Goodbye, Grandma

My last living grandparent passed away today.

This wasn’t a surprise. My family knew this was coming; we just didn’t know when. She turned 90 years old back in October (any potential celebration destroyed by COVIDstances) and had a health scare back in November.

Her mental (and inevitably her physical health) had been failing for some time, and her last few years were spent in a nursing facility after being hospitalized by a fall she couldn’t remember. It was so difficult to watch her decline every time my wife and I went to visit her. My last memory of her being lucid was during that hospital visit after her fall (I was not expecting the lucidity); otherwise, we got stuck in conversation loops that I never really knew how to handle.

When I got the news of her passing, I didn’t feel anything specific. Maybe it’s because last year has left so many of us feeling emotionally drained in some ways. Or maybe it’s because I’d already come to terms with her being gone and had expected the news some time ago. When she did have that health scare, I had felt some bit of anxiousness (Is it COVID? Will she make it?), but hearing she was gone didn’t phase me at first. It wasn’t until I was writing out about not feeling anything that I did begin to feel some sort of sadness and cry some tears. Perhaps in writing it out there was some catharsis or realization of the reality that she’s gone.

The last time I saw her was last February, just before COVID sent everyone and everything into a spiral. I had decided to visit her because a dream I’d had that week about her passing away. It woke me up feeling panicky. I don’t remember the details of the dream, other than that specific thing. I don’t know why I had that dream. I kinda waited to see if anything might’ve happened in the real world, but I never heard any news, which was somewhat of a relief. I had thought of mentioning the dream to my family when I mentioned going to visit, but I had only told it to my wife. The dream itself was enough to shake me, but not worrying enough to bring up to my family. Maybe I should’ve. Would they have gone with me because of a dream? Would I have if someone else had that dream? I don’t know. None of us knew the months ahead would become what they did. Even though there was no news and it was just a dream, I still wanted to go see her. Given her state of health, I didn’t know if I might get another chance.

And I was right. I’m thankful I made that trip.

Grandma, you will be missed.

For My Father-In-Law (On His Birthday)

I mentioned previously that my father-in-law passed away earlier this year. Today (Dec 7) marks what would’ve been his 70th birthday. In honor of his birthday, I wanted to share the full text of what I wrote for his memorial service.


I’m not holding onto You
But You’re holding onto me

These lyrics from a Casting Crowns song that remind me God is holding on and not the other way around have been a comfort during this sad and difficult time; the day I learned of Jim’s passing, those words kept playing in my mind while I was driving. I don’t cry very often, and I like to think the light rain falling that day was for the tears I felt unable to shed, but listening to that song and being reminded that God is holding on allowed me an opportunity to cry for Jim’s passing. 

The day I heard he passed, I knew I wanted to say something at his service, but I didn’t know what at the time. I only knew him for not quite three years before he passed, so I don’t have any deep, meaningful, or funny stories to share about his life. In the time I’ve known him, his health limited his travel ability, so almost the only time I spent with him was when Jaimee and I would visit Denton. The most meaningful one-on-one conversation we had was the day I talked with him about marrying Jaimee when I asked him about his life, but there were things I still didn’t know about him until Jaimee and I were sorting through photos for his slideshow.

Jim, or as I had started calling him “J-Pop” in recent months, was by no means perfect; he was a man rough around the edges. He was stubborn with a sarcastic sense of humor; we connected over that shared style of humor and a love for his daughter Jaimee. There’s a special place in his heart for Jaimee, being his only daughter, his only child. Both are strong-willed people, and they had their disagreements, but at the end of the day they loved each other. I know he wanted to see her happy and was glad he lived long enough to walk her down the aisle, even if it was only part of the way. 

Before we met, Jaimee was his primary caretaker, so he came to depend on her for a lot. I never said it before he passed, but there were times I felt as if I took her away from him, but sometimes change motivates growth. When Jaimee and I first got engaged and she was getting ready to move out, Jim went into denial that his little girl was growing up, but he eventually came to terms with what was happening. Once he accepted she was moving out and getting married, he started to do more things for himself for a while, which improved his demeanor, but at some point his health began to decline again. Because he had health problems, lived alone, and was a bit of a distance from us, we wanted him to think about living in a retirement community, but being the stubborn man he was, he didn’t want to leave his house or his cats. He loved those cats and took care of them, often at the expense of himself and his health. I’m not sure if he loved Jaimee or his cats more, but he didn’t have pictures of his cats around his house or in his wallet.

Since he didn’t travel much, there wasn’t a lot we could do together, but after Jaimee and I got married, we would go to Denton to visit every few Saturdays, spend some time together, and maybe play Spades or Farkle with Jim and Janet. You need four people for Spades, and Janet wasn’t very good when we started playing, but Jim taught her to become a much better Spades player and a more-formidable opponent. Even though we didn’t do much together as a family, those visits would brighten his day.

We also liked to joke around together. While playing games, he would jokingly tell me to watch out for Jaimee as if she was trouble. As we would get ready to leave for the day, he would jokingly tell her to take care of me like I was helpless, and we would tell him we take care of each other. We shared other jokes and sarcastic quips together over the last couple years. Jim may be gone, but his sense of humor lives on through Jaimee.

God’s timing is never our timing. Jim was months away from turning 70, a milestone we would’ve liked to celebrate together. He may not have lived as long as we would’ve liked, but he lived longer than even he expected and got to see his only daughter get married. We wish Jim could’ve lived a few more years, maybe one day get to see and hold a grandchild, but God had other plans. We may never know why Jim was taken from us when he was, but I am reminded that God is still here; he is in control and has His reasons, and He is still holding onto us, and this has brought me comfort as we mourn Jim’s passing. We’re told in 1 Thessalonians – which the pastor read for us– that we who are in Christ don’t mourn as those who have no hope; hope in this case is not a wishful longing, but an assurance of what is to come, that we will one day see our loved ones who have died in Christ; though we grieve now for Jim’s passing, one day we will see him again.

We may never plan for the day we lose a loved one, but that day still comes.
We may never expect to say that last goodbye, but those words will be spoken.
We think we’ll see someone tomorrow, but sometimes tomorrow comes alone.

If you love someone, don’t neglect to tell them so.
Always say goodbye when you leave the ones you know.
There will be a time you can’t, for tomorrow will one day come alone.

Jim, we love you and miss you. For now we say goodbye, but someday we’ll see you again.

jim

Sometimes Tomorrow Comes Alone

(In honor of my father-in-law, who passed away in early June)

We may never plan for the day we lose a loved one, but that day still comes.
We may never expect to say that last goodbye, but those words will be spoken.
We think we’ll see someone tomorrow, but sometimes tomorrow comes alone.

If you love someone, don’t neglect to tell them so.
Always say goodbye when you leave the ones you know.
There will be a time you can’t, for tomorrow will one day come alone.