My Grandpa passed away this last Sunday. It’s been almost a week… and the grieving has been hard and painful. Today is his funeral… the second funeral I’ve attended in three months.
I’m writing this blog for two reasons – one, because I know I need to do it for my own sanity. And two, because you all are invited into this process. If you don’t want to read this post, I will not be offended. I just know that I have to write it.
Luke and I came to visit Arizona for spring break during the last week of March. We had an incredibly busy and fun time. I was in a wedding. We visited all our family. We ate a lot of good food. We got to see my Grandpa twice. It was normal and wonderful. I’m sure I’ll post pictures from our time sometime soon.
We flew back to Kansas City on March 30th, and after being back for 6 days, we decided we needed to fly back to AZ.
My Grandpa was dying, and we needed to be there.
The whole story of his death is traumatic and painful. But I need to write about it to help wrap my brain around it.
It all started on December 29th, 2013 when my Grandma passed away. She basically had been in severe pain due to cancer and many other complications. We were in AZ for Christmas break and were able to be with her during her last week.
It was so sad.
And it was incredibly hard for my Grandpa to process. They’d been married for over 50 years and had been through everything. Her health had been declining, and for that last year Grandpa had taken care of her night and day.
Unfortunately, I don’t know how well he had taken care of his own health. He didn’t seem to have any problems though, and we thought he would be around for 10+ years.
The last three months have been sad and hard for my family as we mourned Grandma’s death. Grandpa was slowly recovering. When we saw him during Spring Break he seemed almost back to his chipper self.
But when we were back in KC, my Mom called saying Grandpa was having chest pain and was sick. She took him to Urgent Care and they said he had had several heart attacks already, his heart was enlarged, and he had pneumonia.
We talked to him on the phone that night and he said, “I’m not doing so well. I have some problems that the doctors showed me, but I’m going to be okay. I’m going to get better”. We said our “I love yous” and “Goodbyes”, and that was it.
I didn’t know that was the last time I’d ever talk to him.
The next day my mom took him to the ER because he was having trouble breathing. They did some more X-Rays and it seemed as though he had three blockages in his heart. They prepared him to do an “angiogram” which is some procedure to see the heart’s functions. But during the process of inserting the breathing tube (before they even started the procedure), something went wrong. They had inserted the tube too far and gotten air into his stomach. As they tried to get the air out, he went into cardiac arrest and had a massive heart attack.
His heart stopped for 30 minutes.
My mom called me during this time in a panic.
I had no idea what to do. I started to pray with her on the phone, asking for his heart to come back.
As we prayed, a nurse came in saying his heart came back online. However, Grandpa wasn’t waking up.
They put him in a drug induced coma and cooled the room & his body temperature down because they weren’t sure if there had been brain damage due to lack of oxygen to the brain during those 30 minutes.
All we could do was wait. And hope. And pray he would wake up.
They would start warming/waking him up in about 72 hours.
This was Friday April 4th that I found all this out. So Luke and I decided to fly back to AZ on Saturday.
We had to be there while he was waking up.
I think these were the longest plane flights of my life. I have never prayed so much in any 24-hour period. We found out during our layover in Dallas that the doctors had run tests on his brain… and there was no activity. He had suffered a brain seizure at some point. They pronounced him brain-dead. It was now only a matter of time before his heart stopped.
With frazzled hearts, we arrived in Phoenix and quickly drove to the hospital. My mom pulled us aside and told us that Grandpa was on a breathing machine – and his heart was still beating strong. But on Sunday, when all our family could be there, they were going to remove the breathing tube.
He would either start breathing on his own, or he wouldn’t. And eventually his heart would stop.
So Luke and I went to his hospital room. He was unresponsive… connected to many IVs and tubes, but his heart was still pumping.
We kissed him. We prayed fervently. And we said everything we needed to say. And then we just waited.
Our whole family came the next day. Around 1pm the doctors started the process – removing IVs and the breathing tube. We gathered around him and held his hands.
Slowly, his oxygen count fell. His heart kept beating.
Then his eyes began to open. His hands tightened on ours. And his lips quivered – as if he was saying something. We all told him of our deep love and gratitude for him. We held on tightly, but released him to be with the Lord.
And his eyes closed.
And about 10 minutes later, his heart stopped. His color was gone.
He was dead.
I’ve never seen someone die before.
I can’t quite explain the amount of pain and sadness that’s in my heart as I write this. Death is never easy. It’s never convenient.
I feel also like I can’t explain how much of a loss this is to me and my family. I know that to other people, this is just a “grandpa” dying. Grandpas are old… they die… it’s just what happens.
But my Grandpa was more than just a grandpa to me – he was more like my second father. He was my crazy, goofy, tender, extravagant, make-friends-with-everyone, and makes-life-more-fun grandpa.
You see, my parents both worked full time when I was a baby… so my Grandparents were my full-time babysitters. They raised me during those early years. My grandpa would play with me for hours on end. And he would pray for me hours on end.
I am confident that my walk with the Lord is attributed to all his prayers.
He always believed in me. He was the first one to encourage me to play the guitar. He was my biggest supporter. He was my #1 fan.
No matter how old I was, Grandpa and Grandma’s house was the safest and happiest place to be.
As I’ve grown older and got married, Grandpa continued to encourage the dreams of Luke & I and support us.
He was always there. And he is the best picture I have in my life of the continual love, provision and character of our Heavenly Father.
He truly lived like pilgrim “passing through” and his faith was unwavering, even till the end.
I love him, and I’ll miss him terribly.
And I don’t think my family will ever be the same without him and Grandma.
I’ll be honest with you all – this week back home in Arizona has been terrible. I’m grateful to be near my family during this hard time… but being around them also makes the pain more tangible.
All I’ve wanted to do is run away and leave all this pain behind me here in AZ.
All I want to do is forget this ever happened… and try to forget that his cute letters and emails and “happy birthday” songs on my birthday each year will never happen again.
I know the truth and I find comfort knowing I will see him and Grandma again. They loved Jesus dearly and are with him now.
All their pain and sickness is gone.
Our physical bodies won’t last forever – but they will receive beautiful resurrected bodies one day soon.
Death has been swallowed up in Jesus’ victory.
It’s these moments that our faith is truly put to the test. Do I really believe that God is always good and I am always loved? Do I really believe and have confidence in His resurrection power?
And I can only pray that my faith and walk with the Lord will be as steadfast and pure as my Grandpa and Grandma who went before me.
Luke & I and the Seegar and Orona families truly covet your prayers during this time. Thank you all for the love, cards, emails, and prayers you have given to us already.
We will be flying back to KC on Sunday evening. Pray for grace to transition back, healing to our hearts, and justice with all my Grandpa’s affairs that need to be wrapped up.
And if I can say this without sounding too cliche… please go tell the ones you love how important they are to you.
Life is but a vapor. But love lasts forever.