I have been sitting here for days, trying to even think about where I wanted to begin with this entry. My grandfather passed away this week and I am directly in the middle of the storm emotionally and literally (as it is actually physically storming right now as I write this). My grandfather had been sick for a very long time and even though his passing was inevitable at some point, I wasn’t prepared. I have experienced grief before, but nothing comes close to the feelings that I have been feeling this week. I’ve been an emotional roller coaster (it probably doesn’t help that my husband was also in an accident that totaled his car this week). I wasn’t prepared to feel fine one minute and a wreck the next though. No one can prepare you for grief. Everyone has to experience it in their own unique way. I’m choosing to re-live happy memories that I shared with him to help me through this process though. Growing up, he and I were very close. He adoringly called me “Honey Bucket” for as long as I can even remember… and it wasn’t until a few years ago that I even knew that there was another meaning for it, so you can imagine my surprise… I don’t even know why he always called me that, but I still always embraced the nickname though, because it was special to just me and him. Everything he did when I was growing up was special. This week, I have been flooded with so many of those memories.
I can remember that most afternoons when I was growing up, he would take me to his favorite, local restaurant and we would have pie and coffee (he would always let me drink the little sealed cups of creamer that were left over). He would have the waitresses give me rolled up dollar bills with a paperclip on them (which is something I still do as an adult). Growing up, he would always have me help him count out change from a big glass jug… and even as an adult, I have one that he gave me that I keep my change in. He had a way of making $2 bills seems special, so every time I see one, I always think of him. He also had a habit of eating ginger snaps and black coffee. As I got older, I started to enjoy the same thing. He also had this amazing, beautiful, old record player that he would play “The Good The Bad & The Ugly” on and he would dance around his pool table in his “game room” while he played (and tried to teach me how to play) pool. He would always tell me that I was his “favorite granddaughter” (even though I was his ONLY granddaughter) and when I would spend the night at my grandparents’ house and would get dressed for bedtime after my bath, I would ask him if I smelled good and he would always tell me I smelled like roses (later in life, I figured out that he actually couldn’t smell due to a car accident that he had when he was younger). After I met my husband and we were dating and starting to get serious, I had told him that he had to ask my parents permission as well as my grandfather’s permission to marry me… and he did… and of course, it was fine. Then, when we were wedding planning, I wanted my grandfather to walk me down the aisle, but his health was starting to decline and we weren’t sure if he would be able to do it by himself. 2 days after my grandparents’ 50th wedding anniversary though, my grandparents walked me down the aisle together. It made our special day that much more special. It was a blessing that he was with us for nearly 8 more years. My grandfather was always a worrier (I definitely inherited that from him), and that didn’t stop, even after I was married… but I know that my grandfather always had my best interest at heart and that he always wanted to be sure that I was careful in anything that I did. He never failed to always let me know that he loved me.
To say that this week has been hard would be an understatement. Before his visitation, I went with my grandmother and mom to pick out his casket and help (if I could) with the planning. On the way there, I was praying for a sign that he was okay and that he was at peace. I also had a feeling that I would see a Redbird/Cardinal (which my great-grandmother on my grandmother’s side always loved). We were driving to the funeral home and I looked up, and for a split second, I saw a cross in the clouds in the sky. It didn’t even stay there long enough for me to get a picture or for Wes to see it too, but I know that was his way of letting me know that he is okay. Then, the night of the visitation, after we had finished up the viewing (he looked so handsome and the casket was perfect… he even looked like he had never been sick), we were sitting in a small room eating with my immediate family and my in-laws and I looked up at the wall and directly in front of me was a painting with a Redbird in it. I had just finished telling my stepfather that I felt like I was going to see one before these couple of days were up. I hadn’t even been in that room before to have ANY idea that there would be a painting in there with a Redbird on it. I looked around and there were several other paintings with birds on them, but the only one that had a Redbird on it was that one in front of me. We all just sort of smiled and acknowledged that it was my sign that my great-grandmother was there with him too. After the visitation, we went to my grandmother’s house. I had bought some gingersnaps and my grandmother made some black coffee for me and we began going through old pictures filled with a million memories. I had also mentioned to my grandmother that I had always wanted that record player of his. Without hesitation, she told me that I could have it. We started going through the records and I told her that as long as I got the one with “The Good, The Bad & The Ugly” on it that I was happy (I have vivid memories of him playing that song on the record player). As we were sorting through these records, I felt/saw something go by at the top of the stairs. My mom thought I was crazy… I don’t think that it was a coincidence that shortly after we had gone through the records, and as we were going through a small closet of his, we came across a practically untouched poem that he had written for her when she was just 8 days old that she had never seen before that night. I think we all went to sleep feeling more at peace than we had in a very long time.
