Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Saying Good-bye to Grandpa

I wrote here about our rough month of June and said that I hoped July would be better. Sadly, July brought with it an extremely difficult time for our family as we said good-bye to Chris's grandpa. 

Grandparents are among the most special people in our lives for many of us, and this is certainly true for Chris. He was very close to his grandparents growing up as he would spend a significant amount of time with them during summers and school breaks. And truly, the majority of his time was spent by Grandpa's side helping him keep the land, fish, hunt, and repair things. Chris watched as his Grandpa studied his Bible, journaled, had quiet time, and read each and every night. Chris learned so many valuable life skills at the feet of his Grandpa, and that precious time truly helped shape the man Chris is today. It has been such a blessing to us to have Chris's grandparents in our lives and in the lives of our children. We spend treasured holidays with them, as well as every day simple moments. It was an honor to be with Grandpa right until the very end of his life, and we know he felt our love as he passed on.

Grandpa had been having a pretty hard time for several years. At 83 years old, he struggled to walk and sometimes fought to breathe. His mind was also beginning to fade making conversation with him difficult. On Friday, July 1st, Chris's mom sent us a text to let us know that Grandpa had fallen earlier that morning at home. Grandma had tried unsuccessfully to help him up, so she called Chris's dad, Mark, and his mom, Sherry, to come help. When Mark and Sherry got to the house, they feared that Grandpa had broken a bone, so the decision to call an ambulance was made. The ambulance took Grandpa to a hospital in Tulsa where they checked him for broken bones but did not find any. The hospital was in the process of releasing Grandpa to go home when he began crying out with severe pain in his abdomen. They decided to admit him for observation and keep him overnight. 

On Saturday morning (July 2nd), we loaded everyone up and headed to the hospital to visit Grandpa. We were under the impression that he might go home Saturday afternoon, so we felt like it was appropriate to take the children to visit. When we got there, Grandpa was doing ok. He talked to us a bit, and really lit up when he saw the children. The doctor was there when we first arrived, and he let the family know that Grandpa would definitely be staying in the hospital through the weekend (Monday was the fourth of July so that meant he'd be there until at least Tuesday). They weren't sure what the problem was at that time . . . just that he possibly had a blockage in his intestine causing the pain. 

We returned to the hospital on Sunday afternoon (July 3rd), and Grandpa was acting more like himself than we had seen in a while. He was sitting up in a chair, and when the children gave him cards they made for him, he smiled, opened them, thanked the children, and really just seemed tickled about it. The twins were busy, busy, busy at the hospital, and Grandma made the comment several times that they were a couple of the smartest, busiest babies she had ever been around. I know she's biased, but it's still nice to hear that :-).

Chris was off work on Monday for the holiday, and we were giving our living room a fresh coat of paint that day. He decided to go to the hospital alone to see Grandpa which was nice for everyone, I think. Grandpa was still in some pain, and we still didn't have any concrete answers regarding exactly what the problem was. 

On Tuesday, July 5th, I took the children and met Chris at the hospital during his lunch break. The doctor had been to see Grandpa that morning and said that his intestine had shut down causing a blockage which was causing the pain. They were trying a few different treatments to get things working again. Grandpa seemed tired but in good spirits. 

The treatments the doctors were trying weren't working as they had hoped, so on Wednesday, July 6th, we found out that Grandpa would have to have surgery on his intestine. The surgery was scheduled for 6:00pm. Chris went straight to the hospital after work to be with family during the surgery, but the children and I stayed home due to the late hour. Grandpa came through surgery well and was sent to the ICU for the night. Chris was able to see him in the ICU, pray with him, and hug him even though he wasn't very responsive. 

Grandpa remained in the ICU all day on Thursday, so we weren't able to visit him. Chris could have visited him, but wasn't able to make it to the hospital that day. We were hopeful that he would be moved to a regular room on Friday, and by about 11:00am on Friday, July 7th, he was. Once again, the children and I met Chris at the hospital during Chris's lunch break to see Grandpa. He was alert, in really good spirits, and even talking with us this day. His voice sounded odd and hoarse, and he joked with us about that. We were thankful and hopeful for good progress being made. 

