It wasn't a regular Sunday. I had started a job that summer at a nursing home, and as one of the Management leaders I had to work one Sunday a month. That morning I went by my grandparents (they were leaving early for a family reunion) to show my PaPa my new car I had just bought. I was so proud of it and him being my advisor and car enthusiast, I just had to go show him. He looked it over...sat in the front seat...ran his leathered hand over my steering wheel and told me I "had done good". We talked for a bit...sat on the front porch and shared a drink and then I was on my way. They even passed me on the road (he tended to drive a little fast) on the way to their reunion that morning and I just smiled and waved at PaPa and MaMa.
I came home that afternoon from my shift to find my sister in law standing on the porch. Tears in her eyes...she said "It's Papa". She jumped in my car...the one he had just sat in, and we headed to the hospital. On the way there she filled me in on the details. They had gotten home from the reunion and he had sat on the couch to rest and watch the news. He was drinking sweet tea and asked my MaMa for a refill by shaking his cup of ice. She got it like she always did, but when she came back in the room, something was wrong. He was slumped over and not responding. My sweet little MaMa, who was in the earliest stages of Dementia) called 911 and then my brother. She sat outside on the porch waiting for them...she didn't know what to do. They got there and began working on him...Paul showed up and saw them working on him as they loaded him in the ambulance...but Paul knew. Knew he was gone...knew that we would never hear his velvet voice again.
We all got to the hospital and were in the family room when the doctor came in. He had to give us the news that we all dreaded to here. There was nothing they could do. He had suffered a massive heart attack and was gone almost immediately. We grieved...oh we grieved hard that day. One of those gut wrenching, wailing cries that takes your body over. I took my tiny grandmother in my arms and promised her that we would never leave her and would take care of her. I told her that she was a good wife to him...the best.
We went to see him one last time in the E.R. MaMa stood silently by him, rubbing his head and holding his hand. She gently leaned down and kissed his face and whispered over and over..."I love you Paul Angel". We got some of his personal belongings...MaMa put his gold wedding band on her necklace and we left. Empty...lost...broken.
This man that had been our pillar of strength, our faithful leader, our Godly example was gone. We knew that when he died it would be hard...we just weren't expecting it so soon. We weren't prepared...he still had veggies growing in the garden...great grand babies to love on...birds that still needed to be fed...and my MaMa who needed him to take care of her.
My PaPa was special. He loved Jesus y'all...I mean loved Him. He loved the word of God and I loved sitting and reading through his bible and the verses he had underlined...notes he had written. He loved my MaMa...his Chris. She had been slowly losing her self over the past years and his patience with her...his love for her was a perfect picture of marriage. He loved his family fiercely. He loved his country and proudly served in the Navy! He loved the church. He loved gardening and taking care of wounded animals and wildlife. He had even tamed a squirrel that he called Buddy...he would eat right out of PaPa's hand. He loved to walk on the beach and would search for hours for shells and shark teeth. I remember walking with him on those early morning walks...we didn't talk much, but we didn't need to. He was special.
I miss him today. Some days memories hit me and I laugh...sometimes I cry. His memory lives on through his 9 grandchildren and 27 great grand children. I tell my kids about him. About things he did...what he loved...how funny he was. He left a legacy...one that will never be forgot. It's hard to imagine that he has been gone for 15 years...but man am I grateful for the 24 years I had with him.