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The Last Time I Saw You...

I walked in from work sweaty and tired, covered in paint, dirt, and little kid hand prints all over. Working at day camp over the summer was a great experience, but I was always drained by the three-year-olds in my group. Walking up the stairs of my house, I felt as if something was wrong. Usually, it’s loud between my two siblings, dogs, television, and the sounds of Mom cooking in the kitchen. Today, it was silent. My parents and siblings sat on the couches, looking up at me with glossy eyes.

“It happened?” I questioned, and my mom shook her head. She told me to sit next to her but I couldn’t. She tried to comfort me by telling me we knew it was going to happen and that this happens to everyone in life, but I refused to accept it. Two years ago, my Pop Pop was diagnosed with Stage 4 Lung and Bone Cancer. Chemo shrunk the tumors, and the patches helped with the pain. They worked until they didn’t. Eventually, the chemotherapy was doing more harm than the cancer was, and the pain was too much for the patch to take care of. We knew this would happen, but I convinced myself it wouldn’t. On August 1st, 2017, I lost my Pop Pop, my best friend, and biggest fan.

The wake felt like a dream and the burial felt like a movie. PopPop looked great in his casket, wearing his old blue t-shirt and jeans. It sounds weird to say he looked good, but he didn’t look sick anymore. He looked at peace. He always loved when I sang to him, so when I said my final goodbyes, I knelt beside him, held his hand, and sang "Someone Like You" by Adele, the song he always asked me to sing to him. His hand was cold, but it was still my Pop’s hand, and as I sang, I wished so hard that he would come back to me and squeeze my hand and call me his ‘Pop Pop’ and tell me he loves me one last time. I also was praying that he wouldn’t jump up and scare me at the same time.

Pop was buried the next day. We pulled up behind the hearse with the little American flags waving from the windows. My dad turned the car off, the constant clicking of the caution lights had finally stopped. Their sound was maddening, making the drive from the funeral home to the cemetery feel as if it was a century long. I still get sick when I hear them. My stomach turns and I feel a weight on my chest, reminding me of the drive to the cemetery. We got out of the car and walked to the small green tent they placed over the open grave, soldiers lined the walkway leading to it. I kept my composure as they took the casket out of the hearse, my Dad, Uncle George, cousins Michael and Ethan, and the soldiers carried him on their shoulders, the way he held us up on his when we were babies and placed him down gently above the hole in the ground. The honor guard marched to the field next to the grave, saluted, and shot off three rounds. Each bullet ripped through the air and shook me to the core. The bang of the shots frightened me each time, and I let out a sob with each bullet. There was a moment of silence after the final shot, which was smothered with the sound of Taps on the bugle. Following Taps, the soldiers folded up the American Flag on his casket and handed it to my Nanny. As each bullet was passed to her, it was explained that the three bullets stood for duty, honor, and country, and they thanked her for my Pop Pop’s sacrifice. As the final words were said, the rain came down harder than it did all day, as if my Pop was trying to wash away the pain. Flowers from the bouquets were handed out, I took a purple rose. With rose in hand, I got in the car and we drove away and that was it.

My Pop Pop was my best friend and biggest fan. I don’t know where I’d be without him. There was a time in my life where I didn’t have him there, and they were a few of the worst years I’ve been through. When he came back, it was like the clouds disappeared forever. My depression got better, I started singing and acting, I joined the band, and I did well in school. He was there to cheer me on the entire time. He only made it to one show before he got sick, but he said it was one of the happiest nights of his life. It was mine too. To have my Pop Pop sit in the audience was the greatest gift I could have ever gotten. If I ever picked up a lamp that had a genie in it, I wouldn’t need all three wishes, just one. I wish I could hug and sing to him one last time. It comforted him and me all at once.

When he passed, my friend told me it would hurt. Yes, it would hurt at the funeral and burial, but it would hurt more after. It would hurt a few weeks, months, years, down the line when something comes across your desk or you catch a glimpse of something that reminds you of him. I didn’t believe it at first, but now, a little more than a month after his passing, I find that I miss him more than ever. I go to pick up the phone to call him and tell him about college and then I remember that he’s not here anymore. I go to his house, and although my nanny is there, it feels empty. I miss seeing him walk out of his room, dancing with his cane. I miss calling him and having the same stupid conversation over and over again. I miss sitting on the deck with him and watching him play Bubble Witch and Candy Crush and having him get frustrated each time he lost. I miss the way he called me his Pop, and his hug, and the way he loved me. I miss my Pop Pop, and I just want to hug him.