This is kind of a random tidbit, but on the way home from the hospital on Friday afternoon, Brianna kept messing with one of her front teeth that I didn't think was loose enough to come out just yet. I looked in my rear view mirror and said, "Bri, leave your tooth alone. It's not ready." About three seconds later, she said, "Mom! I just pulled it out!" I took this photo of her as soon as we got home to send to Daddy :-).

On Saturday, July 9th, we decided to wait until after nap time to go to the hospital. All these hospital visits meant we ate out and on the go a lot during this time. However, since we were in Tulsa, we got to eat at some restaurants where we generally don't take the children. This night is was Pei Wei and chopsticks for the win!

When we got the hospital after dinner, we immediately noticed a marked change in Grandpa. He was very drowsy and slept almost the entire time we were there. Every so often, he would wince in pain or even cry out a little bit. It was hard for all of us to witness, but especially for the children. Chris, Sherry, and I took turns taking them out and walking the halls with them. Grandma told us that his intestines and bowels still hadn't awakened, and that the nurses were acting concerned. There was some talk of rehabilitation facilities and even care homes from Mark and Sherry. Everyone, including Grandma, seemed very fatigued and just down. When we told Grandpa goodbye that evening, he did not respond at all to me or the children. He did respond to Chris just a bit by making a noise, opening his eyes slightly, and squeezing his hand. Chris and I talked about how different his condition seemed that night compared to the day before, and we had pretty heavy hearts when leaving him.

The next morning, Sunday, July 10th, Sherry sent us a text that said something about allowing natural processes to take place. We weren't sure what she meant, but later that afternoon Chris's sister, Cassie, called him to let him know things did not look good for Grandpa and that he was being moved to the hospice floor of the hospital. We were getting ready to leave for evening church when Chris got that call, so he waited until after services before going to the hospital. Brianna and Brenson really wanted to go with him, so we allowed them to do so. In hindsight, that maybe wasn't the best thing, but we didn't realize how bad Grandpa really was. He was in the process of being moved to his new room and was completely unresponsive when Chris arrived at the hospital. Things were pretty chaotic, so he didn't stay too long. He got back home at around 9:30pm, and at 11:45pm Sherry called to let us know that Grandpa had passed away.

Mark and Sherry were at the hospital with Grandma - and Chris was satisfied with his last moments spent with Grandpa - so he chose to not return to the hospital that night. That was a tough call for him, but in the end he knew that Grandma was taken care of and that he didn't need closure with Grandpa. Of course, our hearts were grieving and that made for a long night, but we were thankful for Grandpa's sake that things weren't prolonged.

Grandpa's funeral service was set for Thursday, July 14th, with a visitation on Wednesday evening. Chris went to work on Monday, but took off early on Tuesday so we could take food to Grandma and eat with her. We had a lovely visit with Grandma, although seeing Grandpa's empty chair was heartbreaking and almost surreal. After visiting with Grandma for several hours, we stopped by Mark and Sherry's place for about an hour to see them, as well. 

Chris took the day off work on Wednesday, and we spent the morning running errands and doing a little shopping for funeral clothes. Chris's black suit was in storage, but he needed a new one anyway so that was at the top of our list. After nap time, we headed to Grandpa's visitation in Wagoner, about an hour from our house.

I knew that we planned to stay there with Grandma for several hours, so I packed little bags of books, crayons, and paper for the kids. Brooke was so good to sit and look at her books and color. 

Brecklyn isn't much into sitting still, so she was more of a challenge :-). Once their cousin Abby got there though, she was wonderful to help me entertain and keep track of the twins.

There were a lot plants and flower arrangements, and several that had been sent from friends and coworkers of ours. This really meant so much to Chris, and we were grateful for the outpouring of love.  

