Just a hat.
But seeing it- wearing it- brought back a flood of memories.
His mother was diagnosed with cancer. Our boy was gone. His father diagnosed with cancer.
Given a year.
He didn't quite make it that long.
My father-in-law had a personality larger than life and when I close my eyes I can still picture him- see his contagious smile- hear his boisterous laugh.
I miss him.
That last year of his life was so very hard.
I watched as he began to fade. A man that was so full of life was losing his.
A week before he left, we were all there. We sat in a crowded room and watched and prayed. Prayed that by some miracle of God, things would get better and that once again he would be sent home. Home to heal. Home to live.
But as time drew on, we knew it was the end and the nurse told us it could be any time. That some leave quickly. Others stay around for something... someone...
He didn't talk much that last week in the hospital. His breathing was labored, but he was comfortable. The medicine gave him sweet relief and for that we were grateful. I remember we brought Jonasen- weeks shy of his first birthday. He noticed him. He noticed the presence of our little boy. The one who had visited him so much in that year. Had he heard him crawling? He said something about our Joey. And though it was August, he asked if it was December.
Did the others realize like we did? December. December was when she would be born, another grandchild. The one that was growing inside of me. We were months from December, and we knew that he wouldn't make it to the first snow. My husband and I looked at one another.
I watched him closely in that time. My husband. Watched him. He had lost the son he named and now he was losing his mentor. His father. He was fragile. His faith was fragile. In the span of a year he had lost so much. I watched him and I had no words. I just took his hand. I took his hand and was still. So much. That one year aged him. Aged us. Though only in our late twenties, it felt as if we had lived a lifetime.
We stayed as my father-in-law's speech left him.
We waited. We prayed.
It was at that time I also thought of Andrew. -Though he was never really far from my mind- I missed my Andrew. A boy that would be turning one just that next month. Instead he'd be celebrating his first birthday in the heavens. Without me. I thought of my Andrew and wondered about his eyes. What color were they? I looked at my father-in-law and knew that he would learn those answers about our son. His grandson. Soon.
The nurse told us it could be minutes, days or weeks. She encouraged the family to go home, shower, leave the cold sterile room that had become the place that held their days and nights. A room that they wanted to leave, but not without him.
And so the family took turns. But someone was always at his bedside.
And that's what I remember.
Just the two of us.
My husband and I.
We sat at his bedside.
One on each side and he spoke,
"Dad. It's o.k. you can go home now. I heard you mention December. And I think I know why. But dad, it's o.k. This baby will be born and you can watch. You can watch from the heavens. Right now you need to go home. There is another grandchild that needs you. He's waiting for you. We're going to take care of mom. I promise you. You need not worry. Go home. Hold my son. Tell him that we love him. That we miss him. That one day we'll see you both again."
I looked at my husband with tears running down our faces. And though his faith was fragile. Though he was so very, very angry, and hurt, and shattered. I knew that still he still believed. Because that was all he had left.
It wasn't long after my husband spoke those words, that his father's breathing changed and while that could have meant nothing, it could also have meant something. And so my husband called his mom. She rushed to the side of her beloved. Touched his arm and whispered, "I'm here."
It was with his love at his side, knowing that she would survive, that he took his final breath. They sat there for some time. And I felt I should go. That I had witnessed something so tender. So sweet. That I should not have been there. It was so peaceful. So very, very peaceful. I left the room and walked down the hall. I sat on a bench and I cried. I looked to the heavens and said, "Grandpa's home. You are going to love him!"
He was home. Home with his grandson.
I am blessed for having known him for the time that I did. I wish I had had longer with him- as did everyone who knew him. But I also know it was time. A time for suffering to end. A time for a new beginning. And I know he held our son. He told him.
He watched that December, as his granddaughter was born. He smiled with Andrew from the heavens. He knew it would be alright. And it was.
An odd thing. Just a hat. But I remember and think of him still.
Thank you for that moment. Yet another moment in this journey that lets me know that there is a heaven. And that he's there.