Always have a little black dress on standby for that call. It's advice I learned at an early age. Too early if I'm being honest. But as I stare absentmindedly loading my suitcase with half of my closet because thinking of what to pack is too hard in this moment I am grateful for these wise words my momma has instilled in me as I pack 3 outfits that are appropriate for a funeral.
A funeral. Is it really so? This man who has been larger than life for as long as I can remember. How many times has he beat death before? How many times have we gotten this phone call? Maybe this time will turn out like those times before, with us all going home after another close call?
Anger is the first emotion that washes over me. Anger because of the distance that has come between us the last years. I try to think back to put my finger on where the distance actually started but there is no point.
Gramps was a stubborn old man as is demonstrated in the number of times he has beaten death itself. How many times had she come to knock on his door and he told her "Nope, not yet. My family is not ready." And I know that's what it was. He held on so long for us. If it were up to him he would have given up this frail existence long ago. But he stayed. For us. Until we were ready.
Over the next 32 hours we all have our time to sit with him and say our goodbyes. The tough old cookie makes sure of that too. He keeps making these movements that feel like responses to our words even though the Drs. say there is no brain activity. So my sister asks if we can have someone stay with him continuously over the 24 hour waiting period to run the required tests to just make sure we didn't miss anything, you never know with him.
So we each get our time, and we find peace in knowing he is not alone with the beeping machines for his remaining time here. And as I sit with him for my 2 hours I unburden my heart. I tell him I am sorry for the distance that has come between us. I'm sorry for all of the things left unsaid. But that in the time since I got that first phone call I have come to a realization. I was never really mad at him. I was angry at the stubborn old man that lives in me that I saw reflected in him through the gift of our relationship.
That toughness that runs blood deep in our family that his mother passed down to him, through my mother, and into me. The walls that keep everyone out because we can do 98.9% of everything ourselves. And if we ask anyone for help then we are admitting weakness, or putting someone else out, or one of the hundreds of other reasons we shut the world out when all this heart wants to do is stay open and scream "I need help. I can't do it all alone. I was made for love and community, not to carry this weight alone."
I cry as I tell him I am sorry for the distance, but one thing this toughness has accomplished is that we are all ready. That he can let go now. That he has walked his path well and we are ready to take the load from here.
I talk about all of the fond memories I have with him that I will be able to carry in my heart. Like when he would pick me up from school to go on adventures finding beaver dams, and arrow heads, and fresh springs that we would fill our water jugs up deep in the woods he grew up around. How he taught me the love of the land like his mother taught him. I told him I would miss his call every birthday with my happy birthday song. And I promised to pass on the legacy of love he taught me to not only our family but to all those I touch along my path.
And when our time is done there is this peace. This peace in death that I have never experienced before. There is even a deep healing of times past when this experience has not been so peaceful. I know we are both ready.
And although his are some big shoes to fill I know there is an army of us that he raised up to fill those shoes in some form or fashion over the 84 years he walked this earth plane. An army of people to show kindness and love to all those that cross our paths, because that is how his memory will continue. And he would not want it any other way.
As we all gather into his room Thursday afternoon to help welcome him into Jesus's arms together I am reminded just how death brings life. This family of so many opposites brought together in love of this great man. Saying our last goodbyes. Here to witness his passing into the next life. The completeness of it all.
Without death there is no life. Without pain there is no pleasure. Without heartache what is the point of joy? The never ending circle of it all.
Today we start the preparations of his final ceremonies. We honor our memories. We cry and we laugh as we remember a life that was so completely lived. A path walked successfully. Together. In unconditional love. Because of the love of Gramps, Tommy (Sonny) C. Price.