The week he died

By , St Paul, OR
DAY ONE:
Grandpa died today. There are no exact feelings in my body right now. So many are swelling inside of me. I feel sobs escaping my throat, anger pulsing through my veins, and oddly enough, I feel grateful. It was 6 ½ years that he had been laying in that bed. He never would have wanted to be that person. He was way to selfless, I’m sure he couldn’t stand being waited on like that. Plus he couldn’t tell grandma that he loved her. Grandma was his life! They grew up together; she had never not been in his life.

I was in Mr. Million’s room when I got called to the office, in which the office told me nothing of why I was to leave. I caught Jaimee in the hall and she stumbled out the words, “Grandpa died.” I don’t recall any thought in my head; I only know that sobs had escaped me quickly. I went back to the classroom to gather myself, and I made quite a scene. Roree hastily followed me into the hallway and embraced me. It felt so good to not have to worry about holding myself up. I had to find my sister was the only sane thought I was aware of. I played the older sister role and helped her get out of the school building, and held her hand all the way home. Tessa and I have always been close like this, whenever something bad happens; she is the girl I go to. I know she will hold my hand and cry with me. No other friend does that.

Once we got home, woke and told Remy, we were able to head to grandma’s house. The first faces we see are Aubrey and Jessica’s. They were so full of fear, so chaotically expresses sorrow. We quickly closed the space between us and embraced, our tears only coming harder. We all finally looked around and I was able to grasp the concept that grandpa’s body was still in his room. I knew I needed to see him; I could not let that magnificent man have my last memories of him in coffin. It was important I see him in his bed.

In the last 6 ½ years, my grandfather had never looked so peaceful. Emotions bombarded me and I began weeping once again. It was like I suddenly was so full of tears that had been stocked up in me. I touched grandpa’s face. It was still warm. I sat on the end of the bed, and my eyes frantically gazed over my cousins. Their emotions were so naïve, so innocent. To have death lying before you, it is something I can’t begin to describe.

I want to lie down with grandpa. The color of his skin is fading; his skin is cold to touch. Tessa kneels down in front of him and says a silent prayer and goodbye. I sit on the end of his bed, Jessica holds my hand. I suddenly remember the pillow I made for grandpa, the pillowcase with John Deere tractors. I frantically search for it, and don’t find it.

Something I feel I must lay before my eyes, grandpa was a vegetable. We had expected this to come sooner or later. He was just always so quiet these last years that his death is hard to accept. It feels like he is still just lying in his room, waiting for Ryan to come take care of him.

My faith in God is beginning to waver. How could He take this man away from me? I’m so angry! I feel so selfish yet so let down. How can grandpa leave us like this? I can’t and probably won’t ever grasp death and its reasoning.

Grandma is still gone to Arizona. It was her birthday present from the family. To think that just last week we had celebrated her birthday and grandpa’s. I think the family being together that day was a gift from God. The whole family stays at the farm house, for it feels better when we are together.
Ryan is sobbing. I have never seen a grown man cry this much. It almost is embarrassing to see. He loved grandpa so much. I wonder if he ever told grandpa that he loved him. Ryan joined our family 6 ½ years ago when grandpa was first ill. Do you think he’ll have to find a new job now?
Everyone in the family is crying, there has never been this much sadness on all our faces. Brentano’s are always happy.

The cousins all go upstairs and we look at old scrapbooks. Our grandpa was a babe! We laugh for about half an hour. It feels good. We go from upstairs to the main level of the house, us older ones get quietly told to take the cousins to the basement and we’ll be called up when it is clear. They are moving grandpa’s body. We quickly move the kids downstairs.

When downstairs, all the grandchildren write something to grandpa on the chalkboard. We all vouch to see him in heaven, and tell him we love him. The chalkboard is full, complete with every signature.

I vouch to go home for awhile, I need to try and sleep. I fail at that, and David comes over to sit with me. His arm around me calms me a bit, but I’m still antsy with frustration.

Grandma’s plane has arrived. All the brothers, sisters and Ryan went to pick her up. When we join them again at the farm house, they all have red eyes. They took grandma to see grandpa at the funeral home. No one asks how it went. All of us grandchildren line up and hug grandma. We don’t know what to say.

I leave the house later that evening, and go to my own home. I call David and begin to cry. I don’t sleep at all that night; I listened to an old cd of grandpa’s. “Fresh Horses,” by Garth Brooks.

I fall asleep to sweet words from David. I sleep easier than I thought I would.











DAY TWO:
I wake up to Tessa crawling into my bed. She is weeping. We press our faces together, and our tears join.

School is h*ll. The cousins and I immediately flock together and begin to embrace and weep.

Class isn’t any better. I cry in all those too.

At lunch the cousins and I join together again. Except for Aubrey. She is on a field trip. It feels good to be with the cousins, they know how I am feeling.

