There are days and memories that will stick with you forever. And there are people who you will never forget.
When the dates grew ever closer to March 11, I warned my group of friends to be prepared and to watch out for me. I knew it was going to be a rough day. Because on March 11, 2011, my grandfather lost his battle to cancer. I remember the day all too clearly. Sitting around his bed at hospice all awake before the sun. He called out and my grandmother came to hold him. They embraced how they could, held hands, and he took his final breaths.
My view was from the couch across the room but I’m pretty sure I wasn’t there in my body. To be honest, I didn’t want to be there. The family was there plus those we adopted into the family over time. But I wanted to be elsewhere.
As if me not being there could have stopped it from happening.
My grandma stood back up, looked to the rest of us, and said “He’s gone” with a voice that was also pretty much gone.
I’ve gone back to that moment way more than is probably healthy to consider what actually happened there. There was no poof with smoke and a magic trick to take him away. No bright light flashing him away to some higher realm. To everyone looking on, his body was still laying right there as it had been for most of the week. But he was gone. We all knew that much.
To this days, I have pondered where he went. And many times, I’ve wanted to go there as well. It’s an interesting feeling to want to go somewhere you’ve never been but even more so to want to go somewhere you don’t even know exists. Many people will call this place Heaven, others will tell me this place doesn’t exist. I don’t think we’ll ever know until it happens to us.
We may catch glimpses. From meditation, or prayer. In dreams, or through a poem that touches us. I think it will feel and be very different for each of us. And I think that’s okay.
Some say that in the end, all we have is ourselves. It’ll be lonely. But that’s not how it was for my grandfather. Looking back on it four years later, I think he knew he was going away. And I think that’s why he called out. He knew he wasn’t alone. I can’t imagine how it must have felt for my grandma to be holding him like she was and then for him to go on or whatever you want to call it.
I know she has felt lonely many times since then. I have too. But I know that wherever it is my grandpa went to, that he’s still connected to her and when it’s her time to go as well, he’ll be right there with her. Just as she was for him.
Some people think it’s okay to argue over what love is. Or to claim that something isn’t love. But in its simplest form, love is simply a willingness to be there for someone when they need you most, no matter what you are feeling in that moment. No matter how hard it is for you to be there, you are there simply because they need you and they matter to you. I want a love like that. Not to take advantage of and abuse the privilege. But to know that through the hardest times of life, someone will be there when you call for them. And more than just having it, I want to give that to others.
Classic love stories have nothing on my grandparents. Forget Romeo and Juliet who got caught up on looks and suffered from miscommunication, I want a love like Grandma and Grandpa. Silly and whimsical, but always there.
I thought March 11 was going to be a hard day. But actually it wasn’t. I cried a bit and felt quite sad throughout the day. But I looked around me and I saw the people who were there. I saw that people were actually there. I called on my friends, and they came. I am loved. And for that, I am eternally grateful.