The Complicated Feelings Surrounding Death and Dealing with Loss

Tuesday, March 3, 2020

What a whirlwind the past 9 days have been. I know that there's never a "good" time for a tragedy to strike, but that doesn't make it any easier when it happens. Sunday (Feb 23rd) morning, I got awoke to a text from my mom asking if I was awake. The text was sent at midnight, which was very unusual for my mother. I immediately knew something was wrong. I sent my mom a text that I had been asleep but was awake now. After a call with her I found out that my grandfather, my Poppy, had been admitted to the hospital and the outlook was not good. 

My Poppy moved to Eastern Tennessee before I was born after meeting his partner, Charlotte, once he and my grandmother were divorced. My whole life growing up we had gone to Tennessee once, if not twice, a year to visit my Poppy and my aunt, cousins, and step-cousins who all moved down to Tennessee. My mom, brother, and I immediately booked the first flights we could get to go to Knoxville to rush to my Poppy's side. Fortunately, we made it in time to spend some time with him and were able to tell him how much we all loved him. Unfortunately, he did not make it through the week and passed in the early morning hours on Thursday, February 28th. After several draining days spent at his bedside at the hospital I was relieved that he was no longer in pain, but was grieving the loss of my last remaining grandparent. 

All four of my grandparents have passed away during my lifetime, the last when I was a sophomore in high school, age 16. My Poppy however, had been pretty healthy and even though he lived far away we got to visit him and he even made the trip last summer for my wedding to Alex. I am so grateful he was able to share in that joyous day with us. We not only have amazing photographs with him from that day that I will treasure forever, I am so happy that he was there for all of us. It meant a lot not only to me, but also to my mom. 

As this trip was unexpected and last minute, we all rushed into town without clear travel plans, no real sense of when we could come home, and a lot of uncertainty. My mom is one of three, and since the three children of my Poppy are all living far away from Tennessee (my family all living in Philadelphia, my aunt lives outside Pittsburgh, and my uncle lives in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico), we decided to plan the funeral services to be the weekend after Poppy passed. The whole thing passed in a blur for me. I am so grateful Alex was able to fly down and be by my side in those difficult days. He really was my rock. 

I made a photo collage on Thursday night to display at the viewing on Friday and printing out the photos all of us had with Poppy brought back so many good memories. I also heard some fun stories from my cousins I had never heard before. For example, I didn't know my Poppy's favorite musical artist was George Jones or his favorite color was green. My Poppy was an avid gardener and had taught my cousin everything he knew about gardening and canning. He made the best homemade marinara sauce and salsa. He was a Korean War veteran and work as a train engineer upon returning home. He always spoiled me as I was his only granddaughter. He loved animals and we buried him with a paw print mold of his late beloved cat, Onyx. 

I returned home Sunday with a heavy heart. I miss my Poppy so much, and I was feeling guilty for not spending more time with him the last few years. However, I cannot beat myself up over it. If anything, this loss has served as a needed reminder of what is most important. We are all only here for a short time, we need to make the most of it. Family is the most important thing, at the end of the day spending time with the people you love is what you will look back on. I think my Poppy was rich in time spent with those he loved. He lived a full life, with a big family. I am so happy to have had him in my life these past 30 years, a gift not everyone receives and I will never take for granted. 

I guess what I am trying to say is, I love you Poppy. I miss you. Rest easy, I will see you again one day. 


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