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Dear Papaw

One Year

Today is hard because it's the beginning of the month that I lost you. We lost you. Nothing could ever describe or compare to the hurt it made me feel and continues to make me feel. I remember it SO vividly. I had just gotten home from traveling from South Carolina and had been home not even a week and met you on Sunday, Father's Day, at church. I remember your face and how tired you looked. You looked so different, just exhausted. I could see that change in you, and I just hugged you and stayed by you until we decided where to go to eat for lunch. I remember you suggested Cici's Pizza, but I didn't have enough money to pay for my siblings and had a coupon for Taco Villa, so I asked if we could go there instead—of course you said yes. I met you there and you got a taco salad, and we sat in a booth together across from each other. You were hounding me questions about Thomas and traveling and just life in general, and I loved it. I loved all of it. We had been there a good maybe two hours before we decided to go ahead and head home, and we walked outside and you came to my car you had never got the chance to see before then, and asked me more questions about it, haha. I told you you could take it for a drive sometime, and you just laughed and said, "Oooooh, alright" and you got in your car and I remember watching you drive off out of the parking lot while I got my siblings situated in the car. And I went home and met a friend for coffee that day.

That following day, Monday, would forever change my life. I was about to get in the shower when I got a call from my mom. She was crying and I knew obviously something bad had happened. And then she said it was papaw, and couldn't even get the words out and I immediately broke and started crying, cause I knew. She finally told me that he was in the hospital in critical condition after having a brain aneurysm. No other details but that she was on her way home from Dallas. I walked back into my bedroom and told my fiancée of the news and cried on him for a good while. A few hours had passed and I called my mom to see if there was any different news and she started crying again, telling me to ask my dad to tell me because she couldn't. I couldn't wait that long and just begged her to please tell me. She told me that he's practically brain dead and they could do a surgery, but he would practically be in a vegetable-like state for the remaining of his life. Or to let him pass.

Devastated. Heartbroken. Not able to bear the thought of him unable to move, talk, do anything on his own for the rest of his life. But also not able to bear the thought of him leaving...

We hung up and I cried some more on my sweet fiancée, who might I add, was so kind and endearing throughout the whole thing. My dad told my brother, and I sat my youngest sister down and told her everything, and we both started crying. Eventually we all meet at the hospital with my aunts and uncles and cousins, my dad, siblings, and my fiancée. I don't even remember what we were waiting for, if it was to see if he could be stabled for surgery, or if we even wanted to do surgery, or what. That whole part just feels like a blur now. I remember my two best friends came to the hospital and brought me a gift basket and hugged me and was there for me for hours. About 2 AM rolled around and we all decided to go home, when as we pulled out of the hospital, we got a call from my uncle to turn around and come back because my papaw's heart rate or something had gone up dangerously high, and to pretty much come back and say our goodbyes because this is it. I turned the car around to go park to get out and walk back in just to see him lying there lifeless one last time and tell him goodbye. How is this even okay? I felt like life had robbed him. Cheated him. It felt so unfair like he was used and just thrown away like garbage. We get there and Granny is already in the room with him, holding his hand, crying, telling him to please wake up. We all go in one or two at a time, and then it's my turn. My brother comes with me and we go in and he's laying there, looking like he's just sleeping, mouth open, peaceful. I remember the dark room lit by the computer screen and his yellow gown. I remember my heart was breaking more and more and more and more by the minute, I remember holding his hand and thinking how warm it is. I felt his pulse in his wrist. I squeezed his hand. I held on for what seemed like maybe 20 minutes or so had passed and I didn't even say a word. I just stood there, holding his hand looking him in the face, tears rolling down mine. Breaking. Shattering. My world got 10x darker in that moment. That moment where I knew it would be my last... my last time to hold your hand, which I did so much all of my life. I couldn't do any more. I'd walk over to my crying granny and tried to console her and rub her back and hold her and she would say, "He was just fine yesterday. Everything was fine yesterday." She would nudge him and say, "Okay, time to wake up buddy. Who's going to take care of me?" I just held her tighter.

My brother had tears in his eyes, and a few times I attempted to leave the room, but I just couldn't bring myself to. I tried 2 or 3 times. Eventually we decided okay, let's let others come in now. This is it. This is our last time to see you, papaw. Hold your hand. See your chest breathe in. Feel your pulse.

My brother told him he loved him, and that we would see him later. He didn't say goodbye. I remember that.

We walked out and my uncle was standing at the end of the hall, and I broke down on him. He broke down on me, and we just stood there hugging and crying. Still in utter disbelief. Then they went in there, and my sweet fiancee came and held me. We went home about 4 AM and I don't even know how I fell asleep that night.

I remember waking up that next day, and felt like somebody ripped out a huge part of my chest. I felt so bleak and barren. My mom texted me asking if I was awake, and I told her I wish I wasn't. She said she wished she wasn't either. I don't remember how that Tuesday went, or that Wednesday. I remember I would cry a lot, and couldn't laugh or smile at anything. It wasn't like I was trying to not laugh or smile, I just felt ZERO joy. All happiness and joy was nowhere near me. I was okay with that. I remember I had to go to my old sister's old room and hide under the covers away from people in the house and just cry. I remember my fiancee would try to make me laugh or feel better, but it didn't work. It wasn't him, it was me.

Then, the funeral came.

Something that I've noticed with how people act and treat you when you lose somebody is absolutely ridiculous. Like I completely get being at a loss for words when somebody you know loses somebody. A few people would try to make small talk with me or my siblings. I get that, but I don't care to talk about my life or your life right now in this moment. I don't care what's going on in your life right now. I don't care how your family is doing or your pets or your job. A lady from my uncle's church even asked my older sister if she would babysit for her... at my papaw's visitation. Really? You're really gonna ask that right now? Another man from the church came up to my brother and sister and asked, "Aw, ya'll gonna miss your papaw?" Oh wow, no shit! What kind of question is that? I've learned its best to just keep your mouth shut. Say you're sorry for your loss. Hug them. Move on.

I remember still being in disbelief that I was actually at my papaw's funeral and he was in the casket in front of me. My two uncles did the ceremony and they both broke down crying. My best friends were sitting behind me and would occasionally rub my shoulders. My sister was crying into my arm. I was holding her the whole time, crying too. My fiancée and brother were pallbearers. The ceremony ended and we all drove to Abernathy to the burial site and had another small service there, too. And then that was it. He was put into the ground and we all went home and tried to live our life again.

But I feel like my life was set on pause the moment I got that first call and I still haven't hit play yet. Sure I got married, I got a job and an apartment, but my heart is still broken. My mind and my spirit are broken over the thought of you being gone for almost a year, on the 19th of this month. I wanted you to be on the other side of me walking me down the aisle at my wedding. I wanted you to come over to my apartment and let me cook you a meal and bake you cookies and give you big red.

Now I go on with my life with constant reminders of you everywhere I go. I'm driving down the road, having a panic attack thinking of you. When I finally get myself calm, I turn to see at the stop light beside me the exact same white jeep you used to drive. I can't have dairy queen ice cream without thinking of you. Or big red. Or boiled peanuts. The list truly goes on and on and on.

It's taken me a year to write all of this down, but it's been replaying in my head ever since. I feel somewhat of a sense of relief, but I am at least 1 year closer to seeing you again, papaw.

"When they tell you I'm coming, please wait for me in front of the house that I'll live in and when Jesus walks me up to the door, I can finally see you again."