Maria Van Hove

March 16, 2017

I’ll never forget the morning of August 11th, when I woke up to the sound of my older brother’s voice, “Maria quick get up, Grandpa is in the hospital. Let’s go!” I mumbled something back, like: “I don’t understand, Grandpa is fine,” but I shuffled out of bed into the car.

Upon arriving at North Memorial Hospital at 3 AM, I immediately knew something was awry. My mom was crying, and my big tough hunting uncle was there with tears in his eyes. My older brother told me that my grandpa was in emergency surgery because of an aneurysm (something I had never even heard of). We sat and waited for three or four hours. When the surgeon came into the waiting room, my heart sunk. She pulled my mom and my uncle aside, and I saw where the conversation was headed. My mom was sobbing; the surgeon started to cry, and my uncle’s face filled with grief. I sat there in shock: how could this happen? He was just fine yesterday! How could he die in a matter of minutes? Why did my grandpa have to die?

The doctors kept him on life support long enough for us to say goodbye while he was still “living.” All I remember about saying goodbye was crying. I couldn’t even find the words to tell him everything I wanted to say while I had my chance. All I could find in myself was to say “I love you” before I was overtaken by my sobs.

Each day after his death was slow and painful. Everything felt unnecessary and was a waste of energy. How could I live, when I realized all the people I took for granted? But in my deepest time of sorrow, I found a way to cope. Through all the tears and heartache, I decided to do a reading at his funeral, because I knew he wouldn’t want us to be sad. I knew that reading at his funeral would be so much to him and to my mom, and this was as close of a send-off I could muster.

Even though I found a way to say goodbye, it took years before I could even talk about losing my grandpa. He was such a genuinely good person; I struggled to face the reality of life without him. Everything had changed. No more going to Perkins with him on Sundays. No more riding in the back of his red truck with no seatbelt like a cool kid. No more bingo at McDonald’s on the Tuesdays I had off from school. And lastly, one less supporter of me in my activities. My grandpa was a huge fan of sports, and now I don’t get to see him cheering for me on the sidelines.

I’ve found that time and faith are what allows us to heal. For months, I kept thinking it wasn’t his time, it wasn’t fair for God to take him away. But what I have come to realize is that even though I wasn’t ready, my grandpa was. It was a true blessing because I will always have the best memories of my grandpa. He never suffered from a long or painful disease. He was a picture of physical and mental health up until the day he died. He took care of his house that he built, his family, and his yard for the wonderful 87 years he lived.

I know that everything happens for a reason. Just the year before, for my school interview project, I had interviewed my grandpa and all about his life. He gave me some fantastic words of wisdom that I will forever hold close to my heart. I couldn’t be more thankful that I got to learn so much about him.

It will always bring tears to my eyes to talk about my grandpa because he was and is so close to my heart. But as with all loss, eventually, you can start to see some light through the dark.

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