I apologize for the unexpected absence last week — especially after a week-long break — but I received word late Wednesday that my grandfather had had a stroke and slipped into a coma. I rushed up to Idaho Thursday afternoon to say goodbye, and I'm so glad I did; he passed away early Saturday morning.
I have been struggling to figure out what to say about my Grandpa Dean and am still having a hard time fathoming that he's really gone. I think the biggest thing I want to remember about him is that he was always there. He actually worked as the custodian at my elementary school when I was little, so I saw him nearly every day. And as I got older, he was there at my science fairs, my band and choir concerts and my soccer games.
He was there when I battled cancer at age 16, bringing me smoothies and milkshakes and trying to figure out how he could help me feel better. He was there for my high school and college graduations, cheering me on loudly from the bleachers even when he was supposed to be quiet. He was there for my wedding, telling me over and over how proud he was of me.
This weekend, I was there for him, even though he was completely unresponsive and didn't open his eyes or talk. I squeezed his hand and let him know that I was there. I told him I loved him. And even though he wasn't able to squeeze back or respond, I felt a bit of pressure in his hands and knew he could hear me. He knew that I was finally there for him, to show him how much he meant to me.
Those of you who knew my grandpa knew that his family was the most important thing in the world to him. He told everyone about what his kids and his grandchildren were doing, and he was very proud of them. He also absolutely loved music, and I know that I inherited that from him.
One of my favorite memories of him, while sad, is of my brother and my dad singing and playing "Gold Mine In the Sky" on the guitar in the nursing home for him when he had fallen and broken his hip last winter. Grandpa looked so small and weak curled up in his bed and clutching the guardrail for support, and I know he was in a lot of pain. But he had such joy on his face as he listened to the music and looked at each of us as we were gathered in his room. I felt such immense peace and knew that my grandpa felt it too and felt our love for him.
I'm going to miss my grandpa, and it will be hard to say goodbye again at his funeral next week. But I also know that he had a joyful reunion with his parents, his siblings and his beloved son and son-in-law. And I know that he is watching me from heaven and knows how much I miss him and love him. I will see him again, and I'll give him a great big hug when I do.