Fifth period is difficult. Erin hugs me and I break in her arms. She holds me for about five minutes; while I let my emotions crumble.

After school, I let my other friends outside of St Paul know about grandpa’s death. They are all sympathetic. Michelle becomes a constant in my life once again. She offers to come over; I refuse, as I need the time alone. And I’m terrified to let anyone see me cry like this.

We all join at grandma’s house again this evening. We eat. Preposterous amounts of food have been brought in by the community. We spend the evening looking at pictures of grandpa all throughout his life. There are a lot of pictures of him holding me. It is great to hear all these stories about grandpa once again.

Aubrey and I write a poem about grandpa. It is about the prince leaving the princess and his people. We save it, and decide to blog it and share with the cousins.

Uncle Pete has Pendleton alcohol out. He pours all the adults strong glasses. They begin to discuss when the funeral should be. Aubrey and I glance at each other; we don’t see our family drink strong alcohol ever.
DAY THREE:
I wake up to texts from David. The sincerity in his words makes me tear again.

School is better today. I actually enjoyed some of the day.

Once school is out, I go to David’s. I spend 2 hours crying in his arms. I was numb, yet the sobs came. The tears poured down. I had never cried in front of someone like this. I tell him he must be special. He holds my face in his hands, and looks me in the eyes, tells me that this is better for the family. His shirt is soaked by the time I am done. It is time for me to leave to rosary, and him to team dinner. I clench on tighter to him. “Tell me you don’t want me to leave,” I say. He looks me in the eyes, “I don’t want you to leave.” Sobs escape my throat again. “You need to go for your family,” he reminds me.

I rush home, and get in trouble for being where I shouldn’t have been. The parents aren’t too harsh; they can tell I spent my time crying.

I quickly throw on my dress, and do my hair. All the family is dressing up nicely for the rosary tonight.

Hail Mary, full of grace…
Each family begins the sets of ten on the rosary. Tessa and I sob the whole hour. I hold her hand during the whole thing. I watch grandma’s shoulders shake during the prayers.

Aubrey and I sit in the car and she tells me that grandpa lived a long and plentiful life. She makes me understand that it really is better this way.

We all gather at grandma’s house. I curl up with Jessica and we cry some more. All of us grandchildren huddle in the basement and watch Robin Hood, trying to distract ourselves.
I leave earlier than anyone else. I cannot stay in the silence and sorrow anymore. I need to breathe. I sit down at home and write.

I get a message from David; he has reasons that say he cannot be a part of my life. I get furious and sad. I needed him right now. At least now I am aware that my true friends are my family. I silently wish to be back in my cousin’s arms.


















DAY FOUR:
Today is the funeral. It is raining outside. Maybe the angels are crying for grandpa. I don’t want to get out of bed. When I finally do, I realize that my hair is a mess, and I don’t have a solution to fix it.

We meet the family at grandma’s house. And we all go in a Brentano procession. I hold Tessa’s hand again. We all huddle together under tents outside the church. The two generations have segregated- grandchildren under one tent, parents and grandma under the other. The line of people waiting to get into the church is enormous. It seems to never end. The cousins and I join hands and try not to think, we can’t grasp how many people grandpa touched.

I see Roree, Shane, Reid, John Maurice, and Zach Smith. David didn’t come, it burned my heart. I hold Tessa’s hand tighter. Ryan comes along, and I begin to cry. Ryan knows how much grandpa meant to me, I planned on saving the world for grandpa and curing stroke victims. I wanted to do stem cell research and see if it would make a difference. Jeff is there, and he hugs each one of the uncles. It is so hard watch.

Peter Poppoff is there. Tessa begins to tell me the story of how my dad was with him when his grandma died. There are so many faces, it is overwhelming. They all knew grandpa somehow. The church is full; they turn away about one hundred people. Mr. Bos is one of them. I feel so apologetic. Mr. Bos worked for my grandpa the summer he got ill with the brain tumor.

We all walk down the aisle to the reserved pews. Our Kleenex boxes are still there from the rosary. I sit next to Tessa. She needs me right now. The mass goes smoothly, in fact it was the best sermon I’ve ever heard from Father Borho. Brittany speaks for the family, saying the eulogy. She spoke magnificently and strong.

Heading to the cemetery is rough. Grandma backs away from the grave site when we get there. She says, “This is going to be tough,” and the fear in her heart petrifies her. I can’t stand the look on her face, so I quickly rush to join my cousins. I grab Jessica’s hand, and Tessa holds Aubrey’s. All of us grandchildren have a rose to lie on top of the coffin. Ryan and the other caretakers each have one too. The army guys salute the coffin, and fold the flag. “On behalf of the President of the United States, I present you this flag for your husband’s service to our country. Please accept our deepest sympathies on the loss of your husband, a soldier of the United States of America.” The sobs swell up in everyone’s throats, the family falls apart.

