1656055_10201265866189401_669960459_nOn January 21, 2014, my grandfather died. I don’t say “went to heaven,” “passed on,” or “went to be with his Lord,” even though those things may be true. But I don’t say them because, for me, words like “he’s in a better place” cheapen the reality that he is not here. He is dead. He died.

Nothing is as monstrous as death. Belief in life after death, in the resurrection of the dead and a new creation, does not, cannot, and should not negate this monstrosity. People die. And we don’t know if we’ll ever see them again. That’s it. We don’t know. We may believe. But we cannot possibly know.

This is what I know. My grandpa lingered for almost a week in a hospital bed, having suffered multiple strokes. He was unable to speak; he was suffering. And yet, through all of that, my selfish prayer, my refrain was, “Please don’t let him die.” Death is inescapable.

As physical beings, we are driven by our senses. We want to touch each other, to hear one another’s voices, and to see each other’s faces.

My grandpa had long, curly, red hair on his arms. Like Esau or something.  I miss being able to stroke his arm, the sensation of the rough curls against the palm of my hand.

My grandpa had a sense of humor. He was always telling stories, jokes. I miss listening to those stories and am grateful for the ones that he wrote down. Still, I will never again hear him begin a tale with, “Did I ever tell you about…?” Yes, Grandpa, you did. But tell me again.

PD_0040My grandpa had a hooked nose with a large chunk taken out of it from when he had skin cancer. My grandpa was an ugly man, with a big belly. My sister and I used to joke that Grandpa was pregnant.

Once, my brother asked our mother, “How does Grandpa drive?”

“What do you mean?” she asked.

“I mean, why doesn’t he just fall asleep?”

My grandpa always slept in the living room with the TV blaring. He was mostly deaf and he could sleep through anything. Towards the end, as his dementia worsened, he didn’t sleep as well, getting up in the night bewildered and disoriented. Towards the end, I wasn’t there. I saw him at Christmas. I told him I loved him and he said he loved me. I told myself that this might be the last time I said those words. I didn’t believe it, though. And then it was.

1551702_10201265867429432_1738606618_nThis is what I know. My grandfather was a musician in a barbershop quartet, “The Four Flushers.” He loved music. He worked hard as a soda deliveryman. He had two children, Brenda (my mother) and Mark. He was married to Ilagene “Genie” McCammon for almost 65 years. He was a husband, father, and grandfather to my sister, my brother and me. He is missed.

I hope that he is in a better place. I hope that he and my grandmother are sitting together at a park or in a nice restaurant holding hands. I hope these things, but I don’t know. I won’t know until I myself die. I hope these things, not to cheapen death, but to deal with death. Death is so big, so unknowable and horrible. How can I not hope in the face of death?

Edward “Bud” McCammon died on January 21, 2014. He was 89 years old. He lived a good life, but now he is gone. And I miss him.

3 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Beautifully written. He is missed. My favorite joke was, “Oblong man marries Normal woman.” I think he told that to us every time we saw him. Hugs to you. I hope when the time comes, we do indeed get to be with our loved ones once again.

    Reply
    • Avatar

      Heather, thank you for your kind words. It was so good to see you at the funeral. I remember that joke, too! He was such a funny man with such a big heart.I hope beyond hope that I will see him again someday.

      Reply
  2. Avatar

    Bethany, what a lovely tribute to your grandfather.

    When I was 19 and read George Eliot’s *Middlemarch* for the first time, I burst into tears when I got to the final paragraph because it reminded me of my own grandmother:

    “Her finely touched spirit had still its fine issues, though they were not widely visible. Her full nature, like that river of which Cyrus broke the strength, spent itself in channels which had no great name on the earth. But the effect of her being on those around her was incalculably diffusive: for the growing good of the world is partly dependent on unhistoric acts; and that things are not so ill with you and me as they might have been, is half owing to the number who lived faithfully a hidden life, and rest in unvisited tombs.”

    Faithful, hidden lives–Yes.

    Reply

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