From our church family

From the company Chris works for

Meme had this one sent from the great grandchildren

From our friends, Ross and Tia

We had talked with the big kids quite a bit about what to expect and what death means and that they would see Grandpa's body at the visitation even though he was no longer with us. Neither of them were scared, and they each wanted to see his body up close. When we first arrived, Grandma was sitting by herself on a pew, so we sat with her for a while. Not long after we got up (because the twins were being squirmy), I looked up to see Bren, Abby, and Zeke sitting with her. So sweet! Brianna also sat with her for a bit, and I know she was thankful to have the children keeping her company before others began arriving.

We ended up being at the visitation for almost three hours. Afterwards, we grabbed a quick dinner at Arby's and headed home. We were mentally and physically exhausted, and knew we had a long day ahead of us the next day, as well.

On Thursday, July 14th, we got everyone ready to leave the house around 11:00am, to be at the family dinner by noon.
Chris and Bren looked so handsome!

I thought my whole crew looked pretty sweet. Love these littles!

The funeral and funeral dinner were both held at the Mazie Baptist Church where Grandpa and Grandma are members. It's about 45 minutes from our house, and Chris was having a really hard time on the way there. I was focused on him and hadn't paid a bit of attention to the weather. The sky was overcast and it looked like rain was coming, but we had no idea what was in store.

The meal was delicious and HUGE . . . there was a crazy amount of food! We enjoyed visiting with folks and eating, but at the very end of our meal we heard rain start to pour down outside. There was about an hour before the service was to begin, so I took the kids (Abby and Zeke included) to the nursery to play and relax. My friend, Tia, had offered to come watch the twins for us during the funeral, so she literally blew in the building soaking wet. She said the weather was nuts, and not long after going to the nursery, one of the church ladies told us to come out into the hall to get away from the windows because there was tornadic activity. Then, the power went out! It started to get stuffy very quickly, the children were kind of freaked out because it was dark (we did have some flashlights and emergency lights, but it was still dark), and people were continuing to come in for the service.

We waited until a little after 2:00pm to see if the power would return, but it didn't. The funeral director, along with Mark and Sherry, decided to just go ahead and have the service in the dark. They opened an emergency door in the auditorium which let just a little light in toward the front and also provided some moving air. By this time, the storm had passed and it wasn't even really raining anymore.

Grandma had asked Mark to play his guitar and sing, "I'd Rather Have Jesus" during the service. You can see from this photo I took of him how dark it was . . . he had to have someone hold a flashlight over his music so he could see it!

Chris was a pallbearer and helped carry Grandpa's casket to the hearse.

As we were all leaving to go to the cemetery. we could really see the damage caused by the storm. There were tree limbs, leaves, and mud everywhere, and the whole town of Mazie was without power. Ross had also attended to the funeral to support Chris, so he helped Tia and others clear large tree limbs from the cars. 

It's hard to see in these photos because we were driving as I was taking them, but there were entire trees uprooted during the storm. 

Also, less than a mile down the highway, a building lost its entire roof. 

It had started to lightly rain again as we pulled up to the cemetery, so I asked Tia to sit in the van with our children instead of getting them out in the wet and mud. The blue tent had blown over in the storm, but the funeral director set it back up for us. Everything was a soppy, wet mess for sure though!

Several of the trees at the cemetery looked like this:

We had a short, sweet, and intimate graveside service as the rain gently came down. It was truly the calm after the storm. 

As soon as the graveside service was over, we went over to Mark and Sherry's house for a few hours to visit and eat again. What is it about funerals and food?!? We headed home early that evening exhausted from a long day but pleased with how the service went, despite the weather. I think Grandpa would have been amused with the power going out and the service being conducted in the dark. It's a story that he would have loved to tell!

Grandpa's Obituary

1 comment:

thoennes5 said...

Chris's Grandpa was obviously very special to you. I am sorry for your loss.