet at the same time I didn't want him to go either.
In the past few years we've heard so many COOL stories about his past. From hardships and being raised by his grandparents, to meeting and marrying my grandma when they were just kids, teenagers. Logging jobs and chartered fishing boats on the Oregon Coast. Stories of my uncle, my dad's only brother being killed in Vietnam. Who needs history books when really we should just be talking to our elders.
On Monday night I went over to my parents to see my grandpa. It was about 100 times over the worst I've seen him. He wasn't the same man. He was a helpless, almost scared man just longing to go. To stop hurting. I could see it in his eyes he hated seeing my sister and I in such shape. It's not how he wanted to be remembered. I'm very thankful I saw him, I was able to hug him and say goodbye. He was coherent, he knew were were there, and I'm so very thankful for that. We helped my mom tuck him into bed, and he drifted off to sleep.
He made it through the night, but his body was slowly shutting down. I'm so grateful that my mom was able to take such good care of him. I think their relationship grew very strong in his past few weeks with her at his every need. He wasn't in a lot of pain, she helped him through the process, and early Tuesday evening he left us. He finally got what he had been longing for the past few years and is now at peace, and with my grandma, the love of his life....
His only wish was for a no fuss celebration. A toast to his life. This is exactly what we plan to do.
Remember to spend the time you have now, with those you love because you just never know what tomorrow may bring...