We call him Poppy and he had been eagerly anticipating the birth of our child, his second grandchild. It was a girl and he was beside himself with excitement. My father-in-law was already making the difficult decision of what to make his granddaughter, just what handcrafted treasure would be hers that she would take with her and cherish with our future grandchildren.
Poppy was looking forward to this little girl to be born in July only he died at the end of March. We were devastated along with disappointed. When I heard the news and after I consoled my boy for the time being, I held my baby in my arms, inside me, and let the grief overwhelm me. Not only for me but for her. She wouldn’t have Poppy’s teasing, or feel his hands around her ankles when he holds her on his shoulders. I won’t ever panic when he throws her in the air to catch her as she squeals. He wouldn’t be there for her blessing or baptism or wedding days. I wept. And then I set it all aside. I had a husband and son who needed me. And a baby girl, too.
Soon my boy showed the resilience little boys often do and my husband went into Man Mode men do in such emergencies while I went into Emergency Mama Mode. We all have our roles. We traveled for the funeral. The disappointment hanging in the air like humidity daring to burst at any moment. The usual emotions were there. The sadness and grief. Shock. My baby kept me warm. My boy kept me company. My husband kept me standing.
And yet there was a happiness, too. Poppy was so thrilled for the baby. His happiness was brimming. And I am so grateful that he had that happiness up until he died. While the disappointment and grief we have over his death is real, the very real joy and happiness we have over his life is also real. I feel strongly that he is every bit as aware of his granddaughter as he would have been in life.
Death is an inevitability. Ideally we would be able to pick and choose when it happens but we can’t do that unless we take it into our own hands. Even when that it is the case, grief is the other side of death’s coin. And just as Poppy handcrafted treasures for us to be used in our lives, we handcraft our own lives to be cherished by others. We are not meant to be hidden inside cedar chests or display cabinets, mourned after with constant tears of “what-ifs” and “what should have beens”. We are to be celebrated and enjoyed, even if we are missed. Celebration of life does not make a person missed any less. Celebration of life makes the person multi-dimensional still.
We are still disappointed Poppy is not here to experience the joys of his granddaughter. Her blessing day has come on gone. Her first Christmas is rapidly approaching. And he’s not here. And it’s sad. At the same time, though, these experiences will become opportunities for us to tell her about her Poppy. And he will become part of the celebration.