Death

It is time. It is time to say goodby to my grandfather, who for years was there for me. He believed in me, when I didn’t see it in myself.

When it was time for me to move to Texas, my father asked my grandfather if I was ready and he said “it is time.” And it was.

You see, with my grandfather, time is a key component to his life. He was a farmer so his crops were time sensitive. He and I talked on Saturdays and that too was time sensitive.

But his death, I feel was also based on time. He and I talked every Saturday, for the last 20 plus years. And 2 Saturdays ago, we talked and he could barely get more than two sentences out, but his words were meaningful:

Take care of your children and your wife. Love them. And I will miss our Saturday talks. I love you.

And just like that, the conversation was over. It was over, because not only was he tired and was struggling to get those words out, but it was over, because it was time. He said what he needed to say and I replied with a simple Yes Sir and I love you.

Time is a precious thing. It is based on time and moments, but also hugs and love. These past few days, there has been a lot of hugs and love and in a few moments, time seemed to stand still.

When the US Army Color Guard played Taps, I cried. When they folded the flag and saluted my father, who is a retired US Full Bird Col., I really cried. Because it really hit me, that my grandfather was gone.

Yes, I saw him and took the boys to the visitation and they both went to see the body with my wife, while I stayed in the hallway. But in the sense of time, the visitation stood still. I saw friends and family that I have not seen in years. I saw friends that my dad had in both his professional and military life that I have not seen in years.

And as each person sought me out, I realized, that not only in that moment in time, did life seem ok. But more importantly, that in that moment of time, life was ok, because I was still close to my grandfather.

Time is important, both here in the present and also in the past.

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Saying goodbye for me is really hard and often times feel uncomfortable in doing so. Last night, I got the call from my father, letting me know that my grandfather, his father, has passed away.

My grandfather was an amazing man or as I sum it up to most, he is my hero! He lived through the great depression. Fought in World War II. Bought and farmed land in North Carolina. He never knew a stranger. Always had a smile and would flirt with a cute woman in a minute.

I grew up living about an hour from him, so it was normal to go to the farm on a Saturday morning with my Dad and he and my grandfather and I would grab cane poles and go fishing on the pond on the farm. Or, they would let me drive to the hog pins and feed them, while they would laugh at me. We would laugh and carry on whenever the three of us together.

After I got the call, I felt numb. I teared up, not for the death of my grandfather, but because I would never be able to pickup the call and talk with him again. I wouldn’t be able to hear his voice and even on his worst day, that he would give me comfort or advice. He is and forever will be my hero.

My grandfather gave me advice about life, told me what he expected from me after he was gone and life’s little secrets to pass on to my kids. Today I lost my hero and saying goodbye is really hard.

My kids will be the ones that lose out the most, as they didn’t have the privilege of knowing my grandfather that well, as we live 7 hours plus from him. But as I prepare to tell them that their great grandfather has died, I keep coming back to a single Bible verse:

This is the day the Lord has made;
We will rejoice and be glad in it.Psalm 118:24

This represents my father in so many ways and has provided comfort. Some of my fondest memories of my grandfather were at church. Seeing him smile, sing and more importantly pray in church. So as I morn the lost of my grandfather, there is a voice in the back of my head saying, remember that word rejoice.  My grandfather would not a single person to be upset over his death, but instead he would want us all to rejoice.

I know that the next several days will be hard. I know that telling my son’s that my grandfather has passed away will be hard, for me to say and for them to see me upset. But, the reality is simple, we all live and we all Die. It doesn’t get any simpler than that.

But, it is how we live our lives, that determines our future and how those rejoice our lives. And in the next several days, we will be rejoincing the life of my grandfather. A man that lived a simple life, but an amazing life. Goodbye my hero. Sleep easy tonight.

 

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Heroes don’t wear capes and masks, instead they wear uniforms and business suits and dresses, and overalls. Heroes are everyday normal humans that do extraordinary things on a daily basis.

Teachers, doctors, famers, fire fighters, police officers, soliders and the list goes on and on, these are true heroes. They put their lives on the line daily or they do something for the better of the world. And more importantly, they do amazing things with little to no fan fare or rarely a thank you.

Today, as I type this, my grandfather, who is one of my heroes, is laying in a hospital bed and is coming to the end of his life. He fought in World War II, he was a farmer, he was a father and grandfather, brother, uncle, etc. But more importantly, he contributed to society in different ways and made everyone that came in contact with him a better person.

