September 8, 2013: Grandpa Doc

Grandpa Doc holding Grant  ~ April 2000
My Grandpa Doc died in July of 2000.  Although it should have been of no surprise (he had been battling cancer for months); we always thought our ailing grandma would go first. But this was not the case. A man that always seemed so vibrant and proudly served the role of Grandma's primary caregiver was quickly gone.

I have a Godwink story that happened the night my grandpa died. It was a hot summer night in July, a Friday. Mom was back in Remsen, doing her best to help care for her sick parents. I was home in Omaha with my young boys. My oldest, Zach, was seven years old.

As Grandpa's death was sudden, there were no conversations on the status of Grandpa’s health that particular day. All was quiet as I thought all the boys were peacefully asleep.I was sitting up in my bed reading a book and enjoying the solitude.

Out of no where I heard a little voice coming from across the hall, “Mom, we need to say a Hail Mary.” 

I saw Zach sitting up in his bed in the dark of night. Although I thought it was odd, I thought the randomness was attributable to his Catholic schooling and young age. So I complied and together we said a Hail Mary. It warmed my heart as Zach seemed to be saying it with vigor. When we were done, Zach didn’t say another word. He simply laid back down and went to bed.

I continued to read my book. About ten minutes later my phone rang. It was my mom calling to tell me that my Grandpa Doc passed away.

Grandpa was laid to rest in Remsen. As anyone who has had buried a close family member knows, the experience is overwhelming and at times, exhausting. My mom certainly felt like this on our drive back to Omaha from Remsen. She was emotionally spent. As we rode together in the back seat of the car, Mom could barely keep her eyes open. But she was anxious to tell me the details behind of the unexpected death of my grandfather. It was our first chance to really talk about this fateful day.

The day had started as it had for weeks; with my grandpa in the hospital. My mom was taking her turn at his side while taking in the myriad of information from various rounding physicians. Grandpa had been receiving radiation treatment and it was taking a toll on his frail, elderly body.  Grandpa was actually feeling a bit better that day and asked for a mirror so he could shave.

With some deliberation,  mom found one. My grandpa took the mirror, looked at his image and in my mom's words "looked like he had seen a ghost". In a panic, he turned to my mom and said "I need to go home now."

Grandpa saw what everyone else had seen for months; a sick old man who was deteriorating and dying. It scared him as he knew his time on the earth was almost done. He wanted to go home...immediately. And he was adamant about this. No words were spoken, but Grandpa made it clear with his eyes. He didn't want to die in the hospital.

Mom knew what had to be done. She summonsed the nurses. After much triage between hospital staff, doctors, and hospice; an ambulance was brought to the hospital. Grandpa was given his dying wish.

Grandpa was transported for the 40 mile, uncomfortable trek from Sioux City to Remsen. There was worry that he wouldn't survive the trip. But his will held out and he made it home.

Family took turns at his bedside. Management of his pain meds allowed for him to be alert, yet comfortable. As Mom took her turn at Grandpa's side, she held his hand; reassuring him that it was okay for him to let go.

My very Catholic grandfather had always found peace in reciting the Hail Mary. His beloved mother's name was Mary. Knowing his love for his mother and wanting to share Grandpa's faith journey to outside his worldly life, mom started whispering the prayer in his ear.

"Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee..."

Grandpa squeezed Mom's hand. He was at peace. Then Mom whispered in his ear that it was okay for him to go. All would be okay. His mother, Mary, was waiting for him.

With one more squeeze to Mom's hand and a labored breath, Grandpa passed away.

After immediate family was contacted,  Mom called me with the news.

As mom rehashed these detailed final minutes of Grandpa's life with me, I was floored. The sudden request by Zach to recite the Hail Mary was not random, but had an express purpose.

I immediately shared with Mom the timing of Zach sitting up in his bed and the corresponding timelines with Grandpa's passing. There was no doubt in our minds that this was a Godwink. God wanted us to know with no hesitation that there was a Heaven, that my grandpa was there, and that he was blessed with being reunited with his mother.

I believe in Godwinks. God gives us many blessings and messages if we open our hearts to them. In this instance I also believe the message was that of a child living in the legacy of a grandparent. The testament of a good man is left with those he left on earth. I celebrate this blessing firsthand as I enjoy life surrounded by great family that are part of the Pick legacy. A true blessing.

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