Warning: Jumbled pregnant woman's not quite coherent thoughts lie ahead.
It's funny how death works. A few years ago, my Grandpa Huddleston passed away. Of course I was sad that I would no longer get to hug him and give him a kiss and have his mustache tickle my cheek every time I went to his house, but at the same time I knew he was in a better place. He'd been really sick for quite awhile and he was confined to a wheelchair for as long as I could remember. Towards the end of his life he had a hard time remembering things and he just looked ill. Sometimes it was hard to see him because I knew he had to be in pain and he just looked so sick. It was a reminder that soon he wouldn't be with us anymore.
We spent the Christmas Eve and Christmas morning that year just before he passed away at my Grandparents' house. And I remember when he found out that I'd gotten married earlier that year. He was so excited. It was fun to share the events of my wedding with him again, even though he'd been there and experienced them himself a few months before.
At his funeral he looked so healthy. I can't remember a time when I went to a viewing and the person looked like themselves, but my grandpa looked so happy and healthy it was hard to be sad. I knew he was in heaven without his wheelchair enjoying all the wonderful things heaven has to offer.
But yesterday I got a phone call that literally knocked me off my feet. I'm pretty sure I stopped breathing for most of the day. My mom's dad had passed away in his sleep at some point the night before. While my grandpa Gardiner had had some previous medical complications and he'd had diabetes over the past several years, he wasn't sick. He looked just as healthy as any other mostly healthy person in their late 60's, early 70's might look. The wind has just been knocked out of me.
On that side of my family, I'm the oldest grandchild. I spent a lot of time with my grandparents growing up. Each summer I'd get to go out to Las Vegas for two weeks and it'd just be me and them. At some point he tried to teach me how to do crosswords but I don't think I had the attention span necessary at the time. And I remember making him dinner with my grandma and how we made a salad once and making that salad is the reason I love purple cabbage. (Memories are so funny sometimes!) I was so excited when he got home from work during those weeks I was there. I'm sure he just wanted to sit and relax but I just wanted him to play with me and do all the things Grandpas do! I'm so glad I had those weeks with them growing up.
Before they lived in Vegas, they lived in Price, Utah - that's where my mom and her siblings grew up. Back then my grandpa used to climb into his little red pick-up truck he had and take me to go get ice cream. I'd say that's why I love ice cream so much but ... it's ice cream. I'd love it even without that memory.
Anyway, ever since I was 12 or 14 he's been telling me that I'd be singing at his funeral. I always just nodded and laughed and said, "Whatever, Grandpa. You don't need to worry about that for a long time." I think I said the same thing to him back in May. I thought it was so obvious - my grandpa is invincible! I expected him to outlive me.
Occasionally I'd remember that all of Ben's grandparents have now passed away and I'd try to picture my life without my grandpa and I just couldn't do it. I'd decided it was because he'd live forever. He was supposed to live forever.
In more recent years he lived just a few minutes away from my mom's house. Every time I'd go over I'd run my hands over his military style buzz cut. It was always so soft! And then I'd give him a head massage while he told me about how much he loved head massages and how they were the only reason he went to a salon to get his hair cut. Some times, on rare occasions, he'd even share a story about his past. I wish I would have written those stories down because I'm trying my hardest to remember even one and I can't right now.
The last couple days have been a struggle. I keep trying to tell myself he's in a better place but I don't think I really believe that yet. I thought being here with his family was a pretty dang good place to be! I'm sure everyone else in my family feels a little bit of the same way but ... I was so excited to introduce him to his first great-grandkid in a few months!
He'd just gotten home from a trip to Hawaii on Wednesday night. He went to bed and just never woke up. Ben says it can't get much better than that. The only place better than Hawaii is Heaven. Ben's probably right.
I miss you Grandpa. Tell our baby hi for us.