A Time to Mourn and a Time to Dance

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You may recognize the title of this week’s blog from Ecclesiastes 3: 4. The first eight verses of this chapter are my favorites in the Bible. They remind us that life will give us joy and happiness, but it will also give us sadness, loss, and grief.  The Reade family experienced both ends of the spectrum this week.

On Wednesday, June 15th, at 4:00 p.m. our eldest child graduated from high school. On Wednesday evening we held a party at home to celebrate Carolyn’s graduation. It was a time to dance, you might say. Family from many hours away and from right down the road came to celebrate, along with close friends and loved ones. We celebrated the beautiful day, the ceremony, Carolyn’s accomplishments, and her future- a bright beginning to a new phase of her life. The house was filled with laughter, jokes, photos, well wishes, and lots of good food. It was all exhausting, but in the best possible way.

It was almost exactly twenty-four hours after our first guests arrived for Carolyn’s party when I got a phone call that my grandfather, who has been living in a nursing home for the past five years, was being placed on palliative care. His time was growing short. Though the nurses felt he would probably survive at least another day or two, I made the decision to travel up to central New York that night with my daughters. Our plan was to get to my sister’s house by 1 a.m. Friday, get some sleep, and visit him to say good-bye in the morning. It was important to me because 8 1/2 years previously, I had been making my way up the Pennsylvania Turnpike to say good-bye to my grandmother when she passed away. I never got to say good-bye to her in person and I didn’t want to have the same regret again.

As tired as I was, I didn’t sleep that night. My stomach was in knots and I couldn’t relax because I was rehearsing the things I wanted to say to my grandfather. I didn’t know if he would be able to hear me or understand, but I wanted to say those things just in case he could. I let my daughters sleep in the next morning because they’d done such a great job keeping me awake during the long drive the night before.

The phone call from my mother came as my daughters were getting up. My grandfather had just passed away peacefully in his bed (“he went just like a whisper,” the nurse told us). It was now time to mourn. All I could think was that I had missed saying good-bye to him, too. Mom had asked the nursing home to hold his body for just a little while so that we could see him one last time.

I went in to see him by myself, and I held his hand in mine and told him all the things I had rehearsed, and more. There was something strangely comforting about it- he was no longer in pain and I knew he was listening from heaven. If I had told him those things while he still lived, I would never know whether he heard my words or not. My girls talked to him, too, and my husband and my son said their final words to him over the phone.

For those of you who have read Secrets of Hallstead House, you may have noticed the dedication page, which reads For Papa. That’s him. He was the one who made it his mission when I was little to show me the St. Lawrence River. He would take our family out in his boat and we would spend long days in the sunshine, swimming in the river, fishing off the side of the boat, and picnicking. He taught me to water ski. And to this day Fresca is my favorite soda because of him. He and my grandmother taught me what grandparenting is all about from the time I was born (and up until my own parents became grandparents), and I am forever grateful to both of them for all their love and support. I will miss him, as I miss my grandmother.

The picture at the top of this post was taken almost a year ago, when he had a chance to visit the farm where he grew up.

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29 comments on “A Time to Mourn and a Time to Dance

  1. reocochran says:

    Amy, so sorry to read about your loss of a special “Papa,” your grandfather. I am full of hope and joy that your rehearsed words were sent off and “heard” already!
    The graduation of a child, in this case your daughter, is truly cause for a celebration and excitement in a passage completed; a new one embarked. Wishing your daughter many wonderful lessons and experiences in college. ❤

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    • amreade says:

      Thank you very much. We had a memorial service for him this past weekend, and it happened to fall on the day of his family reunion, which had been planned for months. It was a beautiful celebration of his life and his legacy. And as for my daughter, well, she’s ready! She’s so excited to begin the next phase of her life. Thanks for your kind wishes!!

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  2. dgkaye says:

    A beautiful tribute Amy, and I’m sorry for your loss.
    On a good note, I received your newsletter and your cover is gorgeous! ❤

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  3. Lelia T says:

    A lovely memorial, Amy.

