Monday, April 4, 2011

What can you do? Coping after the dust settles.

I debated, and debated, and debated in my head. Do I write about Grandpa? Is ok to talk about his death? It was tragic, would people be uncomfortable reading? Here's the thing. I am going to because I am ok. Today.

On March 23rd, we had a big snow storm that took us by surprise in the amount of snow we received. A total of 17" accumulated in Green Bay, Wi, which is where I live. While my husband snow blowed (twice) and I took silly pictures of my girls on my iPhone, my grandparent's house was engulfed in flames just 100 miles away. I had no idea. Nobody did. Not until my sister phoned me around 3 or 4 pm telling me she had some bad news.

She cried and told me no one was supposed to know yet - are you kidding me? You don't get a call like that and not immediately start shaking and screaming. Something exploded in my grandparent's garage and they could not find my Grandpa. MY Grandpa. My just-turned-80-year-old-strong-as-an-ox Grandpa. Don't tell me that they can't find Grandpa. He was just out back in the junkyard or maybe gone to buy a part. Don't tell me that they can't find Grandpa. Maybe someone saw the house in flames and picked him up to keep him out of harm's way. NOT my Grandpa.

My mom was on her way with my uncle and I must have called her cell a million times. The roads were awful going up there and I don't think I could have felt more helpless. During the time I was calling her, I got the answer I did not want to hear - they found Grandpa, and he is gone. GONE. What? What does that mean? I heard what she said, but the words didn't make sense. Like, gone. That's it. No chance to say goodbye, no chance to give him a kiss on the forehead or give him a big hug. Nope. Gone.

In my heart, I knew Grandma was ok, but I had to ask. She was ok. Not harmed. But Grandpa - the love of her life for 60 years, the father of all 9 of her children, grandpa to over 20 grandchildren and great-grandpa to 9 great-grandchildren - GONE. Their home of 20+ years - that was gone too.

I spent many weekends at Grandma and Grandpa's. Growing up it was a very safe, warm place. Grandpa kept a wood-burning stove going all winter and the sweet smell of the wood is something I've always found very comforting. The house itself is a tragedy. Grandpa leaving us is something I just didn't understand. WHY? Why my grandpa?

We had just celebrated his 80th Birthday 2 weeks prior in the very same garage he never made it out of. I had just seen him 4 short days before at my little Lucy's 3rd Birthday party here in Green Bay. Oh, how he loved watching and playing with the little ones.

MY grandpa, you see, he always saw the joy in every day things. He found HAPPINESS in his hobby of fixing cars and helping people with their cars and anything else with a motor and ignition. He found HAPPINESS in serving the Lord, and was happiest when his family was in church with him.

The thing is, I was a mess. Didn't sleep for days. So many warm wishes of comfort POURED into my email box, Facebook page, mail box. I have never felt so much love. But my Grandpa - MY Grandpa was still gone.

During the wake, my little Marlee (who is just shy of 2 years old) showed me that I need not mourn the LOSS of a great man, but should learn to CELEBRATE the life of someone I was so blessed and fortunate to not only know, but call MY Grandpa.

You see, Marlee is SHY. She is nervous around strangers and cries at the checkout because she doesn't know the cashier. Marlee will hide her face in my chest when we see relatives we don't see everyday. At my grandpa's wake, my grandparent's priest (Father Joe) stopped by Jorge (my husband), Lucy, Marlee and me. Marlee nearly jumped out of Jorge's arms and threw her arms around Father Joe's shoulders. For some people, they might see this as a little girl who simply mistook him for someone she knew. Oh no, sweet friends. MY little girl knows very well who she knows and who she does not. What happened in that moment, I really don't know. One thing I do know, is that after that ONE act -that ONE hug, something told me everything would be ok.

I struggle to find the right words to comfort my family when I am grieving just like they are. Now that the services are over, and we have all had to return to work, I was unsure how to move forward? The dust has settled on their destroyed home and all that's left is one huge pile of rubble that will have to be dug through to see if anything is salvageable (it's really not though).

One thing I truly believe, is that God gives us a purpose. We all have a reason of being here. For some, it is to cure the sick, or help the poor, or help people communicate better with our loved ones. My grandpa was sent here to show people (at least, this is what I believe) that true happiness isn't found in things, it isn't found in objects or large sums of money. True happiness is found in making the relationships with the people you love COUNT.

