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Jun 27, 2012
04:58 PM

A Grandpa Fulfills His Promise One Summer

He wanted to be at all 13 of his grandkids' high school graduations. He missed the last in body – but, in a breathtaking sign, not in spirit.

A Grandpa Fulfills His Promise One Summer

"I'll be there," he promised. He had 13 grandchildren and was going to make it to each of our high school graduations. Some people set goals of running a marathon, or reading a book list, or saving up for a house – personal and somewhat selfish goals. My grandpa's goal was focused on his grandkids. A statement of his commitment to us. An example of how proud he was to be our grandpa.

I had begged God to let him live to fulfill that last wish. But he didn't make it to my little brother's – the youngest grandchild. He died at the beginning of his senior year. The pain of having to say goodbye to someone you love never goes away. Not a goodbye or see ya later. But a Goodbye. With a capital "G." The kind that is forever – until heaven.

I was reminded last night of my last moments with my grandpa. My dad called me and told me this was it. He asked if I wanted to talk to him. Grandpa couldn't talk back, but I could ramble endless amounts of babble into his ear if I wanted. Talk to him? What do you say to someone when you know it's your last chance to talk to them on Earth? "I love you" doesn't seem enough. My dad has the phone to my grandpa's ear. I can tell from the heavy breathing and otherwise deafening silence. "Grandpa?" I manage to get that out. "I just want you to know that I love you. I'm so proud to be your granddaughter. You are my hero."

Except I never got to finish. In the middle of my sentence, I hear my dad on the phone. I'm angry. Upset that my dad got to hear the last words meant for my grandpa, and I break down in serious ugly cries. "I'm not ready, Dad. I wasn't finished." My dad reassures me that Grandpa heard me. That he laid his hand over his heart and tapped it a few times as if to gesture the endless amount of love he felt for me. And then we hang up. And I wrestle on the floor of my room – 1,500 miles away – with the closing of a chapter. It feels too final. Too finished. I never got to go to the funeral and wondered if my goodbyes said on the phone were enough.

But somehow, writing this (with tears streaming down in the middle of this crowded Starbucks) makes me feel closer to him. Like the punches of the keyboard are going straight to heaven. And I'm able to immortalize him for one last time. My grandpa loved Purple Martins. He put up houses for them in his front yard – homes for these beautiful birds that come to stay in the summertime. After my dad put up a house in our own yard, they became the source of most conversations on the phone. "Any Martins yet?" my grandpa would ask. And there never were. "They'll come. They'll come." He would reassure us.

And come they did. Every single summer since he died. I remember when I saw my first one apart from the floods that came to my grandpa's house.

We were hot and sticking to our chairs listening to name after name being read over the loudspeaker during my little brother's graduation. I was in a bored trance until the list of names started to reach the letter "M" – for Murphy. It was almost his turn to cross over the stage that makes you into an adult when my mom gasped. My dad pointed – and we see a beautiful Purple Martin gliding down low, right across the sea of graduating seniors.

My grandpa made it.

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