Four years ago, I got a phone call from my mom, telling me I needed to leave work as soon as possible and make the four hour drive to my hometown. It was the news I had been dreading. Three weeks prior, my Papa had gone into the hospital to have a stent put in. This was supposed to be a routine procedure, but his heart seized in the process. He ended up have two major and one minor heart attacks over the course of 24 hours. He spent three weeks on and off a ventilator. I visited every weekend. The night before the worst phone call ever, I received a joyful call from my mom telling me that Papa had woken up, was talking, laughing, and off of the ventilator. It was a “medical miracle.”
On November 1, 2012, my Papa died. I was celebrating 90 days sober. If you aren’t familiar with AA, they give a token to celebrate 30, 60, and 90 days sober. I drove down to the hospital, four hours away, alone. My husband did not come with me. Coming with me would have meant that he would have had to close his business for the weekend because he had virtually no employees at that time.
I remember not allowing myself to cry that day. I remember holding the cold hands of my dead grandfather, watching the sorrow and grief take over my mom and Nana. I remember thinking how badly I wanted to numb everything I was feeling. I knew that this day would eventually come, but I wasn’t prepared for it. I knew that when it came, it would be devastating. And it was.
When I was little, I spent a lot of time with my grandparents. We even moved in with them for a couple of years. I’ve always been exceptionally close with them. They have been far more supportive than my biological parents in many ways. And when my sister got sick in 2007, my mom was much too busy to be present for me. Weekly (and sometimes daily) phone calls with my Nana and Papa were the norm for me. Even now, I still talk to my Nana more than my mom. There is something so very special about the bond that we share.
Losing my Papa was, and still is, one of the most difficult things for me to accept. Four years later, I still miss his voice and his laugh, our inside jokes, and the way he always told me how proud of me he was. When my Papa died, I was in the middle of undergoing fertility treatments. None of those treatments were successful. 9 months after he passed away, I conceived my daughter. A week before I found out I was pregnant, I had a dream that my Papa was handing me a baby girl, telling me that this was my gift for all of my hard work. At the time, we had just been accepted to be foster parents, and I thought the dream was in reference to that. However, when I found out that I was pregnant with my daughter, I realized that wasn’t the case.
My daughter often talks about seeing a man by her window at night, and I can’t help but wonder if it’s him. She’s only two, so I don’t talk to her about him yet. However, when I show her a picture of him, she calls him Papa. All week this week, she has, with no prompting from me, included him in her prayers at night. Even though she will never have a relationship with him like I had, I am glad she has some type of spiritual relationship with him.
This week has been difficult. My mornings have started with tears as I reflect on my time with my Papa and how much I miss him today. It’s the first time I’m dealing with this grief without numbing my feelings with unhealthy coping skills. Work is stressful. Marriage is stressful. And life in general is just a lot to handle right now. I don’t have time for myself this week due to my schedule, and that always makes my anxiety escalate even more. Hopefully the universe will help me find a way to get through this, because right now I’m finding it difficult to remain positive.