I always thought my fear was losing someone I loved, yet now I know it is saying goodbye to the person I love.

My eyes gazed the crowd, none of my friends came to the burial. I needed them there the most. My heart breaks a bit more. Even Tessa isn’t by my side right now; I’m not as strong without her.

The pole bearers place their roses on grandpa’s coffin, and then the grandchildren and the caregivers begin. I do not watch every one place their rose, for after placing my own I break and fall into someone’s arms. I don’t know who, I was so overwhelmed with grief that it did not matter.

The cousins and I hold each other. We have all broken down, and it is not a feeling we want to experience again. There are so many people surrounding us, normally we would fake happiness, but the emotion of sorrow and grief overtakes us. We don’t attempt to hide our breaking hearts.

We stay at the grave for what feels like forever. We just cannot walk away. It is the last time grandpa’s body is still above ground with us. No one wants to push grandma away from him.

We finally begin to move towards the line of cars. And we head to the hall. Once we get there, our sorrow leaves us. The cousins join hands, and we dish up plates of food. So many people are there, it amazes us. My dad doesn’t even eat; he just talks to people the hours that we are there.

Pictures of grandpa are everywhere in the lower floor, and the upper floor has a slide show going. Being surrounded by grandpa had never felt so good. Tessa and I quickly eat, and then go say our hellos to the people downstairs.

I sit with Mr. Pierson for forty-five minutes, he asks me to tell him about grandpa. I gladly ramble on for as long as I can before I must leave and take Tessa and Aubrey to the house. Tessa sits with Jensen while I am busy. I am happy Jen came. Tessa needed her here. A best friend should always be there for the other.

After I get Aubrey and Tessa where they need to be, I go back to the hall. I sit with the family upstairs, and I focus on the slide show. It makes me smile, and I ask my uncle for a copy.

At grandma’s house, I sit down and read the guest book. I attempt to count how many people were there. I fail, so Stephanie takes over the task. When finished, we find out that about 700 people were there for our family that day.

Tonight is Halloween; there is also a home football game. I just found out that it is dedicated to grandpa. The players all wrote “EB” on their hands. Aubrey and I thank Mr. Smith, and he gives us hugs. We call grandma and tell her about the game, we encourage her to come. She easily agrees. The whole family is present.

Zach Smith runs out to me and gives me a huge hug when I walk in. David and Roree are both there. Neither talks to me. It hurts. I ignore it as much as I can. I sit with grandma and the family. I feel safe from the social hurt that way.

My dad sits with Tessa and me that night at home. He tells us how proud he was of all the people who showed up at the funeral. He begins to cry. Dad says that he can only hope to be the man grandpa was. He can only pray that people will think that great of him. “This has been a long week, my girls,” Dad says. Tessa and I fall silent and just listen to what our father has to say.

Before I go to sleep, I text Jeff and thank him for suggesting the dedication of the game. I tell him that it meant a lot to my family, and that we are happy to call him part of it.

I still have not begun to grasp that there were seven hundred people there. We knew grandpa had touched lives; it just was so many faces at once. So many stories. It helped ease our pain of losing him.

















DAY FIVE:
I actually slept last night, and now I rise up to go to Remy’s last soccer game. The whole family is there. It only proves that we have become stronger in a whole through all this. Tessa and I are at one end of the park, and can hear grandma’s laugh at the other side. We worry for a bit, but then we let it sink in that grandma can live her life now. Grandpa’s death truly was a blessing in disguise. All the Brentano’s’ are at the game. The sidelines are lined with us. When the game is over, the family kicks around the ball a bit, everyone is laughing.

After the game, I head to Ryan’s house and I sit with his family. I feel happy, I feel relieved. I am there for almost four hours, and I had a blast just belonging.

The volleyball game was hard; dad had told Tessa and Aubrey to play it for grandpa. Grandma went, and she was dancing during the warm up music. Of course, many people still hugged us and gave condolences, yet it didn’t really matter anymore. We were all finally content.

Tonight, the girls and I joined mom and dad at Ixtapa. We hadn’t eaten as a family in so long. Dad tells us that grandma is impressed with Jeff. It seems that he gave her a huge hug and said, “I didn’t know Ed, but I feel like I know him because of his sons.” Tessa and I grin, because that was the perfect thing to say to our grandmother and it has made us all proud.

Daniel was emailing me, and told me to tell him my favorite memories of grandpa. I continually was smiling reliving the good moments grandpa had left me with.

We watched a movie as a family tonight. Leatherheads, it wasn’t very good, but the fact that we were together was enough. Through this experience, we have learned that family means everything. I always hug my cousins and family when I arrive and before I leave. A blessing in disguise, and a new guardian angel helped us come to this conclusion. And a beautiful ending it is. The prince, princess and his people will meet again in heaven. For now, they are together in heart and mind.





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