He is always quick with a joke or a smile and he has never known a stranger in his life. Even when he is down or not feeling well, he is doing everything he can to make someone else’s day better. Through out the last several months as his health has steadily declined, he never once complained. He never once asked for pity or for someone to feel bad for him. Instead, he offers advice, he tells a joke and he makes others ok with were he is in his life and in knowing what the future holds.

My grandfather has lived a great life. He lived within his means and built up a legacy for his entire family and has been a rock for us all. And as we come to the end of his life, I have struggled with making sure that I have asked all of the questions that I wanted to know. I have wanted to ensure that he is comfortable and ready to leave this world, because when I get the call, though it will be a sad moment, he will no longer be struggling.

So as we watch what is going on in the world today, I reflect more on what lessons of life I have learned from my grandfather, because he is a hero that wore a farmer’s hat and drove a tractor.

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I do not admit very often that I cried, but today I did and do. Today, I feel that I just told my grandfather goodbye and that I loved him for the last time.

My grandfather, who is 91, has been really struggled for the last few months, since the heart attack that he had back in May. And let’s just say I think that he would had rather gone out of this world than endure what he has since, as being confined to a chair isn’t how he wanted to live.

He is a proud man, who served this country at the age of 22 and went off to Germany to fight in WWII. When he and his brother returned from the war, they purchased a farm in North Carolina and for 40 years plus, that was what put food on the table and provided a livelihood for the family.

He didn’t live a life with the nicest things, but what he had he treasured and talking with people, that is what treasured the most. My grandfather and I had a standing weekly Saturday call at 1pm and it didn’t matter where I was in the world, we had that call. He would tell me about farming or how my grandmother was doing and I would describe what I was looking at if I was traveling.

You see, my grandfather really didn’t travel. In fact, his first and only flight, was to come and see my sons and myself a year ago. I had just always assumed that he flew to Germany for the war, but in fact, he took a boat ride from a port, which ironically enough, was not far from where I live today. But while my grandfather was here for that trip a year ago, we talked about his flight and how he flirted with the flight attendants and it was at that point, he made 2 really important observations about flying:

  1. That he had spent his entire life on the farm looking up at the bottoms of the clouds, but never could imagine the view that he got to see while looking down at the tops of them.
  2. At some point during the flight, he looked at my father, his son and smiled and said “I’m halfway to heaven and I’m that much closer to seeing your mom again.”

Wow! I have flown hundreds of times and not once, not once did I every have that insight. Not once did I think about where I grew up in North Carolina and standing on a baseball field and looking up at the clouds and think about one day spending who knows how many hours flying above the clouds?

And as for the part about my grandmother, you see she had Alzheimer’s for 12 years and my grandfather made the decision to be her primary care giver while she was at home. I will never know all that he did for her and how much abuse he took as the last few years, she became combative, but what I do know, is that he loved that woman and still does to this day and is a wonderful example of how a marriage should work.

My grandparents meet in grade school and got married right after high school and shortly after getting married he left for the war. They had 3 children, 1 being my father, were married for 64 years and through good times and towards the end, it was pretty bad, the lived and loved and worked together. They went to a little white church and that was an important life lesson that not only where the kids taught about, but the grandparents too. To this day, if I walked into their 10 pew church, I could point out exactly where we sat.

I learned a lot from my grandfather, who to drive a truck and a tractor, how to fish, how to laugh and probably one thing that I’ll never forget, is how to treat others. In Eastern North Carolina, I promise you, the number of people that my grandfather the majority were not white. Honestly, the only white people working were my family.

So today, I just had this tugging at my heart and as I sat on the sofa alone and my sons were upstairs playing, I picked up the phone and gave him a call. We didn’t talk very long, maybe 10 minutes as the Congestive Heart Failure and fluid build up is causing him to cough a lot when he talks. But as we talked and I could tell he needed a break he said the following too me “son, I want you to always be there for your family. Teach your sons the important things in life, like going to church, to always love one another and to always laugh.” And as he finished, we both were crying uncontrollably, we just said I love you.

After hanging up, I just sat in tears on the sofa and I cried. I cried for the loss of a great man, that I know the time is near. I cried for joy, in knowing that he will see my grandmother again and probably very soon. I cried, because a man who gave his all for this country, our family and gave unconditional love, will be greatly missed. He showed me the important things in life and shared may stories with me that I will be able to share with my sons when they ask about him. And even though they are old enough now to know him, because we live 6 hours away, they only get to see him 2 times a year.

