I can’t believe I’m writing this to you. It’s been just over a year since I found out how truly sick you were. Yet, knowing this, I never really thought about what would happen when you were gone. You’ve been such an important part of my life ever since I can remember and I guess I never wanted to force myself think about life without you.
I guess I’ve always been in this little blissful bubble thinking that, no matter how hard things may get, they’ll always get better eventually. No matter how much I tried to believe that, I knew the cancer was going to take you from the moment you made that realization.
I will forever remember sitting in the hospital room with you right before Christmas. Your doctor came in and was talking to you about options and your eyes got wide, you put your hands on top your head, and calmly but firmly said “Shit. This is going to kill me.” I distinctly remember folding over in my chair and sobbing. I wanted to tell you that you could fight it, but no matter how hard I tried to mutter those words, I couldn’t.
I tried, successfully to some degree, to convince myself that this wouldn’t be my last Christmas with you. I was hoping that your time would be longer than what the doctors said and maybe, just maybe, I’d have a few more years with you. I remember sitting in your nursing room in May feeling completely taken aback. Man oh man was I unprepared. Nothing inside of me was prepared to see you looking so frail. Nothing inside me thought that you wouldn’t be able to speak. I wasn’t prepared for you to look straight through me, as though I wasn’t even there. I knew what it meant. They call it “the in between.” That stage between life and death where you’re sort of just there. Existing.
When you finally looked at me and realized I was with you, I knew it was the last time. And, when I think about it, I can still feel your hand grasping mine.The amount I miss you is beyond any fathomable measure. Not only did I lose my grandfather, but also one of my best friends. Someone I looked up to and admired.
The sobering fact about death is that, once you lose someone, you can never see them again in this lifetime. I know that I will never be able to hug you or hear your voice again. It hurts my heart knowing that last year was my last Christmas with you. You will never see me become a teacher or be at my wedding. Even the mundane things like getting into photography or moving off campus are things I wish I could tell you about.
To the people who didn’t know you, you probably came off as that stereotypical cranky, stubborn, old man, but, to me, you were someone to look up to. Maybe it’s because everything I said seemed to be so meaningful and important to you regardless of how boring it was to everyone else. Or maybe it’s because of the things we saw that no one else seemed to notice.
I wish I had more time with you. You were taken from me far too soon. I’ve never been good at goodbyes. Not a day goes by that I don’t think of you. The selfish part of me wishes you could have stayed here, but no number of Christmases are worth the pain you were in.
I try to make you proud and I hope you are. I wish you could see the woman I am growing up to be. I am following my dreams and trying to live my life just like you would have wanted. And, just like you, I have embraced my stubbornness. I’m doing my best to move forward, and do things in your memory.
The morning you passed away, I asked you for a sign that you were happy and okay. It was supposed to rain a lot that day, but not once did I see a cloud in the sky. It’s hard to believe that was exactly 6 months ago. I know you’re in a better place and, for the most part, that’s comforting. I just wish that better place had phones and a post office.
I love you and miss you always,