My Grandfather's Journey - Death of Grandfather
Grandpa and me
My grandfather's passing was the first death that affected me so deeply. You know, we sometimes go through life accepting that which we know and love is a part of life that is lasting. As a child, we often do not think of death, for ourselves or those close to us. Death is something that happens to people we do not know or to distant relatives that we have never met.
I remember when my maternal grandfather died. I was sad, for I was old enough, at the age of 13, to realize I would never see him again in this life. And that hurt. My grandfather was so dear to me. I used to sit by him during all the huge family gatherings and was never far from his side. I sat next to him at the long dining table when there were at least twenty people gathered for supper.
Grandpa had this huge yellow cup and saucer, with gold lettering and trim on it. The word "Father" in beautiful 24K gold calligraphy was written on one side. That cup fascinated me, for it was so large and, me being quite small, I could not ever see what was inside the cup. Grandfather kept it to the left of his plate, near where I always sat. I remember one supper in particular when I was about eight years old, I kept stretching up to see what was in the cup and watched Grandpa every time he took a sip of whatever was in there. My eyes followed that cup back and forth, from the saucer, to Grandpa's lips, back to the saucer --- I barely touched my food I was so fascinated with that cup.
At one supper Grandpa kept moving the cup closer and closer to me. I did not realize it at the time, but, he was watching me as closely as I was watching him and that gold cup. Finally, I could not contain my curiosity any longer. I reached out, picked up the cup in both hands, and took a sip of the hot liquid. I was startled when I realized it was just hot water! I quickly put the cup back, thinking no one had seen me do that. Then I looked up at Grandpa and his eyes were looking at me with a twinkle and he was smiling. I felt a little embarrassed, but, at least my curiosity was satisfied. Grandpa reached over and patted my hand. We had a secret, I felt, Grandpa and me, and that was so special.
Grandpa had a tall clock in the parlour. Every day he would open the door and make sure all was working well. Then he would dust the outside and I would help him. I loved that old clock so much, because Grandpa loved it. I loved to listen to the chimes as it told of the times.
When Grandpa was in the hospital, I was allowed one day to go with my Mom and Dad to visit him. I sat there, near to Grandpa, and he held my hand the whole time. When it was time to leave, I just did not want to leave him and my Dad finally took my hand and said we had to go. A few nights later, in the middle of the night, I heard the phone in the kitchen downstairs ring.
I could hear my Dad's voice as he talked to someone. Then I heard my Mother's voice say, "Is he gone?" Dad spoke to her very quietly, and then Mom started crying.
I remember little about the funeral when I was thirteen. I remember it was a beautiful day. All the relatives were gathered at Grandma's house after the funeral and it was very quiet, no one talking much. For once, even all the little children and babies were quiet or napping. Back at Grandma's house I sat in an old wooden rocking chair, tucked away in a corner of the dining room. I felt sad and wanted to see my Grandpa again. I was not sure how I should be acting or what I should say to anyone, so I just sat there in solitude, not saying anything and staring at the place at the table where Grandpa and I always sat next to each other.
Grandma had been sitting at the table, where she had always sat on the other side of Grandpa. Everyone was respecting her time of silence and reflection. Suddenly, she broke the silence by getting up and sighing, wiping her eyes with a hanky then tucked it into her pocket. She walked over to the china cabinet in the corner and took something out. Then she turned, walked across the room to me and said, "Grandpa wanted you to have this, dear." She handed me Grandpa's gold cup and saucer.
That night, when we were back home, it was a very silent time and Dad made sure all us kids had been safely tucked in and said our prayers with us. Mom was getting ready for bed, Dad checked the house to make sure all was locked up, and then retreated to his place at the kitchen table where he always sat alone late at night. After we were all in bed and the house was quiet, Dad would sit there and pray, sometimes for hours. That night he prayed for the father-in-law he loved so very much. I had gotten up sometime in the middle of the night to use the bathroom down behind the kitchen and Dad was still there, praying. He gave me a hug on my way back to my room and asked me to pray for Grandpa's soul and journey.
I went back up to my room and knelt by my bed, not sure what I was supposed to pray for. Then I remembered some of the words I heard my Dad say in his prayer, before he knew I had come into the kitchen. "Heavenly Father, please guide home the soul of my beloved father..." I knelt by my bed and repeated what I heard my Dad say. I looked up at the little table by my bed and stared at Grandpa's cup. I reached up and gently touched it. As I did, I felt Grandpa's hand pat mine, as he did the day I took a sip of the hot water from that cup. I crawled into bed, held the hand Grandpa had touched next to my heart and cried. When I finally closed my eyes, I saw Grandpa's face, with a twinkle in his eyes and a gentle smile on his face.
My Grandpa was on a journey.
There is no death - only a change of worlds.— Chief Seattle
How old were you when you first experienced death of a loved one?
© 2010 Phyllis Doyle Burns