~ Since writing this, my dear grandfather passed away peacefully in his sleep in the afternoon of Wednesday 1st August 2012. R.I.P Papa. ~
I’m not sure why I am writing this. I guess it just helps to get it out; catharsis.
My grandfather is on his death bed. He lost his wife (my step-grandmother) two years ago. Prior to that he was a fit and strong 90 something year old; still working as he has always done as a farmer. I think he’s dying of a broken heart. All his children, grandchildren, (at last count in region of about 30+) great grandchildren and great great grandchildren are praying for him to stay alive, but I think when we’re honest with ourselves, our prayers are completely selfish. He says he’s ready to die. He says he wants to see Grandma.
I’ve written blogs about him. I speak about him. In reality we’ve probably only breathed the same Caribbean air for less than a year of my 37, but his impact on my life and values are immeasurable. He taught me that anything can be achieved through hard work, discipline and determination. His humour has always been the key part of his ability to reach people; to touch those around him. Papa always makes people laugh. A few hospital visits ago, when we had a real scare, he could hardly walk. One of my aunties was trying to help him to the car. He pushed her away, and with his trademark, squint eyed, serious face said, ‘Leave me man. I’m not dead yet you know!’ His line was followed as ever by his equally recognisible broad youthful ‘Cheshire Cat’ smile. I think that’s where I get mine from. When he met wife (then girlfriend) after a few days of keen observation, he went up to her and asked her ‘Where are your wings? You’re like an angel that has just fallen from the sky.’ My wife fell in love him right there and then.
He’s a God fearing man, and although he wasn’t in church every week and neither needed to be seen, I heard countless stories of him secretly donating money to help poor families, build homes and churches. My father told me that as a child their home was always filled with cousins and children from around the community, who for one reason or another needed somewhere to stay. My father is one of twelve. He said Papa would work hard and feed and treat everyone equally as though they were all his offspring.
I can’t get to Jamaica right now, and it’s killing me. I sent this letter to my hero through Facebook. My Mum read it to him. He’s unable to talk much now and is very weak. Mum said he listened intently. When she read the last line, he nodded and smiled. I’m happy to know that I’ve said it. It’s out there. He knows that I love him and that I’ll never forget him. Mum told me that they all stay by his bedside, and that he sleeps at night in my father’s lap. The image of my Dad stroking him to sleep, kills me and comforts me simultaneously. I pray I get to do the same for him whenever his time comes.
I remember back in 1996. It was the time we spent 5 months with you and mum and dad started the house. One afternoon you came and said I must follow you, so of course I did. You ended up taking me way down into the gully near the house in Pisgah. We went to the river to catch fish. You walked strong and I was tired, out of breath and sweating. Ever so often you would stop and point out a bird or tell me about a certain bush and what it can do for the body. It is a memory clear to me as though it was last week. Do you remember?
I remember how proud I was to have you as my grandfather. You are not a big man, but to me you have always been a giant. I am still so proud of you. I tell everyone about my Papa that worked into his nineties! I write about you. You, mum and dad are the people I respect most on this earth. You taught my father respect and love and he in turn has taught me the same. My daughter and unborn children may never get to meet you, but they will see your pictures and hear the stories. I love you Papa. I’m not there, but I am in spirit. God bless you until we see each other again.