19 years ago. It was the first time I’d ever lost someone. For a moment my situation had been eclipsed by something far worse. I remember the room. I remember the lighting. I remember the colours. I remember the exact moment my mom was hearing that her father had suddenly died only an elevator ride away from her 13-year-old kid who, she had just found out, needed a new heart. I can’t even imagine the pain she must have felt. I remember her asking me if I’d mind if she went to his funeral. Asking me if I’d mind? I was fine. I never thought I was in trouble, I just wanted to go home. And I wanted to go to Grandpa’s funeral. But the heart failure was still fresh. I had just moved out of the ICU. I was severely dehydrated and only just moved onto a portable LVAD machine. There was no way I could go.
I think about it all of the time. I think about how my mom used to say “go hug Gammy and Grandpa before we go” at the end of a visit, and how shy I was. So, as I got older the hugs became less frequent and then he was gone. I couldn’t remember the last time I saw him, and I would never see him again. I walked in the hospital one day, I walked out and everything was different. Grandpa’s room remained as it was. I went in every so often while visiting my grandma just to look at his picture up on the dresser. I have that picture engraved in my brain. The only thing worse than losing someone is the fear of forgetting them.
I was a pretty lucky kid. Only months prior to this, Grandpa lived with us. We got to experience a part of him that is ours only. Some hilarious, adventurous, amazing memories that I share only with my mom, dad, and sister. We still reminisce and quote Grandpa as if he were our favourite character in the movie delivering that one line that sells the whole damn thing.
June 14 was supposed to be my first big high school trip. I had signed up to go to an amusement park. I had never been, I was top of my class, I had earned it, and up until this point I wasn’t going to be in this hospital that day, no way I was going to let that happen. Instead of an experience I would probably not even remember today. I have this one.
Every year June comes along and these are the thoughts that preoccupy my days. In a crazy way I am grateful. I am grateful that I remember the lighting, the colours, and the room. Because, the way I remember it, it was bright and calm. I was ok. And on that day Grandpa did what he did best. He stole the show. Now, every year when June rolls around, I don’t think about my missed trip, being told I needed a heart transplant, or being stuck in a hospital. I think about my grandpa and how neat he was and how lucky I was to know him even for that short amount of time. I don’t think about being sick, I think about someone I love. That day he gave me this, a gift I will appreciate for the rest of my life. Rest in Peace Grandpa. ❤