Still can't imagine my life without my Papa

by Lindsay
(Tucson, AZ)

My name is Lindsay Bingham, and I am 19 years old. I am still grieving the loss of my grandfather.

It's been exactly 2 months since my Papa passed away. He died peacefully in mid-October from cancer. I remember getting a phone call from my mom at midnight saying that "Papa's gone, sweetie," and my soul feeling empty and numb. I remember sitting in my bed, hoping he would have lasted a little while longer... so I could have said goodbye one more time... and to have said I loved him so much... one last time.

I remember the devastating phone call in June. My mom called me as I was driving back from Tucson after a few days with friends. She told me that the spot on his lung was cancerous, and that they needed to start treating it. Turns out, it spread to his brain. He needed radiation and chemotherapy. I remember coming back every day I could over summer to see him. I was scared. I was devastated. One man I looked up to my whole life had started to dwindle right before my eyes. Every weekend, he seemed to become less and less cognizant of me and life in general. I remember coming home for him and my Grammy's anniversary (56th anniversary) and him sitting uncomfortably in the chair. His skin had become irritating, painful, and extremely sensitive. If I touched him, he would flinch. I feel like I couldn't say "I love you" more. Everything I felt when I was around him was just sadness. Looking at him in pain and in discomfort ached my heart. His eyes looked dry and dead, hopeless and sad. I constantly thought of him and my Grammy. I wrote them a letter about a month before he passed, saying how grateful I was to have them in my life and how fortunate I was to have such an amazing set of grandparents. I told Papa how much I loved him, and how I was always praying for him. Apparently, when they received the letter, my Papa couldn't read it (too shaky with chemotherapy), my Grammy couldn't get through it without getting choked up, and my mom cried when reading it to them. I just wanted to let them know how much they changed my life, and how much I valued them. I don't think I said it enough throughout my life.

I remember when my Papa got a new cell phone (for emergencies) during the month of October. He just started learning how to text. He sent me a text saying "I love you. -Papa"... three times. I still have those texts in my phone to this day. I don't think I'll ever delete them. That was a tell-tale sign I needed to come home that weekend and see him.

Ever since the cancer diagnosis, I always asked about him when I was on the phone with my mom. (I go to school in Tucson, and my home is in Phoenix.) It was either,

"He's doing better today. He had a protein shake/drank water." (Dehydration was the usual issue.)


"Honey, he's not doing well" - in a soft, monotonic voice... not wanting anyone to hear.

The last few days he was on Earth, I was fortunate to see him. I arrived on Friday from a long drive from Tucson, and was more scared than ever to see him. I heard he had lost more weight, his skin was even more sensitive, and he was in and out of sleep... The whole car ride home, I cried. I had to pull over 2 times because I was so nervous, I threw up. I finally got to my grandparent's house, where there are so many memories of holidays and sleepovers, and he was lying on the couch, almost hopeless. Everyone was surrounding him, and he always had his daughters (my mom and 2 aunts) there. My Grammy always tried to remain busy, so she didn't have to think about it even more, since it was surrounding her everyday. She took care of the "business" side of things, and always put his comfort and care first.

After seeing him and sitting with him, he fell asleep. I decided to spend the weekend at their house, with my mom (who was a permanent resident by then), Grammy, and Papa. Who had known that this would be the last few days I would be seeing my Grammy and Papa together?

I remember going back to Tucson for my classes, and leaving for Phoenix the next day to see my Papa. My mom told me that his pastor came to the house and he and my Papa had a nice talk. Papa then told my Grammy that he was ready. Everyone said their goodbyes, their thanks, and their love for him... and he slowly drifted off.

When I got back to Phoenix that Tuesday (several hours before he passed), I was picturing how he looked in his hospital bed. (The bed was set up at the house, so he could be in the comfort of his own home.) When I entered the room, nearly everyone was there. My Papa was lethargic, and on medication. He was still "there" and could listen, but could not talk or open his eyes. Basically, he was in a deep sleep. I remember whispering in his ear how much I appreciated him and how much I loved him and how much I will miss him. I remember telling him how much I regret not seeing him during my first year of college, and how I loved how supportive he was of the entire family. I told him how much he influenced and shaped my life. He taught me about generosity and fairness, family values, and unconditional love. After speaking to him, I saw a tear form from his closed left eye. That was the moment I will never forget.

I hated saying goodbye to him, knowing that he only had hours left. I couldn't (and still can't) imagine my life without my Papa. His emails (10+ everyday), his holiday cards, his singing during my birthday phone calls, his spirit, and his big heart. I miss him everyday he hasn't been here.

After he passed, things started to fall apart. I find myself crying myself to sleep most nights (with or without depression medication), and having terrible mood swings. My grades in school dropped, and I considered dropping out of school entirely. I haven't been able to eat, drink, or sleep the same as I did months ago, and my interactions with friends are much different. I tend to be a Debbie-downer. I haven't found the perfect person to talk to, since no one my age can imagine the amount of loss my family has been through. (Papa died in mid-October, then 13 year old family dog died, then my guinea pig of 6 years, then my mom's boyfriend of 3 1/2 years... all in a span of 2 months.)

I don't know if telling my story will create some foundation of peace, or maybe recalling these events will create happiness for me and my family. His life (and death) has surrounded us with memories of our good times together, and appreciation for the life he led. He cherished family, but especially... my Grammy, his wife of 56+ years. I can't imagine what emptiness she feels without him by her side. He was her life, her rock, her best friend.

My Papa was an amazing man, and will always live on in our hearts.

And now, as it's a couple weeks before Christmas, our family is not merry or cheery or happy. Christmas was one holiday that all Papa's grandchildren and children looked forward to every year. The beautifully decorated "fake" tree, the breaking of the cracker, sitting down to a Christmas brunch together, and making laughs and memories together. Every Christmas has been spent with him and my Grammy, and this year, he will be missing from the picture... I still can't imagine any occasion without him.

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