death, faith, family, life, love

Dear Gramps

To the most selfless man that I have ever met. To the king of our family. To the man who always worried about everyone but himself. To the man who truly loved his life. To the man who never gave me a 10 when he taught me how to swim because he wanted me to be better. To the man who told me a lot of his secrets because I wanted to know. To the man who made our family. To the man who loved wholeheartedly wherever he went. To the man who loved fiercely and effortlessly. To the man who got matching tattoos with me. To the man with 15 lives. To the man who ate nails for breakfast but really his heart was the size of the world. To the man who taught me what love was.

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Have you ever had someone in life that inspires you to be better? There was always a special bond between my Gramps and I…maybe because I was the first born, or maybe just because. I grew up at his house having sleepovers, going to the pretend casino in his basement, taking midnight swims and taking diving lessons from him, eating all the Smart food a kid could eat, etc. He wasn’t just a grandfather to me. He was a best friend and every time we were with each other you could feel the love. He loved his family and friends more than I have ever seen a man love. He was so proud of his whole family, his kids, his grandkids, and his great grandkids.

In 1994, Gramps had a massive heart attack resulting in quintuple bypass. We thought for sure he wasn’t going to make it and if he did, they said he would only have a 5% chance. I was 9 years old and I remember going to visit him a few weeks after the surgery because low and behold, he made it out alive and well. He was actually more alive than he ever was. He also told me when he was in surgery he saw God- he walked through a tunnel and saw a black outline of a person with their hand reaching to his. He kept walking in the dark tunnel and instead of falling someone told him to turn around and walk back. Then he woke up giving all the doctors a run for his money.

Fast forward about 8 years and my grandmother was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. I went to Hawaii with her because I cheered in the Pro Bowl and she was my biggest fan. Her and my mom came with me and I got a tattoo of a hibiscus flower at 17. Shortly after she had cancer and passed away. The love of his life was gone and we started to watch my grandfather slowly fade away. They were the epitome of true love.

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He was so depressed, but didn’t want anyone to realize how sad he actually was. He put on a facade that he was sad, but he was strong. I took him on spring break with me and we got matching angel tattoos for her. It was one of the moments I’ll never forget.

In October 2004 (9 months after my gramma passed) my grandfather wrote a suicide note

He then meets Kathy, who later became his girlfriend. She actually saved his life. They continued to travel, go on cruises, and go to the casino. She wasn’t my gramma, but she prolonged his life for sure.

I got married in 2014 and it was the first time I realized he was in pain. I’ve seen him for many years just trucking through and partying through life, but at my wedding he started to limp and wobble and just seemed uncomfortable. We danced and cried and laughed at my wedding. Another moment I will never ever forget.

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Through the years, we kept in touch and our spark stayed alive even through our emails. I had 2 kids and my Gramps was so proud of me. He loved me, my husband, and my kids more than he loved himself. I would visit him with the kids and send 1-2 emails per week of pictures of my kids.

Here we are now in current time (March 2019), 20 years longer than he was supposed to live. February 2019, my grandfather started going in and out of the hospital. He was always going for routine cardiologist appointments, but something about the month of February was different. He struggled with words and was in the hospital at longer intervals. His heart was going and out and I know this because he wasn’t telling me- because he didn’t want anyone to worry, especially me. He went in on my grammas birthday and I thought for sure she would be bringing him home. But no, he had 15 lives so he was kicking strong. I went to visit him with my family in the beginning of March and he wasn’t that great. He was swollen and tired and couldn’t sit down or even stand up. He told me he was in the worst pain of his life (neuropathy). It broke my heart in a million pieces because he was pretending so much to be okay. He was hugging and kissing my kids and making faces and laughing with them. It was one of the moments I will always always remember. 17 days later, God took him home. He was tired and weak and struggling to stay alive. His heart function dramatically decreased and his breathing was slowing. It was like he wanted to see all of his family before he let go. I knew in my heart it was the last time I would see him. I also found out later he took a pill to make him “better” when he saw us. I couldn’t bring myself to say goodbye on March 9 but I hugged him so tight and cried in the car.

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On March 25 I got a few phone calls at work from my dad. I couldn’t take the call because my life at work has been so crazy. I got a text later in the day from my cousin saying my Gramps was on life support in the hospital. My heart sunk and broke 10 times more. I can’t lose my Grandpa T. Selfishly, I wasn’t ready for him to go. I went back home the day after because my aunt said he wasn’t going away since the machines were keeping him alive. There was hope because they said there was a mucus plug in his lung that was affecting his breathing. Again, my heart kept telling me he was leaving and I had to prepare. My mom, aunt and uncle (his kids) were all there at the hospital when I got there. I needed to be at his side and talk to him alone without anyone there. I haven’t been able to do that in years. There he was attached to wires and tubes and bags and his chest was rising and falling to the beat of machines.

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I told him it was okay to let go and go be with the love of his life. I held his cold hand and his black arm from all the Coumadin. I prayed so hard that he would go straight to heaven and find my Gramma. People always minimize when a grandparent dies because it’s a grandparent and “they are older and lived a great life.” This one hits me so hard. I love you Gramps. I will live my life for you and gramma and pray that I have a love story like yours. How lucky are we to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard. How lucky are we to have such an amazing role model and guardian angel. How lucky are we to have such an amazing family. Thank you for this legacy. Like a beacon of light, your love with shine on. I love you a million skies.

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