I had to go to the Girl Scout meeting on Thursday night though, because it was the audition night for the play we were putting on. We were going to put on a production of "Goldilocks and the Three Bears" and I begrudgingly got the part of Papa Bear, because I was the tallest girl in our troop. My mom told everyone that it was my birthday the next day and the girls and the leaders sang "Happy Birthday" to me.
On Friday morning, as I was getting dressed, I heard the phone ring. It was about 7 am. I went into the kitchen to get some breakfast and saw that my dad was talking on the phone. My dad hung up the phone and immediately opened the bathroom door and my dad started to speak to my mother while she was still in the shower, "That was your parent's neighbor, John. Your dad passed away in his sleep. Your mom found him when she went to wake him up this morning"I heard my mother gasp and start crying, asking questions. My first reaction was to ask my dad if he was joking. I was skeptical when I first heard the news, because my dad would sometimes say, jokingly, that someone had died and we couldn't go on our vacation, right as we were about to get in the car. I hoped he was just joking this time. My mom hurried and turned off the water and went into her room to get dressed. She came out a short time later and when she saw what I was wearing, she said, "That doesn't match." I headed back into my room and shut the door. It made me mad. Her dad had just passed away and she was concerned about whether my shirt matched my pants. Where were her priorities?
I began sobbing as soon as I shut the door and I whispered, "Grandpa. . . " in disbelief. As I was looking through my closet, my mom came through the door with another sweater in her hand, telling me to take it. She told me she was sorry she snapped at me, and I gave her a hug, with her tears dropping onto my shoulder. We drove from our apartment in
When we arrived at the house in
My grandma kept asking, "Why didn't he take me with him?" She explained she had tried to call my mom's work but couldn't get the right number, in her panic.
My mother said, "I was home. I took the day off for Stephanie's birthday."
My Grandma responded, "Oh that's right, I didn't even think of calling the home number."
She kept telling us about the night before, "He was just sitting in the brown recliner last night watching television. He was fine, He wasn't sick."
My mom was ushered into the beige bedroom by a neighbor asking her, "Do you want to see him?" Shortly after she came out of the room, crying, I sneaked in alone, to feed my curiosity. His body was lying in the middle of his bed, covered midway by a white sheet. He looked very peaceful, but still asleep with his head back and his mouth open, probably from the medics trying CPR.
This was the first time I could remember seeing a dead person. Though my uncle Alan and my cousin Craig had passed away, I didn't remember them at all. I touched Grandpa's arm, wondering what a dead person felt like. His skin was cold, as if he had been stuck in a refrigerator. He didn't smell like a dead person, but then again I didn't know exactly what death was supposed to smell like. All I could smell was his aftershave and bath soap lingering from the nearby bathroom.
The morticians arrived shortly after we did and they carried Grandpa's body out of the room on the gurney. As they reached the corner of the hall, the two men accidentally dropped his body onto the carpet and had to pick him back up. It startled me and the other family members who were there on an already devastating day.
The Bishop and the Relief Society president from my grandparent's ward came over to plan out the funeral program and to plan what they would serve at the luncheon afterwards. Their neighbors were scattered around the house, making phone calls and comforting Grandma. As the other family members began to arrive, they would come in and out of the house.
While I was sitting on the love seat across from the big couch, Grandma whispered something in my mother's ear and my mother headed down the hall to the bedrooms. She came back with a plastic shopping bag. She motioned for me to take it and I pulled the pink box out of it. Inside the box was a "Little Mermaid" doll. I told my Grandmother thanks and my mom said, "Grandma felt bad that you had gotten your dolls stolen and wanted to get you another one."
When Uncle Ray arrived at the house, he asked my grandma if he should go to the temple the next day or postpone it. All of my grandparent's kids had been married and/or sealed in the temple except Ray. Ray was the oldest son and was active in the church for the first time since he was a teenager. Now in his fifties, he had decided to become temple worthy and seal his second wife Joyce and their son Danny to him. Everyone believed Grandpa had just been waiting for Ray to do that, so Grandma told him he needed to go through with the sealing.
When we got home late that night, my mother gave me my birthday cake, but none of us felt like eating it. I didn't feel like celebrating anything, knowing my Grandpa wasn't there anymore. During the night, I couldn't sleep. I kept having nightmares about death, fearing what it would bring, and being afraid of getting older. I wouldn't lie in the middle of my bed thinking that if I did, I would die like Grandpa. I felt as if I was having a panic attack, so I got out of bed and went and sat on the couch, crying.
The minute we woke up on Saturday morning, we headed back up to
After the sealing, the adults left for the mortuary to go make funeral arrangements, leaving us kids at the house. We started getting spooked by strange events. Throughout that day and the next, light bulbs begin flickering off and on and breaking, when no one was around or had turned on the switch. The garbage disposal broke, flooding the floor and the ceiling below it. My dad was convinced that Grandpa was fighting to stay or it was a way to let us know he was still here with us.
The siblings took turns staying with Grandma over the next few days. On Sunday when it was my mom's turn, she took me and my brother up to the house to stay overnight with her. Nobody wanted to sleep in the room where Grandpa had died or in the basement bedroom by ourselves, so we slept on the recliner and the two couches in the living room.
We got the autopsy results back and they had determined Grandpa's heart was enlarged and heart failure was the cause of his death. I remembered he had undergone a heart attack about ten years ago, but I didn't know why. The only thing I knew he had was diabetes.
On Monday, I didn't want to go back to school. I knew I couldn't concentrate on the subjects or have fun at recess with my friends, while being sad and knowing my grandmother was suffering. So Mom let us stay at Grandma's house with her throughout the day. I sat on their front cement porch which had three steps and no railings, waiting for my other family members to arrive.
Monday night was the viewing. My grandma didn't go because she was still physically ill from being so devastated by his death. To wake up and find the person who had been there for fifty or more years, suddenly gone was quite a shock to her system. The siblings would go to the viewing in shifts, leaving Grandma with friends tending to her. It was also the night of the play for Girl Scouts so I had to miss it.
Even though I had seen Grandpa's body right after he passed, I was still in denial. I kept thinking it was unreal and that he would show up at anytime, telling us he was just kidding. I kept walking by his office, expecting to see him in there, reading his scriptures. It wasn't until I saw him in the casket at the viewing, that I realized he was really gone.
After the viewing, my family went with my mother's brother Don and ate at
The funeral was on Tuesday. Someone at the funeral told us a story about Grandpa and some pumpkins. One day during the fall, my grandparents were surprised to see a bunch of pumpkins growing in their garden, which they hadn't planted. My grandpa loaded them all into his yellow truck and took them to his grandkids. The adults looked at this event as a way Grandpa got to see everyone one last time before his death. The closing hymn at the funeral was "God Be with You till We Meet Again," which was very sad yet comforting at the same time and a hymn I would sing many times after that.
After the funeral, we went to the grave dedication. The cemetery was across the street from the chapel and their house was a block up the road. It was snowing and as we were at the grave dedication, my other grandmother wrapped me in her coat with her to keep me warm. I kept feeling like I was being constrained of not being able to go and be next to my grieving one. After the grave dedication, we had a luncheon at our grandparent's ward and then when back to their house.