Well, damn. I thought my last post, about losing Percy LoveCat, was a tough one to write and share. This one is even more intense. Get the Kleenex.
On Thursday, September 29, 2022, my Dad, Owen Henry Grant, died unexpectedly at home at the age of 81 (nearly 82) from a heart attack. He died before the paramedics arrived.
He went out the way he wanted to, though it traumatized my Mom (who had to try and revive him while on the phone with 911 dispatch) and shook the foundations of our entire family. You see, he had made it clear that he didn’t want to go to the hospital or a nursing home and have that be his end. He wanted to go on his own terms, at home, quickly. So he did.
In retrospect, it seems like he knew that his time was near, from the things he said and the way he communicated them. The thing was, none of us believed him, because he’s literally been saying he was going to die soon for half his life! He lost some of his best friends early in life, as well as his father, who died fairly young. Dad was convinced that would be his path, too.
But this year was different. Once a gruff, crusty Mainer who didn’t express his emotions willingly, he had started telling everyone how blessed he was, how he’d led a wonderful life, and how much he loved his family. He’d often offer these unsolicited rants of appreciation at our weekly family dinners. My daughter-in-love called them his “Grampa speeches.”
This summer, sitting outside together at one of our family gatherings, Dad was talking about his wishes to be cremated and to have his ashes spread here on the family land. A few minutes later he was gazing off into the distance. I was sitting next to him, and asked what was up. He said “I was just admiring your trees. I think I’m going to be in all of them.” I was stunned and brought to tears immediately. This was probably the most poetic thing I’d ever heard Dad say. I just put my hand on his arm and nodded. I don’t think anyone else even heard what he said, at the time. These days, walking through the woods on our land is one of the few things that comforts me. Dad is there, keeping me company.
BlackLion and I had planned a week-long tropical getaway to the Dominican Republic, just the two of us, starting on September 30th. In the weeks leading up to it, there were hurricanes in the area. Dad remarked at one point, “Well, I guess you won’t be able to go on your vacation.” He sounded pretty certain. I’d been keeping track of the weather forecast and knew we were fine, but Dad liked to watch the ever-melodramatic mainstream national news shows. I just did the “smile and nod” thing. Little did I know that he was the hurricane. When my Mom called me at 10pm on the evening Dad died, I was lying on my bed, all packed for an early start to the airport the next morning. I was just watching TikTok videos, wondering why I wasn’t asleep yet. My Dad, the hurricane, was the reason we had to postpone our trip.
The night before he died, we had our weekly family dinner at my Aunt’s house next door. Dad was in a good mood, and Mom said they talked about it the next day, how much fun they’d had. When I left, I gave him a hug. Dad was famous for not liking hugs at all, in a family of huggers. I could get away with hugging him sometimes. Because I was supposed to be going away for a week, I hugged him that night. I didn’t say why, and he didn’t resist this time, not at all. He hugged me back. I’m so thankful for that.
We held a beautiful interfaith Celebration of Life memorial service for Dad, outdoors at our place. No religious stuff, no formal funeral home ceremony, no suits and ties – he hated that kind of thing. There were bagpipes, lots of photos, and military honors and we kept it short and sweet, with a big potluck afterwards for family and friends.
It’s been a very hard month. It’s still hard. Grief sucks, and is weird, and has such ups and downs. I’m so thankful for our close family and my beloved friends. We also have a new family member, a 6-month-old kitten, who I’ll introduce later. Apparently the spirit of my maternal grandfather, Milton, who had lived on this land and who died in 1978, sent him to cheer us up at this difficult time.
This past weekend I thought I’d clean up some stuff in my office. I was putting away some of my birthday gifts and found my card from Dad. For years, he didn’t even sign his own name to birthday cards – Mom signed for both of them. But this time he’d not only given me a card and gift on his own, but had written “love you” on both the card and the Amazon gift card, and had written “kiss” on where the envelope was sealed.
This, for him, was a gushing emotional thing to do. He knew he was leaving soon. He loved me, and his whole family, even though it had been hard for him to show it for much of his life. I’m so grateful for my Dad and all the time we had together. I’m thankful for the way the years softened him, so we got to know that sweet side. I’m glad he enjoyed his life, and that it was twice as long as he’d once thought it would be!
Dad is very much missed and will always be part of this land, as he intended. He lives on in our hearts and memories. I love you, Dad.