“SHAAAAH- NIN?? THIS IS PAW-PAW. I added some sentences to my obituary and I don’t want you to forget. Call me back. Oh, and this is Paw-paw.”
This had been going on for weeks. Papa had been diagnosed with Stage 4 cancer, and he was going to die. I knew it, he knew it, but it wasn’t something the rest of my family was quite ready to accept.
My grandfather was a provider. In everyday interactions, he could be perceived as cold, and blunt, but that was only a small part of who he was. A WWII veteran, he built a life for his wife and six children, making sure they were never hungry. They had food in their bellies, and shoes on their feet. He showed love through his ability to provide for his family, and preparing them for his death proved to be no different.
People handle news concerning their mortality differently. My papa decided that he was going to do everything in his power to arrange his own funeral, so that his wife and children wouldn’t have to.
“Why are you helping him do this? You’re forcing us to grieve earlier than we have to!”
I got a lot of this from my aunts and uncles as I worked tirelessly with Papa, proofing his obituary, talking about his cemetery property, and even going about how to choose his own casket ahead of time.
Papa knew what many people didn’t. Pre-planning your services is one of the biggest gifts you can give to the people you’re leaving behind. It’s removing the burden of having to rack your brain to think of what they would want. All you have to do, is heal.
“THIS is what you get paid to do? You’re a tough little sh*t, you know that?” He would later tell me.
“So are you. I just try to keep up.”
I still do.
It wasn’t about me. Did I want to do it? Absolutely not. In a family as large as mine, it’s rare to get one- on- one time with your grandparents. In a way, it was something that the two of us shared, it was ours.
He was going to die, and, as our resident family death expert, I was there to help him be okay with it.
There’s something strange about having to comfort others while simultaneously grieving. I’ve spent countless hours comforting strangers and explaining the details of what would happen in the days that followed, but having to have these conversations with my own family members was never something I recognized as a reality.
He died not too long after that. I think about him often, especially when I talk to families about the importance of pre-arranging services. To this day, with every obstacle that comes my way, and I find myself getting discouraged, I remember–
I’m a tough little sh*t.