My grandpa was supposed to live until he was at least one hundred and two. He was an athletic Southern man with a healthy mind who loved to learn about history and mathematics. Losing him never crossed my family’s minds, even when he turned 75. But then, on February 4, 2004, things changed. My grandfather was diagnosed with leukemia. All of a sudden, instead of him living decades longer, he was expected to live another 4 weeks to 4 months. My family was in shock, and we quickly began to try to figure out how to say our goodbyes. I could never imagine finding the words to express how much I would miss him, and how awful it was that he would be stripped from me for eternity. I needed extra time to figure out how to tell him that I would miss playing T-ball at the Schofield School diamond, listening to him talk about American history and math in his strong Southern accent, the beret he always wore, sitting on his lap, the way his wrinkles got even bigger when he smiled because I hit his pitch, and his bright white teeth that matched his bright white hair. But I didn’t have that extra time…or so I thought.
Four weeks went by, then another month, then three, then four months, and my grandfather was still alive even though his cancer was progressing. Slowly, I began to find my words, and although they were quite simple, I knew he understood. Instead of four weeks, I got almost eight months to tell Grandpa Gaylord, in my last words to him, that I loved him. I got eight months to send him my homemade oatmeal chocolate chip cookies and his favorite New England autumn leaves, so that he recieved the package on September 30, 2004, hours before he died. The leaves that I had held would then rest in his coffin and touch his skin. So when I hear about the guy who missed his flight to New York on September 11th, or a plane that crashes into the Hudson, yet no one died, I know that even when it seems like the worst possible thing is happening, a miracle often occurs. In my case, somehow, in the midst of my grandfather’s cancer, I was given the gift of time to understand the situation, and express myself.
And even though we lost him in the middle of the night and my mom, two sisters, and I sat on my mom’s bed in the morning and cried until there were no tears left, it was alright because I got the extra time I needed to tell my grandfather, Gaylord Northrop, that I would miss him.