My grandfather died a year ago yesterday. One of his favourite songs was “I Am a Happy Wanderer,” so even though you may think it’s a bit hokey, I’m playing it on my blog all day today, and maybe even tomorrow if I feel like it.
I remember it so clearly. I was nannying in Brussels, Belgium. My grandpa’s health had taken a turn for the worse. Back in January, the day before I moved to Belgium, I went to visit him–to say my goodbyes. I remember crying almost uncontrollably; he’d become so feeble, and there was a very real possibility that I’d never see him alive again.
I was just barely adjusting to my life as a nanny in Europe when my sister signed on to an iChat on March 6th of 2007. It was morning in Phoenix, but nighttime in Brussels.
“Grandpa’s doing really bad,” she typed. “Everyone in the family has canceled their spring break plans. Hospice has come in. He’s probably going to die soon. Even Grandma’s not sounding very optimistic.”
It was that last line that made my heart stop–if Grandma had lost hope, the situation was bleak.
“Can you come home,” she asked. “We need you.”
Whether or not my family really needed me remains to be seen. But I knew I would always regret not getting to see him again. I pulled some strings–many amazing strings. I broke the news to my employers: I had to go home, but if they still wanted me, I’d leave my belongings and come back soon. [They still wanted me.] I prayed so fervently to God–if I was meant to get home, to please give me the strength and the means to make it. I got a train ticket from Brussels to Paris–it should have cost $100.00 or so, but I got it for $15.00. I hopped on a standby flight from Paris to Phoenix–it was booked to capacity, and there were many other standbys. Some people got denied, but I was given the last seat on the plane.
After traveling for 24 solid hours, I got to Mesa on March 7th, and Grandpa died the next night. I spent all day (minus four hours) at his house. It was a time of reflection, and a time of unification. I don’t know if I’ve ever felt so close to my family–aunts, uncles, everyone–as I did those few days.
My relationship with Poor Kyle was in a strange place–I debated whether I should ask him to come down. The night my grandpa died, Kyle was not with me. His presence–which he volunteered readily and willingly–was sorely missed. I called him sobbing that night [selfish, I know] and he drove 20 hours straight to be with me. It was a turning point in our engagement, which might have never progressed otherwise.
Grandpa’s death also reminded my older sister how short life is. She’d planned on waiting a few more years to have children, but two months later she announced she was pregnant.
Grandpa inspired all of us, however differently we reflect that inspiration. He didn’t care for travel. He didn’t pine after fancy food or shiny cars. He valued hard, hard work and hard, hard workers. He valued his Savior, Jesus Christ. He valued his family–his sweet wife, his children and grand children and the few great-grands. He was mighty in body and spirit, but not known to the world beyond Arizona, Utah and Idaho…not really. He never won a Nobel Prize, a Grammy, or even a spot in the Guinness Book of World Records.