Saturday, February 05, 2011

Rest in Peace

It was back in 1994 when my first grandfather passed away. I still remember that morning when my dad got the call. It was a Sunday morning and I had a friend over and we had slept in the living room. I don't remember what I exactly heard, but I do remember the feeling of 'oh no.' It wasn't a total shock as Grampa Rutter had been sick for awhile. He had prostate cancer and every time we had made the 2 hour drive down to visit them he wold look weaker and weaker. My dad's somewhat of a quiet person so he didn't really say much and I don't think he initially showed much emotion. I was 14 years old and I had never been to a funeral or ever remember somebody dying. I felt sad and a little scared.

The date for the funeral was set for the same day as my 8Th grade end of year field trip to Sand Beach in Acadia National Park. I told my parents I didn't want to go to the funeral, I told them I would not be missing this field trip. They respected my wishes, possibly knowing that I was really freaked out about going to my first funeral. I knew there would be a lot of crying and I knew I couldn't prepare myself enough for what I would see.

It was about 4 years later when I actually started feeling guilty about the choice I had made back then. It's funny how your whole outlook on life changes after graduating high school. Now I make sure I visit Grampa Rutter's grave at least once a year. I have a picture of him in my living room and every time someone shares a memory about him from the past I make sure to listen and keep the memory with me. I recently learned that one of his favorite drinks was Moxie, so every year on Grampa Rutter's birthday I drink a Moxie and think of him a lot.


The date was Monday, August 31, 2009. I was at work and in a great mood as I had just had a great weekend spent with family. It was about an hour before news time and the phone in the back edit bay was ringing. My husband knows how to get a hold of me on this number so I had suspicions that is was him. His worried voice stated that Grampy had just been taken to the hospital by ambulance.....

Fifteen minutes later I was sprinting out of work as fast as I could, tears were running down my face and prayers to God were being said out loud over and over and over again.

As I walked through the doors of the emergency room there was the same family I had just spent an amazing weekend with. My grandfather's son's, his oldest daughter, and his wife of just over 51 years all sitting in a room, holding their heads. "No, this isn't happening! This. Is. Not. Happening!" I cried out those words as I fell into my mother's arms. I didn't want it to be true. I kept remembering that the day before when we left Grampy's house he had been on the phone and I didn't get to say bye.

I didn't get to say Goodbye.

We spent the next week preparing for his funeral. Gathering pictures, choosing prayers to be read, what he would wear, flowers that would be placed and how we were going to get through it. I spent my first 8 years of life living in the same house as Grampy Goody. I had listened to his stories, learned from his wisdom. I would sing with him in the church choir, he use to play the piano for me, he made the best cheeseburgers, loved a good card game, and always smelled of old spice.

I had been to a couple of funerals by this time, a couple of great uncles and a cousin. None of them had been easy or enjoyable to go to, I'm sure they never will get easier, this one by far was going to be a tough one.

I figured by Friday when the wake was being held that I had gotten all my tears out and I would be able to hold it together for the service. We arrived a couple hours early as a family to hang pictures and prepare ourselves. I hung pictures. I stayed out of the room where Grampy was. I knew this is when it was going to sink in, this was going to make it real and I didn't want that. I was the oldest grandchild and my brother and cousin were waiting for me to go into the room before they did, so I gripped my hands together, took a deep breath and walked into the room and stood about 10 feet in front of that casket. 20 minutes later I think I was still in the same spot.

Walking into the funeral was surreal. I tried to not think about what was actually taking place and focus on my grandmother and keeping her strong, but as I walked into that same church that I had been in so many times before with Grampy I could hear his voice singing in the choir and I lost it.

Another part of this death that I had to figure out was how was I going to tell my4 year old son that he was never going to see 'Pop' again? And how much about death did I was to explain to him. A friend recommended a book and that's how I told him. I know he didn't completely understand, but how could I expect him to. I choose not to bring him or Grace to either service, but I did bring him to the cemetery where he witnessed taps, he touched the casket and said his goodbye and I had brought balloons for all the little ones to set free as a way to show them where he was going.

Grampy Goody's picture now sits along side of Grampa Rutter's in the living room. I still have days where I wish I could hear his voice again, smell his after shave or play a nice card game of rummy with him.