So tonight as I reflect on the call and the calls that my grandfather and I have had, I am honored to have known and to have loved such an amazing guy. He taught me so much and he will be so greatly missed. Now, I just wait for the call from my dad, which I am sure going to be soon….

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Pets are extensions of our families and as with humans, sometimes things happen and we have to say goodbye to our pets and that happened to us this past weekend.

My wife got a cat a little over 10 years ago & he has traveled and been a part of her life through the end of college, moving home, buying a house, ME, the lose of her mom and the list continues. But over the last year, the cat started to have problems and I must admit, the cat and I had a love hate relationship. In full disclosure, I’m allergic to cats and had to continue taking allergy shots for the last 9 years and the cat also tripped me, causing me to ultimately have two knee operations. But nevertheless, the cat was a HUGE part of my wife’s life and the boys had gotten really attached to the cat as well, especially Boy A.

My wife and I had begin to notice that the cat wasn’t himself, not eating or drinking and was just laying in cool places more frequently. The vet for the last year had mentioned numerous times that there was something wrong with the cat’s stomach and that they would continue to treat it until the medicines were no longer effective and that became apparent Friday night. Late Friday night, I was up reading and had a movie on and the cat came into the living room and got really sick and then went and laid down. Saturday morning, the cat barely moved and my wife and I went upstairs to talk, away from the boys after she was able to get an appointment with the vet. I just simply said that I thought that it was a good idea to have the boys say goodbye, just in case, because I was pretty sure that the medicine didn’t work and that it was the end. And even though I think that my wife knew that, she was holding out hope, after all, this was her little buddy.

So, we explained to the boys that the cat wasn’t feeling well and had to go back to the Dr. But that before he did, that they should give him a kiss goodbye and pet him. Little did we know, that my gut feeling was right. The vet basically said that the treatments were no longer effective and that we could send the cat off to a specialty hospital, but that in the end, it really wouldn’t solve the problem. And minutes later, my wife texted me that she had made the decision and that was time to say goodbye.

An hour later, my wife walked into the house, without her cat and Boy A asked where the cat was? And it was then we had to sit them down and explain that his cat had been sick and that the Dr. couldn’t make him any better. After a lot of tears, both from my wife and my son, he cleared his throat and asked if the cat was in Heaven and better now? Well, that got me teared up and again, I had a love/hate relationship with the cat. The last several days have been sad around the house, but both boys have already been throwing out ideas for future pets, I believe Hamsters, Dolphins, Crabs, Goldfish and Dogs have all been thrown out as suggestions. But I think that my wife and I decided to keep pets off the table for now, let the healing continue and we need to get through Christmas first and then we’ll see about more pets.

Last night, as the boys and I were out grilling, I asked Boy B to close the screened door and was getting ready to say “Don’t let the cat out!” and it was then that it hit me, the cat is gone. For the last 9 years, the cat and I have tangled, but my wife and at least one of the boys loved that cat. And for that, I hated having to tell the boys. I hated explaining the concept of death, again. I hated that in their short lives, they have to lose a great grandmother and now their cat. Death is hard to understand and comprehend, even as an adult and yet, the boys seemed to do a pretty good job with the idea of it on Saturday. So as we said our prayers Saturday night, we said a little one for the cat, because as Boy A summed it up on Saturday, “He isn’t hurting and now playing with his friends.”

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Goodbyes are never easy, especially when you have to deal with deaths and that is what happened yesterday. My wife had to say goodbye to her grandmother, someone who was the rock of their family and who took care of everyone and never once thought of herself.

Today marks a new day in our lives a day with out Grandma. A day when hurt and pain, takes over and controls the loss, but that the memories are and will forever be there and strong. Grandma was an amazing woman, who put everyone else first and herself last. She would offer advice when asked and sometimes when you didn’t. She would give you a look to let you know that you needed to knock it off or a smile to let you know that it was ok.

Goodbyes are hard, plan and simple and tonight, after the kids get home from school, we will sit them down and explain that Grandma has died and is no longer here. Trying to explain death to a 4 year old, is not something that I had really wanted to do, but death is part of life. And I think that part of my issue with explaining it to the boys, is that I to some degree do not understand death myself. I mean, logically, yes, I understand death, but big picture, it is an unknown and unknowns scare me.

