I am writing this about a year after Pap died. I have spent periods of time looking back at Pap’s last several years of life and marveling at the time I had with him. You see, ever since I graduated from college, I have lived 6.5 hours from Pap.
Growing up, Grandma and Pap literally lived over the creek and through the woods and a wee bit more from us. It was just part of life to see them often. When I graduated college and moved to Kentucky for my first job, it took more effort and planning to see my grandparents.
After changing jobs in 2009, travels for work often took me to the Pittsburgh area starting in 2010. This gave me many opportunities to visit Pap. Between 2010 and March 2015, I traveled to western PA about two dozen times. That probably equated to at least 15 extra visits with my pap! What a blessing.
For the last couple years of Pap’s life, each time I said goodbye to him after a visit I would wonder if I would see him again. Peter and I spent Christmas 2014 in PA with my family and of course visits with Pap. He was noticeably frailer, a bit more unsteady, and had been having some health issues. I was grateful for a long trip to PA over Christmas and New Year and the family time that afforded.
Come March 2015, I found myself in PA for work. This was two weeks after buying a house in the country. I had made a plan to take Dad back to KY with me after the work trip. Dad was going to help with some work on the new house for which I was incredibly thankful.
While in PA, I recall visiting Pap and Eleanor. I remember seeing the joy my parent’s dog, Marley, brought to Pap’s face as he ran around the living room and played and was an energetic, entertaining puppy. I remember telling Pap about the new house and what all Dad and I planned to work on. I remember leaning over to kiss Pap goodbye and seeing a twinkle in his eye and a smile on his face as he told me how good it was to see me, to be a good girl, and to take care of myself.
That next week as Dad and I were working on the new house, Pap went into the hospital. All week we kept in close contact with my mom and aunts in Butler, getting updates on Pap. My mom was to drive down to KY at the end of the week and we were to spend Easter together. My parents returned home Easter day and went straight to see Pap. I spoke with Dad that night as he was showing Pap pictures of the new house. I heard Pap in the background sending a greeting. Dad said he was doing well and thought he would go home in a few days. I had no thoughts to driving home to PA. That was on Sunday night.
Monday had a completely different tune. Pap had declined, he was medicated to be made comfortable. My Aunt Chris was en route from Seattle to Pittsburgh to get home to see Pap. I spoke with Dad and contemplated heading home too and Dad wisely stated “What do you want your last memory of Pap to be?” If I felt I needed to see him again get in the car and drive up. If I was content with my last memory of Pap, just stay put. At that moment I cried tears of thankfulness to God as I remembered the twinkling eyes and little smile I had so recently seen on Pap’s face just over a week before.
Pap held on until Aunt Chris made it in to see him and he passed on Tuesday afternoon. I like to think it was about the time I was having lunch with my boss and coworker and telling them of the opportunity my recent trip to PA had given me to see my pap and how thankful I was for that opportunity.
The events in the first quarter of 2015 were wonderfully orchestrated. The buying of the a house, my work trip to PA, visiting with Pap, Dad’s work trip to KY, Pap going into the hospital, Mom joining us for Easter, Mom and Dad getting back to see Pap, Aunt Chris making it in town to see Pap. So many things going on and from my perspective they seemed to fit together perfectly.
When I was in the midst of this time, I didn’t realize the extent of God’s gift. Only that I had gotten to see Pap so close to his passing. But on further reflection, I see God’s gift started when I was hired at Donan. The work travel to western PA so often, the number of visits with Pap over the last five years of his life.
I know God gave me the gift of time with my pap and the opportunity for my last memory to be observing the joy Marley brought him, sharing my excitement about a new house, kissing a soft cheek goodbye, seeing twinkling eyes and a cute little smile, and hearing those familiar words of gratitude for the visit, request to take care of myself, and “be a good girl.”
Thank you God, for the gift of time.