It Takes a Village. And a Double Grandpa.

By Kate Morrow

When agreeing to write for this blog, I knew one of the posts would be about the sudden and traumatic loss of my father. I dreaded writing this one. But, it needs to be told and I want to get this one out of my mind, off my plate, out of sight.

I recently read an article that was entitled, “The Unique Hell of Losing A Parent When Your Kids Are Small.” As I read the article, a few lines really struck me:

“As taxing as it was, I put on my brave face and did what I had to do at home. Then I put on my brave face and did what I had to do at the hospital, and they were none the wiser.”

 I remember exactly what I was wearing, what I was doing when I found out about my father’s unexpected and quick death. My brother called me. He didn’t even have to say it. I just knew. It was 4:45 p.m. on a Tuesday. I was still in the midst of my maternity leave. My husband Cam was about to leave the office and head home. William, my brother, uttered the word, “I hate to have to tell you this, but Dad…”

I instantly started screaming, “No. You’re lying. No.” I ran onto the front porch. I cried. I felt helpless and panicked. And then the twins started crying as they woke up from their nap. I remember having to hide my pain, my tears, my anguish, when all I wanted to do was sink into the floor. I could barely breathe. But they needed me.

 “If there is one absolute truth, it is that death and grief and small children do not mix. Life as I knew it changed forever, but my circumstances and responsibilities did not. I was waist-deep in naps, meal prep, butt-wiping, art projects, the flu, paying bills, loads of laundry.”

 I often wonder how I would have handled my grief differently if I were not a mother yet. I probably would have spent a lot of days in the bed, under the covers, with a pint of ice cream, and the television on Netflix to get my through my sadness. But as a new mom with infant twins, that was simply not a choice.

I remember telling my husband often, that I didn’t even have time to appropriately grieve my father because I was so busy being a twin mom. There are days I still feel I haven’t grieved him adequately and it’s going to hit me even more immensely when time slows down. Even though my husband was there every step of the way and my in-laws fly down the interstate any time I am in need—babies are babies and they still need Momma.

“Intense waves of grief periodically stop me in my tracks, take my breath away and force me to sit down and say to myself, “Holy shit, that happened.” Those waves will crash in the rest of my life, and if time is able to do anything for me, it will give me longer stretches between each one.”

 In the weeks and months after my father’s death, I would find myself so busy between caring for the twins, being a wife, keeping up with the house, learning my new job, that I would sometimes forget for split seconds at a time that my father had passed. I would randomly think of him and how I should “call to tell him something” or “the next time I see Dad.”

And then it would hit me. And I would force myself to think about it. Really think about it. “This is forever.” “I will never see, hug, or talk to him again.”

There is no feeling in the world to describe that pain. None. There is no amount of time or level of busyness that can get you through that.

But honestly, being Jack and Lilly’s mom has given me so much inspiration and gotten me through some of the toughest days. People often ask me how I have been so strong through this. It is partially because I am so busy with life, but also part that I saw so much life and death during our hospital stay. I know the world has to end for some for others to begin.

The hardest part about my father’s death? Not getting to see him be a grandfather. He only got to be a grandfather for the twins’ first six months of life. He visited them in the NICU frequently, FaceTimed with us often, held them for the first time on Thanksgiving Day. It hurts the most because he would have been one of the world’s best.

He was so proud of them. After he died, I was the family member in charge of clearing off his phone. I found a photo log full of every single picture I ever sent him of the twins. I found text message after text message of him beaming with pride about his twin grandchildren to his family and friends.

What makes it better? A man that often gets overlooked because he is quiet, but humble. A man who I can simply not find enough words to tell how much I love, appreciate, and am grateful for not ever intending to take my dad’s place but intentionally makes the pain less deep because he is always there. A man who had to balance the difficulty of being overjoyed to be a new grandfather without overshadowing my pain in losing another new grandfather, my dad. He is sincere, loving, and giving. The epitome of what it means to be the protector of one’s family. Losing my father was breathtakingly, stop you dead in your tracks, painfully hard, but having someone I consider my second father made it easier.

He, my father-in-law, has the hardest job of all—being Jack and Lilly’s double Earthly grandfather. I have watched him these past eight months in awe and wonder as he has been there for all of their firsts, putting in overtime to make them feel the love of having a grandfather.  The world’s best.

I know Dad is honored to give you his Grandpa moments that he is watching from Heaven with the same awe, wonder, and pride.

Thanks for being in our village, Ed. We love you.

