September 24th, my least favorite day of the year. Today marks 5 years since we lost the strongest and most brilliant man I’ve ever known. My Grandpa Jack.
It wasn’t necessarily unexpected, he had been sick for many years; but it was completely unexpected all at the same time.
We weren’t ready. We didn’t have enough time.
On the last day that I saw him, before he passed away, he had been in the hospital for 11 days (13 total). I was the last one to see him that day.
He was in such bad shape, and could not respond, but I held his hand and said
“I love you so much. I’ll be back tomorrow, I promise. It will be ok.”
Then I kissed his forehead, and I left. Looking back at him, lying in bed in the dark room, as I did. I didn’t want to leave him, but visiting hours were over, and I really believed it would be ok. He was only 61, he had so much life left to live.
It was a 1.5 hour drive home, and as we exited the freeway, my check engine light came on.
I knew immediately I would have to break my promise and the first thing I said was
“I promised him I would be back tomorrow!”
Jairo told me it would be ok, he would understand. I called my Mom, she reassured me that he was ok and that it was ok, “Grandpa wouldn’t want you driving the car like that anyways.” She was right. So I stayed home.
I didn’t do much that day, or the next.
I got the call around noon on the 24th.
I picked up the phone and I could barely understand the words that my mom said.
“Grandpa is passing.”
“I love you. I gotta go”
We hung up. Everything stopped and all I could do was cry. I cried for almost 5 minutes and then I realized I had to get there somehow.
I looked at Jairo and said “I have to get to the hospital and I need you to drive.” I never said another word. He got me in the car and we were gone.
My check engine light was on but I knew that my Mom’s other car was at her house. If we could get my car there, I could get her car and make it to the hospital.
Total, this should have taken over 2 hours.
As we drove, I prayed.
“Please God. Please let me make it.”
Over and over and over again. Until we were outside the hospital. It was barely after 1PM.
It had only taken us one hour to get there.
Jairo pulled up to the front of the hospital and before the car fully stopped I was out the door and on my way. This is where things got strange for me.
As I walked….actually more like ran….into the hospital, I was no longer carrying my own body. Something greater was guiding me. People talk about out of body experiences, and this is the only way I can explain what happened that day.
I watched myself from above (in my pink tank top and jean shorts) running into the hospital. I took a left through the lobby to the front desk, checked in with the short haired woman in the black cardigan and ran to the elevator. Still praying my simple prayer. I exited the elevator, took a left and headed straight into the unit he was in, (which was a locked unit and I happened to catch the door as someone was leaving). I took a slight right around the central nurses station and was in his room.
He was surrounded my my Mom, My Step Dad, my Brother and one nurse who was monitoring his vitals.
I joined them and grabbed his left hand.
As I touched his hand, he took his last breath and the nurse pronounced time of death. I had just made it.
By the very last seconds.
My world fell apart, and I was no longer watching myself. I was now fully in the room, feeling the world crumble around me. I didn’t even get to say goodbye. My last words to him, now a broken promise. I had never broken a promise to my Grandpa, and we were ending on one. That was all I could think and have thought about for years.
His last words to me, said just days before will stick with me forever.
“I love you kid. I’m sorry you have to see me so sick.”
He was sorry?! How could he be sorry?!
He had been the greatest Grandpa, and he didn’t have to be. He chose to be our Grandpa, to stay with my Grandma through all the fighting and hard times. His love for us never faltered. It only grew stronger every year.
At his funneral I was angry and couldn’t find the streangth to speak; but I wish that I had stood in that church full of people and told them all about the wonderful man he was. I wish that I could go back and brag about how lucky I was to have him. Every.single.day.
The last 5 years have not been easy. Every event is a little less joyous, because he is not there. Every holiday is a little less merry, and every Veteran’s Day has a little more meaning.
But in these 5 years, looking back, I’ve learned to have uncommon gratitude for the events that took place that week. From fighting with a McDonald’s employee and a hospital nurse because they got his food orders wrong (how many times to do you have to say someone doesnt like green jello!?!), to getting dropped from beauty school because I was at the hospital and everything in between. They all served a purpose.
I couldn’t see it then, through the anger and the tears, but I have come to see God’s work in that day.
I was angry that I was not there, and that I didn’t get to say goodbye. With time I have come to rejoice in the fact that God saved me from the pain of seeing his final days, but gave me the ability to be there for his final moment. I may not understand God’s plan fully, but I know that it was his works that day that allowed me to make it to that hospital and to be there to hold his hand.
It didn’t stop there. God has kept working throughout these years, giving me different signs that I am never alone. It has taken almost 5 years, but through this loss my faith as grown.
One of the biggest signs that I have received is my baby girl, who is named after her Great Grandpa Jack…
But I will tell you her story some other time, because she deserves her own!
Today, I will leave you with my favorite cake ever made.
My Grandpa’s Chocolate cake.
Well, to be honest, it’s “Hershey’s Perfectly Chocolate Cake” (yes the one on the package of cocoa) topped with Betty Crocker frosting; but to us, it was always Grandpa’s Chocolate cake.
It wasn’t the recipe, it was him. I have tried to make this cake without him and I just haven’t been able to finish it. I buy the ingredients and they just sit there, unused, because it is too hard to make this without him next to me, like I always did.
But this year, I promised myself that I would make that cake! How can I let Jackalynn grow up without Grandpa’s Chocolate cake? I cant.
So, with his love and memory to guide me, (and through a few tears) I made that cake and shared it with my family. I plan to make it a tradition that Jackalynn can help me with. Hopefully it will be the bonding experience, and the opprotunity to tell her where she gets her name from, that I picture. (Fingers crossed!)
I did slightly change it, by making it a round-layered cake. He would have made it in a square pan, with a thick layer of frosting on top. He was a no fuss kind of guy. I have a tendency to make things pretty, but he liked that.
So; Grandpa, here is your (round) chocolate cake. I even sent a piece to Grandma, just for you.
Grandpa’s Chocolate Cake
- 2 cups sugar
- 1-3/4 cups flour
- 3/4 cup Hershey’s Cocoa
- 1-1/2 tsp baking powder
- 1-1/2 tsp baking soda
- 1 tsp salt
- 2 eggs
- 1 cup milk
- 1/2 cup vegetable order
- 3 tsp vanilla***
- 1 cup boiling water
- 1 jar Betty Crocker Chocolate Frosting
*** Grandpa’s Cake uses extra vanilla,
compared to the original recipe.
- Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees
- Prepare desired pan(s) by greasing and lining with parchment paper
- In a large bowl (I use a stand mixer) combine dry ingredients
- Add in eggs, milk, oil and vanilla. Mix until combined.
- Stir in boiling water (batter will be runny)
- Pour strait into prepared pan(s)
- Bake on center rack for 30-35 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean
- Remove from oven and cool before adding frosting (or it will melt)
- Frost and Serve with a big glass of milk!