thunderstorms and grieving


Two Saturdays ago, my family and I buried my Papa. My Papa was an amazing man with a full, beautiful life. In fact, the day he died he was in the middle of mowing the lawn, an item third on his to-do list on his desk. It was listed between trim the hostas and lay the mulch.

He was not planning on Monday May 5th being his last. His life was still full and he was continuing to fill it.

He had made plans to travel to Columbia in late June to visit our baby girl, his first great granddaughter.

He had been talking about plans to travel to New Mexico and Arizona with his best friend and their dogs.

Six days after he died we buried him next to my sweet Nana under the shade of a tree, to the chirping of birds. We spent the day together as a family in the home he and my Nana built almost 40 years ago connecting as a family and reminiscing over the amazing grandparents the good Lord gave me.

The week had been overwhelming. His death was unexpected and tragic. Family flew in from around the country. Calls were coming in to interview the family. His story was being shared around the country and around the world. It was a whirlwind of events.

On Saturday the 10th of May Mr. Christopher and I pulled out of my Papa's driveway. We drove past the spray-painted orange circles marking where his body lay on the concrete earlier that week and headed home.

As soon as we did, I began to cry. I began to cry all the tears that I had been holding back. I began to cry the tears I held back on Monday after I found out and was in shock. I began to cry the tears I held back on Tuesday when I went to school to try to "distract myself" and prepare for my sub plans. I cried the tears that reflected the stories that were shared throughout the week and the feelings I felt when I walked into his home and hugged my Momma and saw all his beautiful wooden birds and bowls and unfinished projects on Wednesday morning. Saturday night was the night I was finally able to cry, really cry, for the first time since that Monday.

My heart was broken.

When I was a little girl, my Nana and Papa would keep each of us grandchildren at their home in the summer for a week. We would get a week of unlimited Nana and Papa time, just to ourselves. Those weeks always involved planting seeds, pulling weeds, arranging bouquets on the dining room table, eating fruit salad for breakfast and pizza and salad for dinner. It always included a sweet flavored coffee that was a treat only at their house. And if we were lucky enough that summer, it included a night on the back porch in the rain.

My Nana and Papa were gardeners. They loved the earth and made their living through it. And so when a storm started to roll in on those summer nights, naturally, they would be excited. We would pop some popcorn, fill up a tall glass of ice water and snuggle into a rocking chair or wicker chair on the porch and just sit and watch.

I don't think they often went to the movie theatres, but they way they reacted to an oncoming thunderstorm was like going to the movies. It was an exciting event that needed to be watched and heard and enjoyed just in itself.

We would snuggle in on that covered porch and watch until it was too dark to see. And even then, the lightning allowed us to stay a little longer.

On that Saturday night as Mr. Christopher and I drove home to Columbia, a lightning storm led us the whole way. At first I thought nothing of it. Just a storm. Just lightning on our drive home. But as I sat and thought about the things that remind me of my Nana and Papa, I realized that enjoying the beauty of a thunderstorm is a trait I inhertited from them and I smiled and felt thankful for a God that gave me a beautiful reminder of the gift he gave me: the gift of a sweet Nana who encouraged me in my love for her Savior Jesus and the gift of a lively, energetic and creative Papa who knew my heart so well.

2 comments:

Paula Burkhart said...

Probably best entry ever. I really felt YOU. It made me think of my Grandma and Papa LE. I'm sorry for the tragic loss, but grateful that you have the memories.

Alan Leslie said...

If there's anything I could do, please tell me.

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