It’s been a year, almost to the minute, since papaw died, and to be honest, I never could have imagined it hurting more.
I have very few regrets in my life, but this is one. It had been about four years since I had last seen him, and at that point, I was still married to my now ex-wife, and we were all on a family vacation at Disney World in Orlando. Fast forward to a year and a few days ago, and I was trying to figure out how to get to North Carolina to see papaw one last time… the tumor was bad, and things were changing fast. I had to get there quickly, and the plan was to stay for as long as it took, to take care of him, to talk to him, just to spend time with him.
One thing I didn’t count on was how much the tumor would affect him. He didn’t recognize me from time to time, often referring to me as one of his brothers. When he did recognize me we had a few good conversations, including one that happened a few hours before he passed.
He had been in a lot of pain that evening, so much so that he was literally shaking, so my mother stepped out onto the front porch to call a hospice nurse to see how we should proceed, and while she was outside, papaw took my hands, looked me square in the eyes, and said “It’s time, ain’t it,” I said “Yes.” He asked “But that’s ok, ain’t it?” I replied “Yea, papaw, it is.” He sat back in his chair, let out a deep breath, and closed his eyes. Later that night, between three and four, he was gone.
The one person I thought might outlive cockroaches was gone, but I never had the chance to tell him something. Something that I wanted to tell him, but I never got a chance. I was only there with him for a day and a half before he died, and there were so many more important things that I wanted to tell him, that this one thing just never came up.
But I guess that in the end it really doesn’t matter, all that he needed to know was that I was happy.
Besides, I wasn’t there to make some grand announcement, I was there to help my mom take care of her father in his last days, and be there for both of them, doing whatever needed to be done, and in the end that’s what I did. I had dreamed for years that my mother and I would be there, and that he would, at the end, need my permission/grace/blessing to let go, and I was happy to give that to him. As hard as it was, I knew that he was ready, and that I had absolutely no right to selfishly ask him to stay, because I couldn’t let go.
I miss him dearly, him and nanny both, and would love to see them again… for him to see the girls, just one more time, but I can’t bring him back.