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In The Meantime

9 April 2013

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Dear Hananiah,

You’re one week away from being four months old as I type this.

And we’re about one week past saying goodbye to your Pawpaw.

Someday, when you’re older, I will explain the mechanics of a stroke, but for now it is enough to know that Pawpaw got really sick a couple of weeks ago. Nana went to the hospital with him, and the doctors worked really hard to make him all better, but he didn’t get better.

Someday we’ll talk about Bell’s Palsy and how the early signs of a stroke can easily be misdiagnosed. We’ll make sure you know the difference – that trouble swallowing is a sure sign of a stroke and not Bell’s Palsy, in case, Heaven forbid, you ever need that information. But for now we will choose to continue believing that it wouldn’t have made a difference anyway … because it probably wouldn’t have made a difference anyway.

Someday you’ll know why we treasure the few pictures we have of you, in your first three months, with this man you don’t remember – someday when you have children, or grandchildren, of your own and your heart finally understands this kind of love. But in the meantime, we will point to that face and repeat, “Pawpaw,” over and over and over again.

In the meantime, we will tell you about how he slept on the floor of the hospital waiting room the night you were born. We’ll tell you about how he took at least one picture almost every time he saw you, and about how he could always get you to smile. We’ll tell you about the evening, one week before Mother’s Day, when we told Nana and Pawpaw that you were growing in Mommy’s tummy, and about how Pawpaw – tough guy that he was – got teary-eyed at the news of you while Nana bounced up and down in their kitchen.

We will always regret that you didn’t get to know him, but we will always rejoice that he got the brief opportunity to meet you.

Someday Nana will show you old pictures, and (Great-) Uncle Marty will tell you old stories. Someday we’ll laugh, and alternately sigh, at aging memories, and you’ll know the stories so well that you’ll tell your friends about the kind of man your Pawpaw was and you’ll be proud of the family you come from – even though you only remember the sound of his voice from short video clips.

In the meantime, here are the basics:

Your Pawpaw was a strong man. He survived things that others have not, and even this thing that he eventually did not survive, he fought harder than most people. Even the doctors were amazed. He worked hard, worked with his hands, longer than most men these days. In his 50’s, he was stronger and faster than boys half his age. And he loved sports; he played and coached more sports and teams than I can recall.

Pawpaw was secretly an artist too, but, unlike a lot of artists, was too unsure of himself to have ever admitted it. He liked photography, and he built gardens to rival Eden.

He is a man who loves deeply. He loves your Nana in ways that are rare in your days. He didn’t sleep well when she was away. He called her if he was home, or waiting on a job, during the afternoon. He was the very best daddy he knew how to be for me and Uncle Zack, and while I can’t say we never disagreed, I can say I never doubted his love.

Finally, toward the end of his time with us, Pawpaw was a wonderfully broken, humble man of faith. He was not a perfect man, and someday we will share the lessons we all learned from and through his mistakes, but in the meantime it is enough to know that he learned from his mistakes too and that he trusted in God for forgiveness.

Someday, when you’re older, it will be your turn to wrestle with your faith and God’s Word, with ideas like healing and miracles and sovereignty, and I will probably not have answers for you.

I will probably never be able to explain why, just weeks after his 56th birthday, we had to say goodbye to a man as healthy and as loved as your Pawpaw. I will probably never be able to explain why, on Resurrection Sunday, we didn’t see the the resurrection so many people were praying and believing for. Or why, at three and a half months old, you had to cry in the arms of a cousin you’d just met, in a hospital lobby, while the rest of us sat by Pawpaw’s bed six stories up and watched him take his last breaths.

I will probably never be able to tell you why he isn’t here to teach you how to throw a football, or how to pin a guy on a wrestling mat, or fix a lawn mower, or change a bicycle tire, or cut up a grapefruit. I may never understand why he isn’t here to tell you his own crazy, childhood stories, or to pull you into one of his strong hugs.

I won’t be able to answer the big questions, but someday I will explain why the flowers in the yard are so important, and why Nana never gets a cherry on her ice cream sundaes. Someday I will tell you why we always want you to be number three on your sports teams, and why Mommy smears her Coco Wheats up the side of her bowl instead of just blowing on it by the spoonful, and why we sometimes seem a little sad during really happy times.

But in the meantime, just know that you have a really great Pawpaw, even though he isn’t here with us right now. Know that he loves you very much, and that if we can stay as faithful as he did, we will see him again very soon.

All my love,

Mommy

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. Scott Pitner permalink
    10 April 2013 5:42 PM

    Fantastic message. It is a terrible event, but it is marvelous how you capture the memories. Always remember the good times. I am grateful that Hananiah was able to meet his Pawpaw even if he will never have the physical memories. The pictures will be remembered constantly.
    You will always have questions come up that only he would know the answer, but somehow you make it through. There’s a gap that will never be fully filled again. Waves of memories crop up at the most random times. Praise God we have a refuge in Jesus as He is always enough. Losing a Dad well before it is his time is painful. There is no escaping that. If you can celebrate his memory and celebrate where he is now, you can make the most of a difficult and saddening event like this.

    • Lex permalink
      10 April 2013 5:45 PM

      Thanks so much, Scott. I’ve thought of your dad and your family more than once over the past week. It’s nice to hear about the light at the end of the tunnel from someone who has actually walked it.

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