When my dad died in 2000, it came as a total shock to us. He seemed totally fine and then he was gone. He had major health problems before that, quadruple bypass surgery at 48, and double bypass again at 58. They say it lasts about ten years, which was true in his case. He was 60 when he passed.
One of the hardest things was to watch how it affected the kids. My kids. His grandkids. It was so sad. So much time taken away. Snatched away in an instant. He loved spending time with them. They were almost 14, 12, 9 and 10 months. I struggled with the fact that Tayler would never get to know him. She would never get to know how funny he was. She would never get to see his soft side. He had one. Few people got to see that.
As I sit here and rewind the day of the funeral, my saddest memory is watching Spencer at the funeral. At that time he was 12. Such a vulnerable age. Such a fork-in-the-road age. We contemplated whether we should take them. But at the same time how can you shield them from death? How can you shield them from life? It wouldn’t be fair to do that to them. It wouldn’t be fair to not let them say goodbye. The whole situation wasn’t fair.
The rest of the funeral is kind of fuzzy. I remember walking into the church and seeing the casket. I couldn’t hold it together. I could not look at it. I couldn’t even really go near it. I watched people going to him. I watched them pay their respects. We were in a line just waiting to go sit down. So many people came up to us giving their condolences. So many people who knew him. That part I remember.
Once we sat down and the funeral started, I kind of got tunnel vision with Spencer. The only song I remember played was Amazing Grace. Standard funeral song, right? And why not, it’s a great song.
We were in one of the front pews, because that’s where family always is seated. I was trying to just be. I was trying to just get through it. I was trying to stay strong for the kids. I glanced over at Spencer and he was scooted way against the edge of the pew. He had both hands on top of the pew and was turned away from me. He had his head on his hands. He was crying. My heart was wrecked in that split second. I tried to comfort him. He pulled away from me. He was mad and sad at the same time. He was 12. The vulnerable age. The fork-in-the-road age.
He learned about death that day. He learned about losing a loved one. He learned about losing his grandpa. I can still see him, sitting there, so upset. It was so hard for me to watch. I questioned every decision we had made about taking them. But again, how could we deny that. I think I would have felt worse if they had not gone. I think the older they got, they would have regretted it if they had not gone. I was so focused on him, I can’t even remember the other kids. I feel bad I can’t remember. We all went through it, yet I can only remember Spencer’s reaction.
Kids are so vulnerable. Did we scar him. Did we scar them. Should he have learned about life and death in that moment? Should he have learned about life and death so young? So many questions, which at this point are irrelevant. At that point, they meant everything.
I realized we couldn’t shield them from life. We couldn’t shield them. We just couldn’t. Sometimes life is hard. Sometimes life sucks. But you know what, for sure life is fragile–live accordingly.
(in the pic, Spencer is on the left, the other two are my nephews, Dustin and Garrett)