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Gone But Not Forgotten
I stride through the long, silent hallway for the nth time. It’s all a waiting game, a terrible, cheerless one that refuses to end. The second to last room on the left’s door is cracked open. I peer inside and get hit with the contagious mood of everyone else. Sniffles and frowns are an epidemic spreading rapidly across the tiny space.
At the Hospice in Atlanta, Georgia, my grandfather lies in a bed, and a dozen anxious faces stare down. Practically the entire family has turned up to say goodbye.
We were summoned from Florida for this very reason; they knew his time was drawing near—but it just would not come. We have been absent from home for a lengthy few days already. I have spent countless hours in that building. A clock ticks away each last precious moment… the end moving constantly closer. To pull my clingy thoughts away from the grief, I engage in some playtime with my littlest cousins, all less than five years old at the time. They gave me something to laugh about while they ran about with each other, for which I was glad.
The staff at the Haven Hospice proved themselves to be unspeakably kind. They provided to every need of Grandpa and rushed to help with so little as a pained look across his face. They comforted him and us hugely. They even churned batch after batch of fresh baked cookies for everyone to share and munch on. Within the sweetness of the confections came a new taste. The batter wasn’t your usual; gallons of care had been poured into them and tender pieces supportiveness sprinkled in generous amounts on top.
Every morning, my many aunts, uncles, and cousins, as well as my parents and I, file through the doors, ready to take on another day of sorrow. This particular date is August 3, 2008. I spoon-feed my grandpa some Jell-O, but find it too depressing to be in the room, so I finish my task and join the little ones in the lobby for a while. The next thing I know, someone is sent from the room as a messenger to retrieve those of us who are not nearby. I follow, though it seems that I’m only half awake, as in a dream, not wanting to believe the truth.
The sounds sliding out through the half open door are still mainly comprised of telling signs of sadness, but now there is a new voice intercepting the noise of crying. The beautiful, heavenly voice is ringing out loud and clear.
“Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound….” Everyone is instantly captivated by the lovely, pure resonance of it. It’s not a famous voice, nor is it even a voice of someone we know. A woman working at the Hospice center decided of her own accord to come and sing for us, and for my Grandpa, and to tell him it’s okay to go. It didn’t matter to me or anyone else that she wasn’t a top class singer. She sounded amazing, and it was really the message that was the best part, beside the breathtaking song. What she did that day was exceedingly touching, especially to do it for a company of complete strangers.
“I once was lost, but now… am found. Wa’ blind, but now I see.” Sheila, the African American lady I had never met before in my life, sang like an angel. The tears kept flowing in most of the eyes that were fixed on the performer, but every one of us was extremely grateful for her act of compassion.
“Thank you, Sheila.” My aunt Cathy, though still crying, was the first to speak up in gratitude toward our soloist. I too had enjoyed the comfort of having an outsider care so much about our situation. Still, the overwhelming mood echoing off walls but not being able to escape built up the gloom. I had to leave, at least for a few minutes.
Although an eternity seemed to pass while I sit in a lobby chair, eventually my dad comes trudging toward me. I can tell what has happened, and I don’t even need it to be said.
“He’s gone.” Until then, my tears had hardly spilled over, but now I let them come freely. I didn’t reenter the room after that, because I couldn’t bear to go in.
The next day was the funeral… if that name can suit it. My grandfather’s half of our very large and mixed family is Jewish. After death, the family talks with a Rabbi, who gets to know the life of the deceased well, to the point where when it comes time to give the service, he can give an account of my Grandpa Budd’s life. The attendees of the funeral are not clad in drab and dark colors, and the event is not meant for mourning. It is to celebrate the life of the one we all loved, and I’m sure he would have liked the idea, rather than grieving.
Afterward, the ‘ceremony’ of Sitting Shiva begins, and guests arrive with food for a party of sorts. My aunt Amy, daughter of Sheldon Howard ‘Budd’ Jacobson, hosts the get-together. Again, I must applaud this custom, although it was strange to me at first, the celebration of the wonderful life he did have really is worth remembering.
It has now been a year since he passed away. All the memories of his great ability to be a grandparent stick with me, as does the pain of losing him, but not so strongly anymore. He is gone, but not forgotten. “Yea, when this flesh and heart shall fail, And mortal life shall cease, I shall possess within the veil, A life of joy and peace.”