Papa is Gone
“Papa is gone.”
The message wasn’t unexpected, I knew the end was close, but it didn’t stop the tears from immediately filling my eyes and then rushing over my eyelids.
I sent my mom a text asking her to call me. I wanted to make sure she was okay. We cried together on the phone, both of us feeling his loss so completely already - she having lost her Dad, me having lost my Papa.
It was shortly before I was supposed to leave to pick up my boys from daycare and in that moment I felt paralyzed. I called my husband and he knew before I even had the words out.
“I’m on my way home. I’ll go and get the boys so you don’t have to worry about putting on a brave face for Henry.”
I put the phone down and walked back to my bedroom. I curled up on my bed in the fetal position and just let myself cry. It was something I hadn’t done much over the last couple of months when we knew that the end was near for my 101 year old Papa. I didn’t want to scare Henry. He feels my pain in his empathetic little body and I didn’t want to pass this onto him.
Brandon came home a few minutes later and hugged me, letting my tears roll down onto his shoulders. I was shaking and couldn’t stop the tears.
I was, in a word, heartbroken.
All throughout my life, my Papa had been the man in my life to fill the void where my dad wasn’t. In my eyes, he was the greatest man I had ever known. I had him in my life for 36 years, and I was lucky for that, but it still wasn’t enough time. It never would’ve been enough time.
The weekend before he died, I was able to visit him with my husband and sons in his hospice room. Not knowing what to expect, I tried to lower my expectations. I walked into the room with my usual, “Hi Papa!” cheer and when he turned to look at me, his face lit up, and that familiar response, “Well hi, honey!” immediately warmed me.
We sat with him for about 30 minutes while the boys walked up and down the hall, flirting with the nurses. I knew Henry could be a little timid around hospitals and sickness so we let him roam. But Harrison, always my shadow, stayed right by me. At first he was afraid as my Papa held out his hand to him. But slowly, Harrison started to reach for him and held his finger. Harrison’s middle name is Karl, after my Papa.
When I noticed he was drifting in and out of sleep more often, my boys and I packed up getting ready to head out. I gave him a hug and kiss as I always did and told him I loved him. He squeezed me back with all of the strength he had and told me, “I love you with all my heart. I love you with all my heart.”
We backed out of the room and I sniffed my tears away, knowing, somehow, that would be the last time I would see him.
There are no words to describe how grateful I am that he was able to meet my children. My grandmother, his wife of 70 years, never did, and it is one of the things that devastates me most. She would’ve loved them and gotten quite the kick out of them.
I am not sure what I believe in, and I’ve never been a religious person, but I do believe that their love has been reunited and they are together again now. I believe Papa is telling my Grandma all about her great-grandsons, all about how little Harrison Karl is as stubborn as he is, and how handsome and smart Henry is.
And as for the rest of us, we move on the best we can, thankful that we had him in our lives for as long as we did. Thankful that he doesn’t have to miss my Grandma anymore. But always remembering how special he is.