The funeral was hard to get through, but it was beautiful. My grandfather had retired from the Air Force after 20+ years and also retired from the Police Force after 20+ years as well. We were driving to the cemetery and people were pulling over to pay their respect, but there were also several police officers at the beginning of the funeral procession that were out of their police cars saluting or with hands on their hearts as we drove by. Then, we saw several along the way that would speed up past us and get back out and would put their hands on their hearts. Another man pulled over and got out of his car to pay his respects. It was beautiful. Then, we got to the cemetery and we had a military service with a flag draped over his casket and there was an Air Force Honor Guard that did a 21-gun salute, played Taps and presented my grandmother with the flag. I think my grandfather would have been pleased. It was a beautiful and perfect send-off that I think he would have appreciated. He was buried next to my great-grandmother (the one that sent the Redbird) and we said our final goodbyes and we had the wake. After the funeral, we went home and I felt grief again. It really started to sink in that it was the last time I would see him in person. I had so many feelings and thoughts (and I still do) that I began to work through. It was hard. The next day, I went back to my grandmother’s to pick up a plant that was given to our family at the visitation and my grandmother asked if I wanted the speakers that went with the record player. It felt wrong to be taking his things (especially so soon), but they really were meant to go with that record player and they mean a lot to me. They’re beautiful and also hold the same memories as the record player, so I took them home with me. It was so hard to leave my grandmother there alone though. I didn’t know what to do or say and I felt selfish for taking his items (even though they mean so much to me). I could tell that their dog could sense something was different too and I started getting sad again. When I got home, we got the record player and speakers up in my office (I had a perfect spot for them). I came back downstairs and I started rambling off these random feelings that I was having to my very patient husband… and he just listened… It was exactly what I needed. I don’t know what I’ll need tomorrow or the next day, but last night, I just needed him to listen.
There isn’t a time frame on grief. There isn’t a specific way to grieve. It’s okay to let that grief wash over you and then pick yourself off your office floor and carry on. I am choosing to honor him by having his beautiful record player and speakers proudly displayed in my already music-themed office. It’s perfect. They’re meant to be there, so that they can represent him and all of those amazing moments we had together when I was growing up. They will help him live on with me forever… not only on the hard days, but also on the good days as well. I hope he will visit me again soon, but I have peace knowing that he is no longer in pain.
You helped shape me into a sentimental, grateful and careful person. You always tried to help me keep a good head on my shoulders and I know that everything you ever did for me was out of love. Thank you for being the type of man that I wished my husband had known more about before you passed. When I need to hear your voice, I know I can go listen to the voicemails I had saved over the last couple of years, but they will never replace you or the memories we had together. I wish I had gone to visit you more often, but I hope you know that I thought of you all the time and that the record player and speakers mean more to me than I can even possibly express, because they remind me of you. I love you so much!
Your Honey Bucket
Photos from our wedding rehearsal and wedding day (They were also celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary that weekend as well):
It really was a beautiful memorial service and tribute to him:
We were going through old pictures, eating ginger snaps and drinking black coffee and going through his records and then found this letter:
That beautiful, old record player and gorgeous speakers… I’m so happy I have the perfect place for them:
Charles Stanley Piece
October 4, 1932-June 13, 2017
As I was finishing this blog up, I was literally just now trying to figure out how to end it and Wes says “There’s a Redbird outside the windown!”
How *meant to be* is that? Thank you for that, Gran Gran!