Monday, August 15, 2011

14 and 4

It's a weird title, but stick with me.
14 years ago today I lost my Papa Judd. I can't believe it has been that long. I remember that day perfectly. He was my first Grandparent to pass away. Let me tell you how it happened.
Papa had been sick and in the hospital for a while. Since they live 4 hours away, we weren't able to go and visit him often enough.
I remember that it was the first week of school. The first week of my 8th grade year. I remember being in English class. I got a call to bring my stuff to the office. When I got there Grandma Eva was waiting for me with my sisters. She said she was taking us home. I didn't know what was going on, but I knew it wasn't good. My parents would never just pull us out of class. When we got home we found out that we were making the 4 hour drive to see Papa because he wasn't going to last much longer.
I remember going to the hospital and everyone being there. I remember we got to go in and talk to him even though he wasn't awake. I remember the nurses coming in and out crying as they left. He had a way of impacting everyone that he met.
At some point several of us left to go get something to eat for dinner. I don't remember where we went, but it seems like the table we sat at was one of those with a booth on one side and chairs on the other.
When we got back to the hospital my uncles (my Mom's brothers) were waiting for us outside. At that moment, everything changed. They told us that Papa had passed while we were gone. My 2 aunts automatically fell down in the parking lot crying and screaming. While my mom just hugged my Uncle Russell and cried. I remember him saying "it's weird how me and you are so much alike."
We went back up to his room. We all got to go back in one more time. I remember trying to hold myself together. But everytime I was able to control the tears someone would say, "he loved you so much" and I would lose it again.
I remember being so mad when the chaplain came to pray with us because he kept calling him Howard when his name was Howell. How could he not get his name right?!I don't remember anything about that night after that.
I remember my Grandma going to the funeral home every day to see him. When we had his viewing the whole family got to just sit and tell stories about Papa. I think his brother said something about him looking like he could sit up at any minute and ask us why we were all crying. He did look much better than he had in several months.
I remember the night before the funeral Grandma was really upset. I remember her saying "I won't be able to go see him anymore." I don't remember the funeral. And I don't remember the burial. That's probably for the best.
I miss him every day. I wish he could have met Jacob. And I wish Lexi could sit on his lap. He would love all the great grandchildren he has now.
4 years ago today I lost my Uncle Steve. I also can't believe it has been 4 years that he has been gone. He was a great man.
He used to always dress up as Santa for the parades and festivities in their town. We have home video of him coming into the house dressed as Santa handing out candycanes. It's so funny because all of us older kids knew it was him, but it was so special and fun.
On my wedding day, after driving 4 hours, he went and got me and my bridesmaids something to eat for lunch. I will never forget that.
He used to poke his tongue out when he was working on something. Lexi does it now, and I always call her Uncle Steve. I can't wait until I can tell her about him someday.
Mom called me late that night. When the phone rings in the middle of the night I go into panic mode, because people don't call me in the middle of the night. When I answered, mom immediately told me to wake up Jacob. I remember saying why. She said just do it. So, I woke him up. She told me that Uncle Steve had died. I think I asked how and she said she didn't know. I couldn't sleep for the rest of the night. I kept tossing and turning, waking up thinking it had to be a dream.
When I packed my bags to leave I threw in an OSU shirt. As I did, I smiled. Because he was a huge OU fan, I knew he would be giving me heck for wearing an orange shirt. We drove like hell to get there the next day. But when we got there I found myself not knowing what to do. I knew I would have to face Aunt Valerie, and I had no idea what I could say to her. I walked in and immediately went to my mom and buried my face in her shoulder. By the time I got to Aunt Valerie I was already crying. Then came the "he loved you so much."
I remember sitting in Aunt Valerie's house while people streamed in and out. The thing I will never forget is how strong she was through the whole thing. People would come in crying and she would comfort them. I don't know how she did it. She is an amazing woman.
His service was beautiful, and as they carried the casket out of the church Boomer Sooner was playing. He went from the church to the cemetary in the back of a firetruck. He would have loved that.
I do wish Lexi could have met her Uncle Steve. He loved kids, and he would have a blast with all these great nieces and nephews he has now.
It's hard on a day like today to focus on work. To focus on anything except for grief. But everytime I felt the tears coming today I said a quick prayer for Grandma Judd, because she lost her husband. For Aunt Valerie, because she lost her father and her husband. For Steven and Derek, because they lost their Papa and their father. It helped me to stay focused. It also helped me to know that I wasn't alone in my grief today. I know that my whole family is hurting today.
They have taught me to not take anything for granted. We are never promised a tomorrow. Tell people that you love them. Let them know how much you care!

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