The man with whom Benjamin shared a middle name passed away on April 30, 2014. He was my grandfather, and as such, the great-grandfather of my children. He was 84 years old.
We knew his health was declining. He wasted away pretty rapidly. One week he was still walking me to my car and waving as I drove away. (I always tried to commit those moments to memory, because eventually it would be the last time he would be able to–I just wouldn’t know it at the time.) The next week, he couldn’t get up from his chair. I’d hug him, startled by the prominent outline of his shoulder blades. The strongest man in my life was disappearing before my eyes.
He knew his health was declining too. He was impressively aware of this given his Alzheimer’s status. A few months prior, several family members were in town at once. The kitchen was full of all of us getting dinner on the table, my uncle offering to help Poppy to the table. He declined, saying he just wanted to watch us. He wanted to watch this family he’d created
Poppy treasured getting to know Paisley, and she immediately knew he loved her. When he was no longer able to get out of bed, Paisley would go and find him when we’d visit. She wanted to see Poppy.
In his final weeks, it was inspirational to see how at peace he was with his life, despite the pain he was in at the time. He gave his all every single day of his life to those he loved. He spoke often about how much happiness being able to see new life–Paisley and Oliver–as his was coming to an end. He and I got to talk alone for a bit one of those days, and he said to me–I’ll never forget: “Those beautiful children–they are all that matters in this life. Nothing else adds up to anything at all in the end. You were the light of my life, dear. It has been my honor to watch you grow into the beautiful woman and wonderful mother you are today.”
When my grandmother called with the news, I sat on the floor and cried. I cried for her, the woman losing the love of her life a year (almost to the day!) after losing her sister to breast cancer. I cried for my children–neither of whom will remember knowing him. I cried for my husband and myself, as we had lost one of the most supportive and uplifting people in our lives, someone who was always there to cheer us on. It was a privilege to have him on my team in life. But I didn’t cry for him, because he did what he came here to do. He spent 84 years living and loving. He isn’t gone, and he never will be. I am who I am because of him, he had a massive influence on my husband in the 10 years he knew him, and so my children will be raised by two people who will carry on his way.
I don’t know where we go after this–whether it’s somewhere, everywhere, or no where. But I do know that in his final weeks, Poppy made sure to convey that it was all about the love you leave behind. I also know that wherever we go after this, he’s with my baby boy.