The Gift of Death

Around two o’clock in the morning I was awoken by a call from my grandmother that changed everything. I knew it was coming, my grandfather had been on hospice for a week, but nothing could’ve prepared me for the deep grief that instantly took my mind, body, heart, and soul hostage. I was surprised to see my husband wasn’t yet home from his 3PM-11PM shift. By any means, he was very late. So I called his cell to tell him about my grandfather, desperate for comfort. He never answered.

Hours passed and soon 4AM rolled around and he strolled in listening to his iTunes on his phone. Shocked to see me waiting for him in the kitchen, he instinctively panicked and muttered, “my phone died.” Laughing at the ridiculousness of his excuse, (he was listening to his iTunes on his phone), I looked at him and said, “My grandfather is gone, but you’re dead to me.” I packed his bags the next morning and filed for a divorce just a week later.

I’d like to say the divorce was mutual and we both moved on amicably. Instead, that Summer was awful; filled with court dates, meetings with lawyers, and all too frequent visits to the local police station to report his constant violations of the protective order I was forced to get when he tapped my cell phone, refused to stop stalking me, and threatened to take our son promising me I would, “never get him back.”

Soon the blooming flowers of Summer turned to the vibrant foliage of New England Fall, and things started to calm down. While we never heard from him after that Summer and he never supported our son, he still refused to sign off on the divorce. For a couple that had no real assets to divide, he managed to drag our divorce proceedings out for two years. In the end, I got everything I asked for, which was the only thing I cared about; sole physical and sole legal custody of our son, ensuring our little boy would always be safe, well-loved, and well cared for.

I like to think that my grandfather left me a gift when he died. For in his death, I found the strength to do what I should have done years prior. Truth be told, my marriage was nothing short of a façade; it looked good on the outside, but I was constantly waiting for the “other shoe to drop” and doing damage control for him. I made a choice early on to turn a blind eye to his indiscretions, to his addictive tendencies, and to his job instabilities, for I was a stay-at-home-mom whom was so madly in love with my son that I couldn’t bear the thought of leaving him in the care of somebody else. The night of my grandfather’s death changed all of that, though. I knew I couldn’t live with a man who I could never trust nor respect, (and who didn’t respect me), for even one more day. Worse, I couldn’t allow our son to see his father through my eyes. My hope was that someday he would develop his own opinions of his father, completely independent of mine.

My gift didn’t end there. It’s as if my grandfather somehow gifted me with the strength he had lived with for his 70+ years. Both a multiple stroke and quadruple bypass survivor, I was finding new sources of strength inside of myself daily. Surely it wasn’t coincidence.

My grandfather, Papa, and I had a beautiful relationship. I knew, beyond a shadow of a doubt, just how loved I was by Papa, and I know he knew how very much I loved him. I believe he knew I was far stronger than I was allowing myself to be. He knew this because of the time we spent together when I was a little girl. Papa suffered his first stroke when I was just four years old and to this day I can vividly remember helping him put his new cast on, and making sure his shoe went on over it and that he was okay and comfortable. At four, I took care of him, (to the best of my four-year-old ability), because I loved him and he loved me. I believe my grandfather saw me become a shell of the girl he knew during my marriage, and so as not to hurt me, kept quiet. In his death though, he was able to send me love, hope, peace, and strength.

Papa sent so much strength that within a year of his Journey to Heaven I was enrolled in Graduate School, living independently with Jack, working full-time, and had purchased a brand new car. I had found myself; the girl Papa knew me to be all along, and I liked her!

4 thoughts on “The Gift of Death

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