But I digress. I have been having a hard time for several months, although I've been trying to distract myself. I think it has a lot to do with the fact that my Papa's birthday was on July 4th. The last time I visited him was on his 97th birthday, last summer. He was very frail, but delighted when I surprised him with my first ever miniature project, a room box I made for him as a birthday present. I knew deep down is was the last time I would ever see him. For ten years I had been preparing myself that any time I saw him could be the last. I was thrilled that he came to my wedding in 2004. I know my sister was delighted when he was able to attend hers a couple of years ago. For years he seemed to defy the odds. He remarried in his late 80s. He and his second wife travelled the world, volunteered, welcomed great grandchildren, honestly, I had a hard time keeping up with the two of them. I loved watching them together.
The last time I saw my Grandpa, he put on a good face for his wife Ruth and his children, joking that he had to live to 100 so that he could get a letter from the queen, but I could tell he knew he didn't have much time left. When we were alone he spoke of how lucky he was, that he had been blessed with a good life. He told me I shouldn't be sad, that death is a natural part of life. He said he wasn't scared to die, he knew he was going to heaven, and he was looking forward to seeing Nana, who passed away when I was 13, and Trevor, his nephew who passed away at a young age from leukemia.
One of the things that remains with me about the week I spent with him is how celebratory the mood was. While I was there I looked through a photo album that had been put together of his 90th birthday. It was a huge album, that had been held at their local church hall. He had worn a green bow tie (in honor of his Irish heritage) and given a speech. Many others has spoken, telling funny stories and taking about his integrity, sense of honor and contributions to the community. I love the last picture in that photo album. It's a picture of him with a dustpan and broom, cleaning up at the end of the broom. It sums up his character and personality. He didn't believe getting old earned him the right to sitting down or a break from clean up duty.
Since turning 97, he wasn't comfortable in large groups. But that didn't mean no celebrations were planned! We would have 4 dinners to accomodate my Dad's family, who had travelled to Edmonton for the occasion, my Granpa's niece and her daughter, and my stepgrandma's two sons and their wives.
It was the most fun I had in ages. Stories were told. Jokes were told, and they became more and more inappropriate as the evening wore on. On one evening I laughed until my sides hurt as my step grandma's Ruth's son told story after story about how they travelled as a family to Europe in the sixties. Back then it was not commonplace for families to sight see in Europe. Billy, the youngest, was bored and caused all sorts of trouble to stir up a bit of excitement. One day they he was sitting parked in their rented van outside the Vatican and he thought it would be fun to release the Emergency brake while the rest of the family (I think there were at least 7 of them all together) and the van happened to be on a hill.
His embarrassed parents hustled the rest of the children into the van while a disapproving priest looked on. Another day they were in a theme park and met another family they knew. There was a big gang of adults and kids and he got lost in the fray. Apparently he wandered around lost by himself for several hours, fairly unconcerned. And his parents, too, didn't panic. Maybe they would relieved at getting a break from their, um, feisty son!
I wasn't able to go to my Papa's funeral when he passed away peacefully in a hospice on December 10th, and I think that's just as well. I'd rather remember him the way I left him last June. Laughing, joyful, at peace, and reminding me that death is a part of the great adventure we are all on. When I go to Calgary at the end of July to visit my parents I will pick up the roombox I gave my Grandpa. I've decided I will add to it, bit by bit. A picture of the two of us, shrunk down and mounted on the wall. He wrote his memoirs and had them bound. I'll shrink down that and include it. I'll build a simple bookcase and fill it with miniature copies of his favorite books. Perhaps I'll put together a miniature family photo album. I'll add more as the spirit moves me.
This morning was the first time I acknowledged to my husband that I'm doing a lot of grieving for my Papa this month, I spoke of how much having him in my life has given me a sense of love of belonging and my belief that once this gift of love is given it cannot be taken away, even after a loved one dies. I became choked up and cried a bit, but they were healing tears. I have always thought that we grief in stages. I started grieving when I first planned to visit him last summer, and I am still grieving. I think I will never stop grieving, but I think as time goes on, that grieving can take on a sense that is mostly full of love and joy, with only a tinge of sadness. I think I have quoted this poem before on here, but it's my favorite, and I have new followers, and it's my blog so I can do what I want to ha ha.