Wednesday night, a week after being admitted to hospital, Grandpa passed away. He had been ready to go for days, but his strong heart kept beating as the life-force inside him - a force that had carried him over 95 years - would not so easily give up the fight. And we had stood around his bed, caught in the complexities of grief. Each in our own way trying to say good-bye.
I had arrived in time to see him. He said my name and took my hand - his grip still so strong. He had shrunk to a pale shadow of himself - except for those strong hands.
Words fail in times like this.
But what we wanted most was for him to be at peace. "We're all okay here, Dad," my mother said, touching his gaunt face. "You can rest." See, even until the end he wanted to care for his family. Though it was often hard to understand his words in his final days, we'd realize he was telling us to go home, get something to eat, get some sleep. He waited til he was alone to slip away. As if he could not sleep til he knew everyone else was asleep as well.
I remember when my Grandma, his wife Violet, passed away. He stood beside her coffin in the funeral home and looked at the family sitting in the chapel. You are all here because of her, he said to us. And I looked around at aunts and uncles, cousins and their children. All of this life, here in this room, came from the two of them.
He and Grandma were the roots of our family tree. A firm foundation. He, so strong, dependable. A man of faith and goodness. Family is often difficult and spending time together not always easy. But it was never difficult to go visit Grandpa. I never felt judged, though I knew he was concerned for my well-being. We would talk a little. He would serve tea and cookies or sweets. His presence was peaceful. Kind.
He told my Mum that he had lived a full life and that it was his time. No one could, in good conscience, try to hold him back. He died surrounded by the life he founded. I am grateful for his life-blood in me and his example of goodness and strength.