I remember after my Grandfather passed away, my father pulled me aside and tried to explain death to me and from what little I remember, it did not make any sense what so ever, but I do remember one thing and that was this, “let’s say our goodbyes, as we’ll see him again one day.” And that statement provided a great deal of hurt and frustration, but more importantly, comfort.

Grandma, you will be missed. You took on the role of my Grandma too, shortly after my Grandmother passed away from Alzheimer’s and I remember you putting your arms around me and telling me that I would see her again. I will always remember how you would have a Coconut cake waiting on me when you knew that I would be there, as that was what my Grandmother always made me. You were the rock of the family and the one that we all looked to for guidance and approval. You will be missed, but you are no longer in any pain. But this isn’t me saying my goodbyes, this is me saying that I’ll see you one day again.

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That was the question that I was asked repeatedly last night, “Buy Why?” And no, it was not by my twins, but instead by a good friend of mine. And for once, I was not annoyed by the question or upset by the question, but I left focused on the question, “But Why?”

Last week about this time, I got a text message from my good friend that one of our friend’s son was born, but that there were major complications. Because we didn’t really know anything a group of us were sitting by waiting for a group text to come through that all was ok, but that didn’t happen. It was more like, “we aren’t sure what is going on?”, “it is moment to moment right now?”, “the Dr’s aren’t sure what happened?” and the list goes on. But which each text, my buddy would always ask “But Why?”.  But why don’t you know what is going on? But why is it moment to moment? But why aren’t the Dr’s doing more to find out what happened?  And it got me thinking, because the one question that I kept waiting for to be asked, did not come. The one question that we were all thinking and wanting to not ask, for 6 days was finally asked. And it is one of the few times in my life, that I could provide no glimmer of an answer that even closely made sense. It was the first time, that I felt helpless in my response, but the question was this: “But why did God let this happen to him?”

And there it was, the elephant in the room. I thought about it for a few minutes, I prayed for guidance in my answer and maybe a little bit of wisdom and hope. And what came out of my mouth was jumbled and a struggle, but it basically was this “Man, I really don’t know? I wish that I had an answer for you, but I don’t? I wish that I could ask God this very question and he provide some sort of indication or a clear answer, but he isn’t going to do it in such an obvious way. But, here is what I do know. I do know that God will provide people around the family to provide love and support and if this baby takes his last breathe today, all of the guys will be going to visit the family and we’ll all be making donations to the NICU that has been providing care for the baby. We will all rally around this family to help provide normalcy in a very not normal situation. But to answer the question, I don’t know why?”

I did Google searches and there are blog posts on this topic, there are books about Bad things happening to Good people, there are those that provided verses from the Bible and at the end of 2 pages of searches, I asked out loud, “But why God?” And I know that it isn’t my place to ask that, or maybe it is? But as a father, to hear that a friend’s first born son was struggling to make it, just tore my heart into pieces. I feel awful for the family and my friend. And I pray for peace and mercy on his son’s life and for the healing should his son take his last breath today.

This morning, as I took a few minutes of quiet time before everyone woke up and started moving, I read through the text messages and how the question “But Why?” kept coming up over and and over again and it hit me, there is no answer that will save their son’s life. The physicians will do everything that they can, but the reality is simple, it doesn’t look good. There will be no answers. Logically and medically, this should not have happened and it was of no fault of anyone. But why then? No one will every really know the answer, but my hope is that this family is surrounded with love and support and tonight, I’ll be hugging my boys a little tighter.

And as I sit here and think about what my friend is going through right this very minute, sitting in the hospital and staring at his son, not knowing if this is the last day with him, I ask one question, “Buy Why?”

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I was saddened to read last night that a friend that I’ve known since 4th grade passed away last night.  Life sucks sometimes. It is not fair. It is not always understandable and maybe we aren’t supposed to understand certain aspects of life?

I tried to remember last night how long that it had been since I had last seen my friend and I was ashamed to admit that it was over 15 years. Life had gotten in the way. We both moved away, I moved to a different state and vary rarely returned to visit, but it was during that time period that my friend also had a serious car accident as well. The accident left her with many life long challenges, but at no point did she not smiling.

Today my friend, we will not say goodbye, but sleep easy. Tonight, you are at peace, no more pain or sorrow. No more challenges. But, you will be able to continue that smile forever.

Life isn’t always easy, but it is how we choose to live it that matters the most and you did it with style and grace.

