Have you ever lost someone who you were really close to? Someone who played such a huge role in your life that when they were gone you found it hard to go on without them?
That happened to me. Twice. It happened first on January 6th, 2015 when my Grandpa died. Then, it happened again on May 28th, 2017 when my Grandma died. I have never really been open to talking about losing them, but I feel like cathartic writing is important. I hope to inspire others to do the same.
An Unexpected Call
To begin, I have always been a Nana and Papa’s girl from the time I was born. My Nana was in the room at the time of my birth, and my Papa was there as soon as they would let him in. He was so excited about my birth that he skipped his morning coffee so he could be there! Trust me, that was a big deal for him. We were inseparable from that point on.
In January 2015, my mom was helping Papa in his house while my Nana was in the hospital. My Nana was scheduled for brain surgery to repair an aneurysm that was left from a stroke she had the previous year. I was at my house with the rest of my family—my dad and my three sisters—4 hours away.
On January 6th, we received a phone call in the wee hours of the morning saying that Papa had had a heart attack.
My mom was hysterical. Papa had died in my mom’s arms. She sat holding him until the first responders came. That was when she called us. We were 4 hours away, but we immediately left the house. The drive felt like a lifetime. In just a few hours, my Nana was going to have major brain surgery.
I was numb. I was only 11 years old, and I had never before experienced a loss of this scale. At the same time, though, I knew my mom was dying inside. She needed me and my sisters to be strong for her, so I did my best to mask my shock.
Days passed. Papa’s funeral was put on hold until Nana was strong enough to be released from the hospital; she wanted help plan it. It ended up taking a couple of weeks, but we were finally able to lay him to rest.
Now the hard part: figuring out how to get through life without him. It was a big difference, especially to my Nana who had to live alone.
When we visited, it was hard to accept that I no longer had a buddy to eat bowls full of ice cream every night and watch TV with. Papa always let me choose the movies. But, he was typically picky about what to watch.
Everything Wasn’t Fine
Fast forward to May 2017. At the beginning of the month, my Nana told my mom she wasn’t going to be around much longer. She said we needed to be prepared. This was something that none of us wanted to hear. My mom just told her she was wrong and that she still had years left.
Nana’s birthday is May 18th. We visited her that weekend to drop off one of our dogs and a cat we had been raising for her, as we were going on vacation. Nana said she was worried that something was going to happen to her while we were across the country. Of course, we told her she would be fine. She had just been to the doctor. Nothing was wrong.
The following week, we were at Hurricane, Utah, camping near Zion National Park. We had hiked there the day before and had plans to return the next day.
In the middle of the night, my sister and I were woken up by a scream we will never forget. It sounded like someone dying. It was my mom, who was in the tent with us. She was sitting up, letting out a gut-wrenching scream.
Our first thought was that there was something physically wrong with her. All she could do was ask for my dad. He had left the tent during the night and instead went to the truck to sleep, as the wind was keeping him awake. It wasn’t until we found him that we learned what was going on.
My Nana had had a heart attack. She had gone without oxygen to her brain for 40 minutes. She was on life support, but she wasn’t going to make it. We broke camp right then—in the dark, the wind whipping our faces.
We drove for 24 hours straight so we could see Nana one last time. She was hooked up to machine after machine. We needed to say goodbye so that my mom and aunt could give the word to have the machines unhooked.
My heart was shattered. Nana was my best friend. She was one I could always talk to, laugh with, and count on.
I sat there and watched as her heart stopped beating. My sisters sang a song to her as her chest slowly stopped rising and falling. The only sounds that could be heard were sobbing and sniffling. Mine blended in with everyone else’s.
It hurt to lose Papa, but I wasn’t there as the life left his body. Being there to the end with Nana almost killed me. It made it much more difficult to be strong for my mom. But again, I knew she needed us to be strong. As close to Nana and Papa as I was, I was closer to her.
Reflecting on the Days Past
It’s now been over four years since our family lost my Papa and over two since we lost my Nana. Looking at pictures or talking about them still brings tears to our eyes. To this day, I am unable to watch their memory discs. I do try to hold on to every single memory, though.
Someday, I will have children of my own who will need to know all about the two people who played a huge role in my life. Nana and Papa carried a part of me away when they died.
While talking about it is hard, it’s important to share the story of the people you have lost. It will help you remember them, hold onto them, and just help you become more comfortable about their passing. You will grow stronger and be able to write about them without crying. I hope somehow, someone, who reads this is inspired to share their story too.