Papa Bear Hugs

Ericka - Poncha Springs, Colorado
Entered on April 16, 2008
Age Group: 18 - 30
Themes: death, family, legacy

His face ran through my mind. I couldn’t shake it. Behind that snow-white beard about this face, was sun beaten skin, red and wrinkled from years of farming and construction. My heart fell to the floor, as my world seemed to be crashing down around me. I couldn’t believe the words that were coming out of my mom’s mouth. “Papa had a stroke last night. They’ve admitted him into the hospital.” How could this be happening? The thought raced through me and struck my heart. I began to cry tears that no one could stop and I didn’t want anyone to get in the way of them. Memories of my childhood came flooding back to me.

I was walking on ‘memory lane’ trying to remember the good parts about my grandpa, the ones where he wasn’t sick. There he was, standing in the barn. Right in front of him was the highest hill of hay for any child of three-years-old. I loved the smell of fresh hay, and I loved to play in it. As I made my way around my Papa, I noticed something that wasn’t there before. Two ropes were hanging from the roof of the barn. He looked down at me and smiled. The love within his crystal clear blue eyes at this moment was indescribable. Tears developed in my own eyes as the story unraveled in my mind. “Hop on”, he said to me in laughter. I climbed onto that little homemade wooden swing and my Papa grabbed onto one of the ropes. He climbed up all of those bales of hay, pulling me up along with him. I held on tight and rose higher and higher off the ground. Suddenly we stopped and he began to count, “1…2…3…go.” He let go of those once dangling ropes. I could feel the breeze in my hair and face. I swung back and forth until the swing wasn’t swinging anymore. Papa stood at the door of the barn with his arms crossed in front of his chest just watching my fun. I ran to him and gave him a big ‘Papa Bear Hug’; at least that’s what he used to call them. My body felt small within the grips of his arms and I could smell the farm within his cotton shirt. I felt safe and secure and suddenly as my memory faded away, tears fell from my eyes without remorse.

Everyone grows older, becomes sick at times, and eventually passes away. Though it is heartbreaking, when your loved ones pass away, you must learn to carry on by remembering the good times you shared, not their death. You must remember them in their best of lights, not their worst. You must remember them when they made you smile. Some one once said, “Memory is a way of holding onto the things you love, the things you are, and the things you never want to lose.” It is in this that I believe.