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Today the news broke that Stuart Scott, at the age of 49 and a long time ESPN announcer, lost his battle with cancer. As any sports fan, father and human being, the news stung. Growing up, I watched Stuart Scott everyday on ESPN and watched him because not only the one liners, but his human approach to stories.  Sure his catch phrases “As cool as the other side of the pillow” were used on a regular basis, he was more than just a sports announcer, he was also a father.

I was fortunate to have met Stuart years ago and by that, I mean at least 12 + years ago when he was at a celebrity golf tournament. What struck me about him the most, was that it wasn’t just the fans that wanted to talk with him, but other celebrities wanted his time too. He was personable and felt like you were talking with a friend. And I only spoke with him for a few minutes, but when I did, we talked about UNC, where he graduated and where I grew up following and loving as a fan. He beamed when talking about UNC basketball and his thoughts for the upcoming year. And as it was his time to tee up, he shook my hand and thanked me for talking about UNC, a place he loved.

Today, as many have done, I’ve watched Stuart’s ESPY video and recounted the his words, because they ring so very true:

“When you die it does not mean that you lose to cancer. You beat cancer by how you live, why you live, and in the manner in which you live.”

We are all defined in how we choose to live our lives and when advisory hits, you can either give up or fight and that is what Stuart Scott did, he fault cancer and he fault for his family.


And as friends of Stuart’s pour out their hearts and emotions on Twitter, Facebook and other social media outlets, it was Rich Eisen’s emotional farewell to his friend that was the hardest for me.


The reality is this, at some point in time, we will all be faced with the fact that someone we love or us for that matter, will be faced with Cancer. It is just a fact. So tonight, in  honor of Stuart Scott, I’ll be making a donation to the Jimmy V Foundation, the same foundation that was started by and in honor of Jimmy Valvano, head coach of NC State University, but also who awarded Stuart the award last year. It is my hope and prayer that through the research that the Jimmy V Foundation is currently doing, that one day, Cancer will be a word that is no longer used and that no more lives are lost to.

Tonight, Stuart, as I say a prayer for you and more importantly your young daughters and your family, I will ask God for peace and strength for them. That they may remember the positives and remember the lives that he touched. And tonight, I’ll turn my pillow over to the cool side in your honor. Sleep easy tonight Stuart.

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Being a parent isn’t always easy, but at the sometime, being a child isn’t either and I say that, because I am both. I am a parent to my awesome kids, but I also am a child to my parents.

Yesterday was just one of those days, it was just a day mixed with emotions. I had to say goodbye to a good friend over the weekend, as he and his wife decided to split up & though he and I will remain in contact, it is hard knowing that I’ll only see him a few more times.  I had a former boss, who was a mentor and even better friend to me pass away over the weekend and his funeral was yesterday and I wasn’t able to attend. And then to top it all off, my Dad texted me that my cousins husband had committed suicide. So we are talking about a lot of serious things here, but we are also talking about life.

Life is hard. As parents, we want to protect our kids from life. We want to shelter and try to protect them from the dangers and evils that lurk out there. As child, we want our independence and freedom to test the water and see what we can and can not do. My Dad asked me last night how I would have handled letting my kids (it was a hypothetical) know about my friend’s death? I didn’t know? I haven’t been forced to share with them about life and death.  I haven’t had to do it, I know that I will soon. I know that I will have to tell them about their grandmother who was killed in a car accident, well before they were born. And then I’ll have to tell them what an amazing person that she was and how much she would have loved them and would have wanted to play and spend time with them.

As adults, we have challenges everyday. We have bills to pay. Stresses of finances, marriage, and everything else that could be thought of. But it is how we handle it, that separates us.

To my buddy that is separating from his wife. I am sorry. I am sorry that you were faced with that decision. I am sorry that things didn’t work out and that you’ve had to make this decision.

To my cousin, who’s husband committed suicide. I am truly sorry. No parent should ever have to tell their child that their spouse took their own life. There were demons there with him and he struggled for years, but there were other options. But to my cousin, I am sorry for your loss.

And to my friend that past away. You have made an impression on my life, that will never go away. You taught and shared words of encouragement, when I really needed them. You showed me the importance of leadership and how to be firm, but more importantly fair with people.

Life. Life is a thing that isn’t explained. Today, we have. Right now, we have. But life, it is how we choose to live it. And that is what I hope to leave my children with. That living life everyday to the fullest is one of the most important things that they can do. Live for today. Live for right now. Live for family and friends.

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