How can you help your neighbor today? Do they need their driveway shoveled? Do you have a relative or close family member that doesn't behave the way you think they should? Why? Are they struggling with something in their life? What about the angry customer who berates you because you put something on sale just 24 hrs after they made their purchase? What happened to them that morning that made them react that way? Do not assume you know why a person is behaving the way they are. The Lord asks us to serve others and do unto them as we would have done unto us. As my Grandpa always reminded all of us "Kill em with Kindness". I can't tell you how often I have taken his advice.

You don't have to go to church or read the Bible, or even be Christian to put these beliefs into practice. How can YOU leave a legacy that will make your children, grand-children and great-granchildren proud? I know one thing - and I'll leave you with this - every single day I remind myself that this day could be my last. I intend to live every day always wondering "WWJD" - "What Would Jud Do?"

Here is a link to my Grandpa's Obituary. The line at the wake went out the door for several hours. People flew in from out-of-state to attend services. On behalf of my family, thank you. Thank you from the bottom of our hearts. xo Angelica


  1. Oh Angelica this is just beautiful - absolutely beautiful. So honest, so emotion-driven. It took my a bit to get through but loved the WWJD at the end...brought a smile to my heart and I plan on keeping that with me. Grandpa would be so proud of this tribute.
    Love & Hugs,

  2. Angelica, this is beautiful!!! Gracias...... I don't have words to express all that I am feeling. You have showed us the greatness of your grandpa through your writing... You made me stop nad really think about many, many things. I will print this and have my kids read it. Gracias amiga!!!

  3. Very well written, thank you for sharing. There are so many wonderful things that people could learn from your grandpa and grandma and how they lived their lives today, thank you for sharing this. Beautifully written.

  4. Your Grandad taught you well Angel. This moving and beautifully written tribute to him has me in floods of tears. He IS so very proud of you.
    Lots of love Viv xxx

  5. My love, hugs, kisses, blessings and prayers goes to you and your extended family. This is a wonderful tribute to your grandpa. You keep things real, down-to-earth, and from the heart. I appreciate the importance of family even more. TFS a part of you with us. We are there when you need us.
    Jess B.

  6. Angelica this is beautiful! Love you!

  7. Thanks for sharing this Angelica. I can't tell you how much it has touched my heart as I sit here reading it with tears fogging my vision. Much LOVE!!! ♥- Glora

  8. Angelica, I followed you over here from your blog hop. What a beautiful tribute to your dear grandfather. I can see he was a very blessed and happy man. You can tell by the photos that he loved life and cared about his family more than anything. He taught you all precious values. I am just so sorry you are going through this tragedy. Hugs, Barb

  9. Also the part about your little Marlee is very significant!

  10. Angelica I am so sorry for your loss, This is such a beautiful tribute to your grandfather who was obviously a very loved man. I read this and I was in tears, it was just..well there are no words for it. I know how you feel my grandpa is adored and loved and I can't imagine loosing him, I can imagine how much you hurt.

    I am sure that he is up there looking down on you and he is very proud. Keep strong and know that even though you didn't say goodbye I am sure he knew just what he meant to you.

    Lots of Love,

  11. Angelica,
    This tribute to your Grandpa is just so touching and beautiful. This is so well written. I don't just mean grammar and spelling... but with love, respect, gratitude and truth. My words will not heal your hurt and sorrow. I hope my thoughts and prayers will help ease some of the pain. You can tell he LOVED and ENJOYED life... he would want you all to do the same ~ with or without him on Earth. Thank You for sharing this with us... you have no idea how much this has touched and helped me personally!
    Thank You

  12. Angelica I am so glad I followed this link from your blog. I was not uncomfortable at all reading your tribute to your Grandpa, I could actually feel the love coming through. The addition of the pictures showed that your Grandpa loved life and everyone in it, I have no doubt he touched many lives. This is very soon after his passing and I pray that you and your family not only feel your Grandpa's love for you but also the healing arms of the Lord. God Bless.
    Cathy S

  13. I am sure your Grandpa is so proud of you. You have written such a wonderful tribute to him. I never had a grandpa so I can only imagine what you are going through. I am so sorry that this happened to your family and I will pray for you all. Thank you for sharing this. Love, Cathryn67

  14. Well I am a mess right now - he was blessed no doubt about it

    At the end of the day it is all about love isn't it and it is evident reading what you wrote her that he was loved beyond measure