Losing You

March 17, 2017. The day before my mom’s birthday. My Grandpa (Papa) closed his eyes for the last time. The last conversation we had was two days earlier, over FaceTime. He told me he loved my long hair. And I waved goodbye and told him that I loved him. He smiled. I loved his smile.My grandpa had lung disease, pulmonary fibrosis, something that he battled with for a long time. He reached the point where he struggled just to breathe. Could you imagine? But he smiled through it all. Always.

I regret a lot of things. I should’ve called more. Listened more. Laughed more. Taken more pictures. Held him a little longer. Looked into his eyes. Breathed in his scent, just a little deeper.

But I know my Papa. And he wouldn’t have liked me to think that way. So, instead of focusing on the things that I could’ve done, I want to appreciate the time I did have, and take advantage of the time I have now. I want this piece to honor him.

On my birthday, August 6th , I received a million and one texts, calls, posts, etc. wishing me a happy birthday. I enjoyed my birthday, spending it with my family and boyfriend, it was all I could’ve wished for. But as I fell asleep that night, something felt off.

I picked up my phone. Scrolled through my contacts and stopped when I saw “Papa Hess.” My usual nighttime birthday call. Not this year. Not anymore.

My papa’s funeral was a blur. The whole process was a haze. My whole family was together again. All six of my mom’s siblings, my cousins, aunts, uncles, my grandma (Nanny), my Papa’s friends, everyone. Not ideal circumstances.

My mom and her younger brother, Stacy, had drove down to Virginia to stay with my Papa a week before. My dad, my brother, my aunt, and myself left the morning of March 17th to meet my mom and my uncle in their hometown. The place where my Papa brought them back to live with my Nanny and their older brothers, Christopher and Jeffery.

This is where he remarried my aunts’ mom, Karen. Ellen, Emily, and Erica were born soon after. He made sure that I had a big family that loved me and supported me. I will forever see his face in all of theirs. All seven of them.

Why didn’t I ask him about these things? About how it felt to hold my mom for the first time? Or to marry my Nanny? How it hurt so bad when they divorced? Or how he felt joy all over again when he met Karen and had the girls? The pain he felt when Karen passed? How hard it was to grow up in those times? How he felt when he saw me for the first time?

I wish I would’ve asked.

I’ve never seen so many people that I love in so much pain. There are no words for how it felt. How it still feels. My mom, the strongest woman I know, reacted just as I would’ve if I had lost her or my dad. She fell apart. And because of that, I fell apart. And then so did my twelve-year old brother. My dad there to protect us all.

Mom…this is for you.

I’m sorry if reading this hurts. It has been a hard year. But I’m so proud of you. Thank you for showing me that you can heal. Thank you for showing me that healing happens, slowly, and the pain never really goes away, but it’s breathable…livable. He’d be so proud. He is proud of. Looking down and smiling, laughing, with his crackly tone. His eyes twinkling. I’ve never seen you so hurt. So broken and hopeless. And I was scared and sad. But your strength, your ability to get up in the morning and keep going. Wow. I want to be like you. I always have. But seeing you fight through this, it gives me hope. Hope for better days. I love you.

Papa, I miss you. I think about you a lot. In the little moments. In the big moments. Things I wish I would’ve done. I’ll never stop missing you. I’ll always remember our last conversation, but hate that we can’t have anymore. Thank you for giving me all that I have. Thank you for my aunts and my uncles, my brother that looks just like you, and of course, for my mom.

Oh, what I would give to see my phone ring with your name on the screen. To hear you say, “Happy Birthday!” just one more time.

Someday it won’t hurt so bad.


Dedicated to…Jeffery, Christopher, Stacy, Ellen, Emily, Erica. My best friend, otherwise known as, my mom.