Darric's paternal grandfather passed away when he was real young. The funeral was over one thousand miles away and only his mother attended. Darric grew up knowing another man as Gramp White.

Like myself, Darric is a family guy and cherishes good family relationships. While at camp you could find Darric most times sitting beside ol' Gramp White as he ate his ice cream, shared old trucker stories and told great jokes. Darric would take Gramp along for company when traveling to pick up stuff for work. A lot of times when Darric would be working in the garage, Gramp would stop by for a visit and some coffee and share his 2 cents.

We had a lot of scares with Gramp White. A lot of rushes to the hospital, a lot of preparing ourselves for the last goodbye. We gave good hugs whenever we saw him, took lots of pictures and made lots of memories. But on the day after Christmas in 2009 it wasn't quite a shock, but it still broke our hearts.

We had taken Jordan into Gramps room a couple days before he passed so he knew he was very sick. We explained that he would be going to heaven soon. I don't think he fully understood, but someday I'm sure he will.

Darric seemed to take the death of Gramp White a lot better than I thought he would. He was still sad and I know he still misses him every day and thinks of him often, but unfortunately I think it was somewhat of a relief knowing that he wouldn't be suffering anymore.

It's unfortunate that it takes things like funerals to see family and friends that you rarely see. Gramp White was loved by so many, many people and the funeral home was packed wall to wall that day. Some were crying and a lot were laughing as they shared past memories of that great man. "That man loved his steak dinners." "Did he ever make it through a single movie without falling asleep." "Remember the time he tried to get the nurse to draw blood on one of his grandsons instead of him?"

It was a brisk winter day when we buried him in the cemetery and the wind was whipping hard as we all huddled close and said our goodbyes, they were brief and I'll never forget Gram White yelling out hers "I love you Elden, but it's too damn cold out here."


It was a quiet Tuesday night, the kids were asleep and I had just folded my last batch of laundry for the night and was just sitting down to watch my evening shows. Darric came rushing in from the garage and said Gram Hammond just called and that if we wanted to see Gramp again you better get down there fast. They lived down in Harrington and the closest hospital to them is Ellsworth.

Darric and his family spent the whole night and the next day at that hospital by his grandfather's side. We had a snowstorm during that time and he decided to come home to plow and gather some clothes and things. As he was on his way back down I got the call...

Darric's real good at keeping himself busy so that he doesn't have to think about the things that hurt, but anyone that knows Darric knows that he was taking this hard.

Grampy Francise was a hard working lobster fisherman and Darric spent lots of times with him on his boat growing up. If it wasn't for me he probably would be living down east following in his footsteps.

The services were closed casket services, but at the wake we were told we could open it after visitors had left. The 2 great grandsons Jordan and Logan wanted to see Gramps one last time. I stayed in the back and observed from there. I was nervous about Jordan seeing Gramp after death, I was worried about it scaring him. Him and Logan stood there for a long time looking in at him, touching him and asking lots of questions.

Logan-"He's dead now, that's sad."

Jordan'"Yeah, that's sad."

Logan-"It's really, really sad."


Logan-"Really, really, really sad."

That's one of the conversations that I was told went on between them.

Jordan slept through the funeral the following day, but after the service at the cemetery Darric, his father, Jordan and Logan stayed behind and watched as they lowered the casket into the ground.

A few people seemed concerned that we had let Jordan be that exposed to death, but I'm now glad we did. Growing up I wasn't exposed to death at all and when my grandfather died, I didn't want to go, I didn't understand what was exactly going to happen, what I was going to see, it was unknown to me. I think now that Jordan understands what happens and that it really isn't a scary thing, as he gets older it won't be quite as hard to deal with the people in his life eventually going away forever.

We talk about the great grandfather's often and having their pictures on display in our living room helps their memories live on in us and in our children.

1 comment:

Kristin said...

So I'll admit it doesn't take much to make me cry - I'm kind of a baby. You had me crying half way through this all the way to the end. I think you're absolutely right to expose them if their old enough to be curious about it. Sheltering kids from life doesn't do anyone any good at all. As much as we hate it, people are going to die and you've provided them with a great opportunity to learn that although it's sad, it's not the end of the world and we cope and move on and remember. Great writing and thanks for sharing it.