When my dad got the call that his mom had died, we were on the way home from Iowa City at the end of fall semester. We were 5 minutes away from home when suddenly my world shrunk by one.
I was laying on my bed in my new apartment when I got the call that my dad's dad had died. I sat there crying and all I could think about was how few people I had left to lose.
Because I started out with what I consider a pretty small family tree, the weight change of entire branch now being gone shook me to my core. But because I was 200 miles away from home, it was easy to push the thought of it away to the back of my head. When the many loved ones of my Iowa City world sent me emails and texts and gave me hugs and said they were glad to see that I was doing well, I felt distant from my daily life. I felt like I was standing 20 feet away watching myself mourn my grandpa's loss.
And because no one around me knew my grandpa, it was easy to pretend like the fact of his approaching funeral was nothing more than a blip in my usually very happy life.
And even when I gave my dad and mom big hugs last night when I got home, the idea that I came home for the sole reason of attending my grandpa's funeral was just a nagging feeling in the back of my mind and I was preoccupied with the disorientation I always feel when I return to my living room couch from the hustle and bustle of Iowa City.
So today when we got to the church, and I finally had to stop ignoring the fact that my grandpa, who I hadn't seen since early in the summer, was really gone, it wasn't surprising that for most of the service I couldn't stop crying.
And now here I am, nine hours later, still feeling that awful hollow feeling in my cheeks from a sinus infection/crying-all-afternoon combo, and I finally feel like I'm wrapping my mind around the last few days.
Yes, it is incredibly hard for me to reconcile myself to the fact that even with the significant loss of my grandfather, it is my job to keep living my life without feeling guilt every time I smile or laugh.
Grandpa had 81 years on this Earth to raise kids and farm and love grandma. And now he gets to be with grandma in heaven after eight lonely months without her.
He wouldn't want me to let myself freeze-up in my sadness and pause my own life. I have so many people left to meet and love to share and roads to follow.
But before I drive back to Iowa City tomorrow to continue my junior year of college, let me take just one more moment to reflect on my grandpa.
My favorite afternoon I ever spent with him was when my brother and I were in Tuscola for one of our week-long summer visits. Out of the blue, he got out his Chinese checkers set and taught us how to play. Then, really in a kick of excitement, he dug out his Korean war uniform and showed us each and every piece. Grandma wandered into the room, put her hand on her hip and said, "Now don't you just assume that I'm going to pack that back up for you."
A fit of giggles later, we continued our days and watched as grandpa fell asleep behind the game board, his face partially hidden by his uniform hat.
That's how I want to remember him. Peacefully asleep after a beautiful day doing the farm work that he loved.
Today's thought of the day: Matthew 11: 28
"Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest."
Peace, love and personal healing,