The Simple Life

By: Lydia Scott

I remember my daddy as if we’d just finished grits and eggs at the kitchen table this morning. If we could find a clear spot on the table, that is. My daddy was his own boss who ran a successful insurance, estate, and financial planning business here in Columbia for decades. Most of that time he worked from home, and the kitchen table was his favorite spot to bury himself in his paperwork and phone calls, much to the chagrin of my slightly neat-obsessed mama.Me and Daddy

The kitchen table was positioned in front of a large sliding glass door that led out to the six-foot-high cement patio, and overlooked our tree-riddled backyard and our 2.5 acre squarish pond. He had our pond built when I was 8 years old, and it’s now one of several on Rimer Pond Road in Blythewood. Before the pond, that space was a mucky swamp, home to many rattlesnakes. But Daddy transformed it into a beautiful watery oasis, stocked with bass, bream, catfish, and carp. Nature made sure to move in turtles, herons, bullfrogs, dragonflies, and countless woodland creatures who came to drink and socialize. Daddy loved that pond, and being able to look out at it every day gave him a lot of happiness amongst his disheveled stacks of papers and waiting problems.

My father was an overall-wearing, corny joke-telling, poetry-writing, Bible-teaching, problem-solving, engine-diagnosing, sales genius; a 6-foot, 2-inch, 270-pound, booming baritone-voiced, oak tree of a man. And by oak tree, I mean that he embraced people, sheltered people, stood his ground on his beliefs, and influenced people far and wide. A devoted Jehovah’s Witness minister for his entire adult life, he ran against the grain by studying all he could about all other religions, and refusing to shun his family when they didn’t do what the religion said was right. He taught me that I have to get on other people’s levels if I want to reach their hearts, and that meant I had to understand their thinking.

When my teenage stupidity took hold and led me to do something rude or senseless, he got mad, yes. But he would also calmly ask me, “What were you thinking that led to your decision to do that?” And not in the “you’re an idiot” kind of way (most of the time). He genuinely tried to understand the process that had occurred in my head just before I decided to do something dumb. And it would make me CRAZY!!! Because usually there wasn’t really a thought process, which was why I did something dumb. (Duh, Daddy!) But it made me stop and think, and helped me stay on a better path.

me and daddyMy daddy should have been a psychologist. He was a master at reading people and getting them to do things differently, and he was constantly fascinated with why people do the things they do. Which is why he was so good at sales. His downfall was that his expansive imagination meant you could sell him sand in a desert. He was always looking for the next big breakthrough and saw potential in just about everything.

Constantly brimming over with ideas and solutions, his mind was only quiet amongst the artistry of nature. He woke up before dawn every morning so he could bask in the quiet, therapeutic beauty of the little paradise he’d built at our edge-of-suburbia home. Nature often inspired him to write, as it did not long before he died on August 30, 2003:

The Simple Life

What is life?

Surely not just strife.

Can you see the smile

That will make everything worthwhile?

A child at play, having fun

A cat or dog, scampering in the sun

The cells of our brain may die

Our experiments in life may make us cry

We will not despair

About complex things, don’t care

Give me the Simple Things

My heart goes ka bump ka bump

Over a rich clammy soil clump

Soil that will make beautiful flowers grow

Among which fireflies will glow

A big bass jumps in the pond

To bait my hook I am so fond

To sit in the shade on the dam all day

To fish for fun, not something to eat, I pray

To laugh, to sing

And watch what a shower will bring

There goes a waterbug, a frog

But I’d rather sit than jog

Give me the Simple Things

I have everything I desire right here

For riches, for wealth, I won’t cheer

Give me the Simple Things

To love and care for others is best

To invite others to be our guest

Will give us renewed zest in our life

And chase away the blues and strife

Give me the Simple Life!

He used to joke that he’d be happiest going off out west and living in a cave on a mountain. I think he was only half-joking. He loved family and loved people, which meant they held power over his heart, and caused him a lot of pain. Always coming to him to fix their screw-ups, and he never turned any of them away. We often didn’t see much of Daddy because he was off helping someone right a wrong, fix an error, overcome an obstacle. He wasn’t a perfect man…sometimes his patience failed him and his words were especially harsh to an overly-sensitive, chubby little girl. Sometimes he wasn’t as approachable as he could have been, so we wrote him notes and left them on his bed pillow when we wanted something. He had a white belt nicknamed White Lightnin’ that he used on your behind if you were really out of line. I think I felt its sting only twice, being a people-pleasing below-the-radar type of kid. He had a weakness for sweets, and to this day, I get teary-eyed when I see a box of Hostess Raspberry Zingers and a six pack of Blenheim Ginger Ale.

Daddy was a simple man with a complicated life who was loved deeply by a ridiculous number of people. He died the way he had expressed would be worst for him: trapped inside a body unable to express anything in his mind or move anything on his own, even his eyelids. Life’s cruelest irony for him. Not one to be beaten down by anything, my sister, who was dozing in his room early on his last morning, says she heard him humming one of his many nameless tunes in the wee hours before dawn, his favorite time. Doctors said it had to have been a reflex, since he could not have done it willfully. But we all knew better. Just like I knew, a few days before when I told him the doctors’ prognosis that he could live in that state for years. I told him we knew he was the one in control and he could decide to stay or go, and the tears rolled down his cheeks. It was not a reflex. He was in control, like always.

And that last morning, he hummed an unknown tune in the dark before dawn, and took his last breath…his choice, his time…just the way he’d lived.