Thirty years ago today, my grandfather — Papa, passed away. I think about him especially between Christmas and January 19th because I remember the last December. He was at Emory Hospital in December 1980. I remember the drive; I-75 to I-20 — Exit Memorial Drive — North to Briarcliff and a right on the By Way. We wound our way the back roads of Emory Village. The beautiful homes were elegantly decorated for Christmas. Many homes had no curtains and you could see the fanciness inside. I carried my school homework and a Seventeen magazine. I was sixteen. I dreamed about living in the homes we passed.
It had been a difficult year. My grandfather had lung cancer and he was on oxygen at home. I remember sitting next to his bed listening to him sleep. He had trouble with fluid on his lungs and he was afraid of not waking up. That’s really why I was sitting there — instructed to wake him up if I thought his breathing was getting bad. Looking back now, I remember that as precious time spent.
He was hospitalized in December and the last time in January. Papa was fully aware on that day thirty years ago. He asked for the family to gather — he waited until everyone arrived. We gathered around in prayer and maybe sang a hymn. My sister held his hand — my grandmother on the other side and the nurse. A few moments after we had prayed, the nurse simply said, “He’s gone.” It was quiet and peaceful — a falling asleep.
I left the room and walked away — around a hall to find a place alone. I stared out a window and cried. I had hoped so much for Papa to receive a miracle of healing. I was in disbelief for awhile.
Today, I’m not sad or even melancholy. I’m only aware that I wished I knew him longer — long enough to realize how much alike we are. He still finds ways to let me know he’s still there.