This past weekend, Will and I loaded up the kids, a bunch of Mercer Mayer Little Critter books, a Veggietales cd, and some toys to entertain Asher, and praying for safety and the preservation of our sanity, we headed down to the little town of Kershaw, SC. A good majority of family from my dad’s side lives in that area, including my grandfather and many great-aunts and great-uncles. We were going down specifically to see my grandfather.
Ever since my grandmother passed away this past April, my dad and his three brothers have taken turns going down to spend weekends with my grandpa. This past weekend was my parents’ turn to travel down, so Will and I decided it would be a good time to also head down so that we could spend time with my grandpa without trying to juggle looking after the kids, cooking, and other things all at the same time. We had also learned in the week prior that my gradpa’s cancer had spread further throughout his body, and I don’t want to miss opportunities to see him.
The three hour or so ride down wasn’t too bad- Eila remained pretty occupied and Asher was able to take his morning nap during a portion of the ride. It felt great to arrive and get everyone out of the car. I had been praying on the way down that God would help me know what to say and how to manage seeing my grandpa in pain and looking so unlike the strong, active man I have always known. As I walked inside his home, I looked into the living room where I knew he would be, sitting in his chair, wearing his pajamas. He smiled and I could see the mix of happiness and pain in his eyes. The cancer that is wreaking havoc on his body is showing itself now on his neck, where he has a bulge about five inches long and a couple inches deep. He remains on oxygen and is very weak, using a cane to walk. He naps for long periods each day and misses his wife with all of him.
And yet, his spirit is strong within him. Or rather, His spirit is strong within him. The light in his eyes, the hope that continues to shine forth, radiates from his faith in the Lord, and from that faith only. As we sat and talked about his love for my grandmother and all the tests he had to endure, in addition to the radiation treatments that would be coming fast and hard in the next few weeks, I couldn’t help but ask my grandfather if he wanted to go through the cancer treatments. My great-aunt Rita, my grandfather’s sister, had also asked him that question. He replied, “I’m halfway between Verdie (my grandma’s name is Verda) and my boys…I’m going to stick around longer for my boys.”
The love he has for my father and my uncles outweighs his pain and desire to see my grandma again.
After eating dinner with my grandpa, my great-aunt, and my parents, Will and I put the kids in their pajamas and prepared to head for home (we knew we wouldn’t pull into our driveway until close to 10pm). Eating dinner at the table with us had taken all of my grandpa’s energy, so he was lying down in bed by the time we had everything gathered to go. I went down the hallway with the kids to say goodbye to him. As I held Asher and bent over to give my grandpa a hug, I fought back tears as I felt like he was saying goodbye. I told him we would see him again soon. And we will, whether here on earth or after he has joined his wife and his Savior in heaven and it is our time to leave this earth to be with them as well.
It wasn’t too long after we had gotten back on I-95 that we decided we’d better stop and feed Asher one more time before we hit home. We stopped at the same church parking lot we had stopped at on the way down and Will and Eila got out of the car while I fed Asher. As I looked at them through the window, I observed my sweet husband running with my daughter in the grass and swinging her in his arms. And I burst out laughing. Because I saw this:
One of the saddest moments I had experienced that day was having that conversation with my grandfather before we left, as he laid on his bed in his navy blue pajamas, looking so small. But how like our God to allow me my happiest moment looking at my little girl, also in pajamas, hers covered in pastel-colored whales, as she played and rejoiced in her father’s love. One life near its end, the other at its beginning.
At least, on this side of heaven.