My Papa

There are people in our life that we look up to.
They're strong.

They seem immortal.
Like they'll be here forever.
And then we find out that they won't.

I lost my grandpa, my Papa a month ago today.
He had an intense, heart wrenching battle for three weeks in the hospital. It was surreal. This couldn't really be happening. Could it?

I went inward often during this immensely hard time.

I thought about all the great memories and experiences I've had with Papa, Granny, and my large family of aunts, uncles, cousins, and more recently my cousin's and my children. Getting together for holidays, birthdays, and any other occasion we could find to gather together to laugh and eat. Time spent camping in the mountains and picnicking in the desert. Talking in the living room while sports were on the television. Listening to him talk about an interesting article he found in the National Geographic magazine. Finding treasures in his abundant garden, smelling roses in the yard or spotting birds in many of the trees around their home.

I had to find a constructive way to express my feelings of utter sadness. I felt a longing to paint. I saw big blue drips in my mind so I started there and worked on the painting between hospital visits.

While participating in this kind of painting, its all about being present in the process. I try to have no agenda. To only listen and be completely open to those little heart callings, those whispers of intuition, those pullings of the brush.

I felt compelled to turn the painting sideways and paint quakies, aspen trees. One of Papa's close companions during his many trips to the mountain.

Then I felt the painting ask for a full moon to be painted in the open spot to the right. Fear gripped me. It would be the full moon in just a few short days. Surely if I painted a full moon the unimaginable would happen soon and I would lose my Papa. I set my paint brush down and tried to walk away from the painting. I felt a strong, almost physical pull back to my painting. I stood there with tears streaming down my face. I've learned that it's important to listen to that quiet intuition, so I painted that moon. Then in my mind's eye I saw more blue drips, but this time coming down the trees. I didn't have the time at that point so I planned to come back to the painting.

The next day we were able to communicate with with Papa despite the ventilator and multiple IVs. He wanted to go home and he wanted the process stared now!

A few hours after he arrived home, the most amazing thunder storm broke out. Power filled thunder and lightning shook. Rain poured down. Papa peacefully slipped away surround by his adoring family. The sky and the trees cried with my family at the loss of this great man.

I was outside on the porch as it happened, looking at the beautiful sunflowers across the street, and the birds, and the trees. I felt a warm hug-like presence at my side. I turned to see who was hugging me but no one was there. I know Papa had stopped to tell me it was all going to be okay.

The following days were spent with the family, looking at photos and recounting stories of Papa's life. Of the crazy adventures. Of his fondness for the natural world. Of the incredible love and support he had for his family. Of his wisdom. Of his strength.

It took a while before I could return to the painting but when I did, I felt a peace wash over me as I painted those drips coming down the tree. I turned my thoughts to a poem:

Do not stand at my grave and weep,
I am not there; I do not sleep.
I am a thousand winds that blow,
I am the diamond glints on snow,
I am the sun on ripened grain,
I am the gentle autumn rain.
When you awaken in the morning’s hush
I am the swift uplifting rush
Of quiet birds in circling flight.
I am the soft star-shine at night.
I am in the flowers that bloom, 
I am in a quiet room.
I am in the birds that sing,
I am in each lovely thing.
Do not stand at my grave and cry,
I am not there; I did not die.
-- Mary Elizabeth Frye
I love you Papa and miss you something fierce!