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  4. Marla Cooper says:

    Sorry for you loss, Amy. But what a wonderful story. My family has a long history of sneaking out without anyone getting to say goodbye, so I know how you feel, but “Papa” definitely knew how much you loved him!

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    • amreade says:

      We were pretty sure my grandfather was going to live for at least another day, but he took us all by surprise. It was time to go. I’m pretty sure he and my grandmother are chuckling in heaven over my bad timing.

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  5. Tears of sadness and tears of gladness. What a beautiful testament to your grandfather that you have such love and memories of him. And yes, I do remember reading your dedication page For Papa. Condolences on his passing. Sounds like he had a loving giving life. And joy and good luck to your daughter on her next transition toward a successful future.

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  6. Marja McGraw says:

    Congratulations to your daughter, and my condolences about your grandfather. My grandpa was very special to me. He’s the one person I wish I could be more like. He passed back in the 70s (born in 1880) and to this day when things are rough I think of him and the fact that he never let things get to him. Wonderful tribute, Amy!

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    • amreade says:

      Thanks, Marja. I was thinking about that today- how special he was to me. I whistle constantly and that’s something else I get from him. One of his nicknames was “Whistler.” Our family has received some beautiful condolences with memories of how special he was to other people, too. Thanks for your uplifting words.

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  7. maggie8king says:

    Beautiful tribute, Amy. You’re lucky that you got that special time with your grandfather. I have narrowly missed visiting three relatives.

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    • amreade says:

      Hi Maggie. I have wonderful memories of him, so I treasure those. I realize how lucky I am to have had a grandfather as long as I did. So many people don’t get that opportunity.

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  8. lindamthorne says:

    This was very moving. Many of us have been through this with loved ones and understand the peacefulness you can see in someone who has moved on when it is their time. How nice that you put “For Papa” in your book, Secrets of Hallstead House. In a way you are keeping him alive forever with the dedication.

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  9. My condolences on the loss of your grandfather, Amy, and all good wishes to your daughter. You are so right — life’s a circle.

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  10. What a beautiful tribute to your Grandfather, Amy! I could so relate! When Mom died 38 years ago, I never got to say goodbye. I have always wished I had that moment with her, although I have come to terms with it over the years. When Dad died in 2012, I made the long drive upstate, like our drive, hoping to get there in time. Dad waited for both my brother and I to arrive before he passed. A year later, I got the call from my Aunt that Grandma was ready to go, and again, I rushed upstate to try to get there in time. I think Grandma was waiting for me to tell her that my dad, her son, was waiting for her (we had not told her Dad died since she was not alltogether “with it”). Any way it happens, saying goodbye is hard. Congratulations to Carolyn (I cannot believe our kids are high school graduates!) We hope to see you this summer! Sending you love and prayers!

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    • amreade says:

      Thanks for the wonderful story. Isn’t it amazing how people are able to wait sometimes until their loved ones can get there? It’s like they just know. Thanks so much for checking out my post this morning. And much love to all the Wongs and congratulations to Tyler!

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  11. Congrats to Carolyn! I am sure it was a great party! So sorry about your grandfather, and my opinion, he heard every word you and your family said!

    Although this was probably very tough to write, you did a beautiful job and I am sure that both of your grandparents are very proud!

    Take time to grieve for your papa, but then take even more time to CELEBRATE his life. It sounds like you had a great time with your grandparents!

    Prayers for you, your family and your friends.

    And don’t forget to “Keep Reading and Writing”.

    Sharon

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    • amreade says:

      Thank you, Sharon. They lived right across the street from us when I was little, so I was blessed to spend so much time with them through the years. They both loved helping people and spending time with family and friends. They are both greatly missed. So glad you stopped by today.

      Liked by 1 person

  12. marlainagray says:

    Congratulations and condolences, Amy. This is beautifully written.

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