one last goodbye

I couldn’t believe he was gone.

TV and movies had lied to me.  These things were supposed to happen slowly over time.  I was supposed to get a call that the end was near so I could race to his side, spend a few more minutes with him, share one last laugh, one last story, and tell him I loved him.  I was supposed to be able to say goodbye.

Instead, when the call came, he was already gone.  It wasn’t entirely unexpected because he had been in and out of the hospital, but it still took me by surprise.  I felt cheated.  I felt angry with the world for taking such a great man.  He was one of the reasons they called it the Greatest Generation.

I felt a sense of loss that I had never experienced before.

I was supposed to get to say goodbye, wasn’t I?

Between my school schedule and coordinating with other family members who wanted to attend, the funeral was held a couple weeks later.  When we showed up, dressed in our blacks, heads low, emotions running high, I did a great job of holding back my tears.  I pretended to be stoic, pretended like I was okay.

Before the ceremony my Uncle planned on adding a few finishing touches to my grandfather, putting on his cap and glasses and a few other things to make him seem more like the man he was, and he asked if I wanted to take that opportunity to say goodbye.

I did.  I followed him into the room with the casket.  I was supposed to say goodbye.  It’s what the films and the shows had taught me needed to be done.  TV and movies had lied to me again.

It was one of the greatest mistakes of my life.  All pretense gone, I fled the room with tears running down my cheeks.  Sobbing.  Crushed.  Broken.

I will forever be haunted by the image of my grandpa resting in his casket.  It wasn’t the man I had known, I barely recognized the figure inside, the spark was gone.  I should have stayed away.  I should have left my memories untarnished by that final image.  I should have known that I could say goodbye without having to stand there next to that empty shell.  I should have had faith that he was well aware that I loved him.

I should have known that there was no need to say goodbye because he would live on in my heart and in my thoughts.  He lives there still, and always will.


Written for this week’s Yeah Write Writing Challenge:

And I was one of the Editor’s picks!!

42 thoughts on “one last goodbye

  1. Really really appreciate reading this. Its been a long time and those feeling don”t just “go away”. Knowing you, I know you have overcome the feelings that could have forced you to be someone other than how you turned out. I’m very happy with the end result and your courage in sharing this with all of us, especially me. Uncle F.

  2. Your Grandpa new how you felt about him, Bro. All that you wrote about him in this post, he would have written much the same thing about you, just from a Grandpa’s perspective. Trust an Old Guy , Grandpa (me) on this one. 🙂

  3. You wrote this beautifully for such a sad tale and I can most certainly relate. I don’t understand open caskets and I never will. I don’t want to remember someone I loved like that.

    On a random note, you should check out Yeah Write’s ‘Speakeasy’. It is essentially Yeah Write but for fiction and poetry! They give you prompts on this one. Figured it might be up your alley 🙂

    • Another chance to let out some of my wordy words? Who me? What?
      Am I that transparent? 😉
      I’ve seen the speakeasy section of yeah write, but haven’t had a chance to think about putting something together for it yet. I got a lot of requests from the kingdom faithful when I asked what I could do for them, so I’m busily working on those at the moment. (I think I’m going to tackle your magic post next, by the way.)

  4. This also made me think about my grandfather’s funeral, almost 25 years now. Sad, but it also triggers the good memories I have of him too. Thank you for sharing this.

  5. Funerals are nothing but awkward lies, aren’t they? You don’t feel the way you think you should…until hours or days later when you’re alone and thinking of something stupid like Cheez-Whiz. Seriously, I didn’t cry at my grandfather’s funeral either. It was a week or two later when I was looking at a movie screen (long story) that it hit me that he was gone. And then I cried like crazy in front of total strangers just waiting to see “The A Team.” Great post!

    • In the years that followed, I would cry at otherwise random stuff too… movies that reminded me of him, thoughts that called him to mind, random conversations, etc…
      Love that description, very fitting – funerals are awkward lies

  6. It’s so much better to remember the people we love as they were in our lives, full of energy and happiness, making our days better. Those are the memories to cling to.

  7. As sad as this is, count yourself lucky. I never had an opportunity to even know either of my grandfathers.

    Oh, and this was beautifully written, as always, my friend.

    • I’m very sorry to hear that… there is something special, something magical about grandparents, and especially grandfathers – they have wisdom, and experience, and they’ve lived long enough to take everything in stride, with a twinkle of mischief in their eyes…
      I do count myself lucky.
      Thank you.

  8. Truly heartfelt and it reminds me of how I felt when my Grandma died. It was devastating to see her like that. Thank you for sharing something so dear to you.

  9. so sad. i also ran to my grandfather in the hospital and we missed him by minutes. it was devastating. but no open casket. it’s a jewish perk. but really, they do do live on. just think of him and he’ll be with you.

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