If you would take a moment from your heavenly pursuits, lower your eyes close to my words. I would very much like to share my heart.
Papa, I will always remember our first meeting (or rather, my first memory of you). It must have been when I was 3 or 4. There in the front yard I was only cognizant of the rusted chain spokes from a bike. Could I pick it up?
I was victorious! I was strong! I was losing all feeling in my arms as the spokes plummeted toward the ground. And there was the bloom of red as five inches of the skin on my leg broke free.
Suddenly, you were there. Bursting from the house at the sound of your granddaughter’s wailing. And then, quite naturally, I was in your arms. My tiny body held secure.
I don’t remember what you said or much of the night, but I will always remember your strength.
Granny, my first memory of you occurred around the same age.
Your house, which later became a dear standard of my childhood, was new to my young eyes. Mom yelled for us children to knock first, but in the excitement of seeing you and papa, her words fell lightly.
Nerves jangled through my tiny body as my brothers and I reached the inner garage door. It opened. We flew inside and there you were. You were so tall back then. Your arms opened and my body found a spot nestled between your chest, heart and stomach.
Both of my memories of you two begin with a hug.
Papa, I remember the basketball games, fishing, watching you paint and hearing your sweet, sweet voice take on a Swedish lilt. To me you were my Papa, a birthright I did nothing to inherit.
Since you have passed, I have heard many people express their respect, love and appreciation for you. You were a friend, a pastor, a confidant, a mentor, a father and a brother. You, in a word, were spectacular (something I know your humble self would brush off).
And Gran, you were exquisite in your patience, your love, your care, your peace and your feisty personality. I remember growing taller and taller than you, but never seeing you as small. How could I? Your spirit was larger than life, which oddly enough, came across as quiet in all of its power.
I remember the nights you both passed away, and the long hours sitting in the hospital.
Papa, you were gone before I arrived. It was family dinner night. You and Gran were absent so I wanted on the back deck. When Devlin called, I stood and felt a rip in my pants.
I think, Papa, you would find it funny your granddaughter walked around with a hole in the seat of her jeans at the hospital. Although, if you are going to walk around anywhere with a hole in your pants, I reckon the hospital is as good a place as any.
I kissed your cool brow and whispered in your ear, although I knew you were no longer there.
Gran promised there would be no major changes for a year. Instead, she visited friends and family across the United States. A week and a year after you passed away, Papa, it was Gran’s turn to follow.
Gran, my last memory of you occurred in a hospital. My dad and I stood in the back of the tiny emergency room. Just for a moment, it seemed you would be all right. That was before the doctor’s frantic look, my mother’s tears and my father’s face lined with pain.
That was before I kissed your cool forehead, and whispered in your ear.
My memories began with a hug and ended in two hospital visits. A pretty lousy ending, if you ask me.
And then, last night, I screwed up my courage, fortitude and hopes. I opened an email you sent me when I was in high school and struggling with the pain of insecurities in a place dominated by cliques.
Your words were kind, generous, loving and empathetic. There were no chastises to try harder or gruff advice. Instead, you each took a turn at soothing my pain. Gran, you suggested I look outside of myself. Papa, you lifted my spirits and shared your insecurities.
You called me incredible. You, my beautiful, wonderfully talented Papa called me incredible. Well, your blood does run through my veins.
Truth be told, I don’t remember reading this email — probably because I was an idiot. And yet, I find myself infinitely grateful for my idiotic ways because the email was a new piece of the both of you.
And you know what?
It felt like a hug.