My Grandpa died tonight. They told him he was going to die two years ago. He's a Swede. His quiet but stubborn fight went on far longer than anyone thought it would. Two years ago Grandpa was diagnosed with cancer. Terminal cancer. They gave him six months to live. He quietly accepted his prognosis and fought what doctors said was would be a futile effort.
My grandpa was one of the greatest men I know. He was stoic. He was hard working. He loved his family. He was a first generation American. He was a soldier. He was brilliant. He was quiet. He was witty. He was tender. He was proud.
The only time I ever remember seeing my Grandpa cry was when my Grandma died last year. Seeing them together in her last days was the perfect ending to an amazing love story. She laid in ICU- intubated, in and out of consciousness (until they tried to cut off her wedding ring...then she became VERY conscious). He sat in his wheel chair holding her face in his weakened arthritic hands, telling her how much he loved her. It was a moment I'll always remember.
After my Grandma died, my brother and I found an album of letters my Grandpa had written her while he was serving in Korea. Three years worth of love letters. Some were funny. Some were kind of dirty (we may have caused some permanent damage for my dad). But mostly, they were beautiful. It's like the beginning of our legacy.
Now I know that I'll always cherish them.
It's surreal to feel loss away from my family. I've never done this alone before. It's a whole new element to walking through life's darker moments. As I get older and experience more loss I find myself doing the same things.
Looking for pictures.
Remembering his voice.
Laughing at my own inability to process it.
Being away is hard. Distance never feels as far as it does when closing it is the only thing you want.
I saw my Grandpa while I was home a couple of weeks ago. I knew things were bad because for the first time in my life he asked me to help him with something. He was in a ton of pain, but stoic as ever. And that's how he died. He waited until he was alone and then he quietly slipped away. Such a Swede.
I miss you Papa. Thanks for founding the Nelson family legacy. I hope we make you proud. I love you.