These posts are hard...and I put them off for too long because it is just too hard to write about the loss of someone you love.
But, I want them in my blog book for my kids and myself to remember what sometimes can only be remembered in the raw moment of it.
My sweet Pepa passed away from lung cancer on March 5th. He was 91.
He had been diagnosed with lung cancer about 6 months and was on Hospice for a little while before he passed. He decided on his own accord not to fight the cancer after a few treatments and feeling terrible. He did amazing on Hospice and loved his nurses dearly. They mostly only came to see him once every week or so and would joke with him how he was "their healthiest patient."
He did amazing.
But, the thing about lung cancer, is that once it starts to take over, it happens quickly. He started feeling bad and feeling a little weaker in the mornings and having some difficulty breathing. He got on oxygen for a little while.
He didn't want to, but he eventually did it.
At each recommendation for care, he would refuse at first, and think about it a while, and then decide to take their advice.
One amazing blessing, is that about week or so before his passing we had "family birthdays" at my mom's house to celebrate January and February birthdays.
We had every family member there, except for Brooke who face-timed in from College.
I thought for a second that day that it might be the last time I would see him alive but, pretty quickly dismissed it because he seemed to be doing so well.
Nevertheless, I tried to make the most of my time with him. I got to sit with him and have lunch right next to him.
I loved just watching him watch the kids play. He sat in his chair and just marveled at the view of his legacy. He said out loud that "we have the best looking family around."
I watched him lovingly just wave to Momma Gay across the room and check on her. He asked if she ate lunch and just smiled at her. He had been ever the caretaker for her over the last year since her stroke.
It was precious to see.
He left that day and things seemed to go downhill. He went from healthy... to maybe 2 months.... to maybe 1 month. The Hospice nurses are usually pretty accurate at predicting death. They have seen it many times.
They advised my mom to continue on with our family ski trip.
He would surely be around a few more weeks.
Aunt Jan was with them every day while we were gone.
As I mentioned in our ski trip post, even though we knew he was sick, we weren't quite expecting the call for Mom and dad to go home.
He wasn't doing well or rousing in response to the Hospice nurse. He would still rouse at the voice of my Aunt Jan. He could hear her and respond and understand when she spoke. But, they knew mom needed to go home.
We prayed he would hang on until she got home.
We prayed he would not pass on her birthday, March 6th.
Aunt Jan told him, "Hang on Daddy, Carol is coming to see you." She would tell him at each stage of the day, "She's at the airport....she's on her way....she's on the plane...she'll be here soon." We called and spoke to Aunt Jan and Momma Gay.
We told them to kiss Pepa for us.
It was hard not to be there with him.
Aunt Jan told me that when she kissed him and said "That was from Bart" or "That was from Lindsay," he would pucker up his lips to kiss us back.
He still knew what was happening.
Sure enough, my mom and dad made it. She got to sit with him and hold his hand for a couple hours. She would squeeze him and he would squeeze back.
Around bedtime, my dad and Uncle Jimmy decided to go home and get some rest. They moved Pepa from his favorite Lazy Boy chair to the hospital bed they had placed in their living room. They told him they loved him like their own father and always had and they left.
Then in their childhood home, my grandma and her three kids sat around Pepa.
They were talking and telling stories when they noticed a change in his breathing.
My Aunt Jan told me they all gathered around him, she climbed in bed next to him and held his hand and told him it was ok, everything would be ok, they would take care of Momma Gay.
She said everything would be fine. They loved him and he could let go.
And just like that, with his immediate family he loved so much around him, he took his slow, last breath.
Apparently, that is very unusual with his type of lung cancer. Usually it is labored and can be very difficult to watch. They were to look for quick, shallow breathing, but, none of that happened. It was very peaceful and they were all alone, not even a Hospice nurse there at the time.
A couple things I know. One is that my mom and her siblings are amazing. They cared deeply for Pepa through his entire sickness. They spent hours and days sacrificing their lives and time to just be with him. They are selfless and giving and if I could have them, exactly who I would want caring for me in my last days. They are incredible.
Another is that, I know, despite the physical peace and easiness of his passing, it would have been extremely difficult if we did not know where he was going.
Pepa was clear.
He loved the Lord.
He had accepted Christ as his Savior early in life and lived his life for Him.
He raised his family in the church and loved church.
If we did not know that, I know we would have grieved intensely.
But, instead, we celebrated.
We celebrated a long life, well lived.
We celebrated a loving husband, father, grandfather and great-grandfather.
We knew every minute of every day of our life that he loved us and was proud of his family like no other accomplishment.
We were thankful for the blessing of having him in our lives.
The consistency and peacefulness he brought to each one of us.
He was an example of contentment at every phase.
A man of little that felt he had more than he could ever have asked for.
He was faithful and thankful and humble.
At the funeral, which Pepa planned himself and chose who would officiate, Dr. Longsworth, told memories each grandkid had of Pepa.
It was personal and precious.
I have listed them below:
Granddaughter Amy : Pepa called me Shady Girl because he wanted my parents to name me Shady. He always said I had a coke bottle figure! Anytime we were all together, he just seemed to watch and soak everything in and comment about how he has the best looking family out there.
Granddaughter Lindsay : I love how he always called me his #1 grandchild. Whenever I went to see him he would always have diet cherry 7up just for me, because he knew I loved it! Wherever we were, he always said he searched the room and looked at every person and said I was the most beautiful one there. He would say this to all of us and even to our friends.
Grandson Bryan: When we were younger, if we didn’t wear socks around the house, he would grab us and slap the bottom of our feet and say “get some socks on those feet”. I would purposely not wear socks when we stayed over there so he would do it. When at a group event, he would tell the girls that he looked all around at everyone in the room, and he didn’t see anyone better looking than them. I say that to my wife, Lauren, now because of him.
Granddaughter Brooke: Pepa always made it a point to come to my athletic events and school programs. After every single choir program or volleyball game, he would tell me he looked all around at all the girls there but that I was the prettiest one there. My Pepa always made me feel so loved and brought so much joy to my life and those around him. He will forever be loved by his “Joyner girl”.
Grandson Bart: I remember Pepa chipping plastic golf balls in the backyard. And slapping my bare feet saying “how tough are you?” He heckled little league umpires for making bad calls and was almost kicked out of one of my baseball games.
Grandson Matt: Pepa always gave me his golf clubs because I was the only left handed grandchild. Even the last time I saw him he gave me golf clubs and golf balls.
Grandson Scott: Pepa always loved to tell stories about us (usually about when we were younger) at family gatherings. If there was a funny ending to the story, he never made it to the punch line without laughing first. The last thing he ever said to me Friday night was “I love you. I always have”. I never doubted it. No one in our family ever doubted his love for us.
There are obviously a few themes there....golf, bare feet, compliments and lots of love.
By the time Dr. Longsworth got around to Brooke's where Pepa said she was the "prettiest one there" the whole room was giggling. He had that line DOWN and we all ate it up.
He was precious and he loved us so well.
A funeral isn't the place for pictures really, but I snapped this beautiful one of Pepa's family holding his urn before placing it in the wall.
We are calling this "his apartment."
They look beautiful holding and mourning and celebrating his life.
And just for fun, a throwback pic of Pepa and me at one of my choir concerts where he so lovingly is looking at me and lying through his teeth that I am the most beautiful girl in the room.
And then promptly after that, walked right over to Kristen and said it too.
I mean, I can't see past the short haircut on a cubby face...who said that was a good idea??
Thankfully, he saw right through that and told me anyway.
I love you, Pepa.
We will miss you so but can't wait to see you in your glorified body (that surely has all 10 toes) with Jesus again soon!