On Saturday night last week, my uncle called. He wanted to know, through his tears, if I wanted to say goodbye to Papa. As he explained it, it looked like Papa wasn’t going to last too much longer, and Don was getting on the phone with the family members who couldn’t be nearby.
What do you say to your dying Papa?
What words can convey how much I loved him? How important he was to me and how thankful I was to know him for my 38 years?
Needless to say, it wasn’t an easy conversation. But Don put the phone to Papa’s ear and I thanked him for being my Papa. For the millions of ice cream trips when I was a little girl, for the countless hours swimming in their pool, for the Rummy Cube lessons and the division tutorials, for coming to all of my school events and for always, always being there.
Don said that Papa opened his eyes when I spoke. I’m certainly hoping that he heard me. And then, a few hours later, he was gone.
I’m incredibly grateful for those few minutes on the phone. But, I know, in the end, they didn’t make the difference. The difference was made long before that conversation – each time that I told him I loved him, and that he told me the same in response.
I grew up one block away from my Nana and Papa, and we were raised in their house as much as we were in our own. Their warm embraces and cheerful smiles were always ready to greet us on a Tuesday afternoon or a Sunday morning, whenever we came over to play.
And in those hours and days and years, I learned so much from my Papa Jerry. Here is some of what I learned:
I learned valor and strength from his army service and from his two Purple Hearts.
I learned will power from when he stopped smoking cigars cold turkey.
I learned about loving unconditionally and passionately from his interactions with his family.
I learned that it’s all right to cry from his constant outpouring of happy, and sad, tears.
I learned from him that sometimes your children will achieve the dreams you had set out for yourself.
I learned from Papa that your own dreams don’t always comes true as you intended, but you do the best with what you have.
I learned from Papa that you might live far from your original home, but that you can still stay connected to those you love far away, and relish in their company when they are near.
I learned about learning to laugh and love again from Papa, watching him pick up after Nana died.
I learned endurance and adaptability from Papa, watching him outlive two wives and a dear companion.
I learned from my Papa that grandchildren are simply the best thing that ever was.
These are but a few of the many lessons that Papa taught me. Now, it’s my job to carry them through in my own life and to convey them to my children. And that, in the end, is where Papa’s legacy, and his “mantle” will continue into eternity.
I love you Papa.
And I will miss you, always.