On December 5th, 2010, my Grandfather Lee passed away and went to be with the Lord. He was 83 years old. He was married to my grandmother for 66 years. They had 6 children, 10 grandchildren, and 6 great grandchildren! It was a Sunday morning and we received a phone call from Mom letting us know the news. As soon as I heard her message for me to call her back that morning, I knew that she probably had bad news about something. He had stopped breathing during the night. While Granddaddy's passing away on this particular day was a surprise, his health had been declining for some time. Most recently, he had had a feeding tube placed because he was no longer able to safely eat on his own. Granddad had also suffered from progressive dementia. We watched him slowly forget everyone's name and lose almost all ability to communicate. For this reason, there was almost a sense of relief mixed with the sadness of learning about his death that day.
About a month or so ago, Jeremy, Emily, and I paid a visit to Granddaddy and Memommy in the nursing home. I didn't know it would be the last time I saw him. Memommy was recovering on the rehab unit from a heart condition. Granddaddy had been a resident there for over a year because his dementia and declining physical health made it impossible for Memommy to care for him at home on her own. Memommy was so sad that day. It made me happy to be able to roll Granddaddy's wheelchair down to her room for a visit with all of us. Granddad's physical condition had worsened since I had last seen him. I repositioned him in the wheelchair and noticed that his whole body had contractures: shoulders, hips, knees, etc. He had so little range of motion left in them. I could see that he probably spent almost all of his waking hours sitting. My memories of that day include Emily sitting on Memommy's lap, giving Memommy a little "physical therapy walk" in the hallways, Emily running up and down the hallways and up/down the stairs in the rehab unit (with me promptly washing those little hands!) and encouraging Memommy that she wasn't going to be in the nursing home for the rest of her life. (She was discharged home a few weeks later.)
Granddady's funeral was Tuesday December 7th. I was touched by all of those who came to pay their respects--people from their church, extended family, family and friends of his children, etc. It made me think, "Do I take the time to go to visitations when my friends or co-workers lose someone they love? Do I send a card?" I realize how touching it is when someone take the time in an already busy schedule to come out in the freezing cold to give you a hug and tell you that they are sorry. As we drove to the gravesite, other cars stopped in their tracks on busy streets and waited until the funeral processional had passed. Jeremy said, "People don't do this in Louisville. This is so nice." It made me want to cry because it IS nice. It is the nicest gesture to stop your car and let grieving people know that in a small way, you care to take the time to stop what you are doing at that moment to show respect.
Granddad was laid to rest by his young daughter that passed away over 35 years ago in a tragic car accident. His name was already on the tombstone as well as Memommy's--only the end dates have not yet been carved into the stone. I will remember seeing that tombstone as well as several stones that were marking the deaths of hundreds of babies and children. Life is a gift. How dare I take it for granted with all the worrying about nonsense that I do on a daily basis!
I thought that this week I would include things that I thankful for in the life of my sweet Grandfather Lee.
31. for 66 years of faithful marriage to my grandmother
32. for his service in WWII.
33. that he raised my father to be the man that he is today
34. for funny sayings like "calf slobber" for mashed potatoes and when something tastes REALLY good he would say "that will make your tongue smack your brains out!"
35. for silly things like popping our toes "to make us grow"
36. for a hardworking, humble man that provided for his family
37. for the sweetest, sincere prayers before family meals
38. for time spent on his farm riding in his truck or riding "Merry Legs" the pony.
39. for catching lightning bugs and playing tag in the side yard.
40. for the love he had for the Lord, his wife, children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren