Thursday, March 1, 2012

In Loving Memory

This is a personal post. If you don't care about things that have nothing to do with books, please navigate elsewhere. Thanks.

Both my dad's parents died of heart attacks. My mom's dad died of emphysema and her mom died of complications in surgery in an attempt to remove a blood clot. I never got a chance to know my grandparents, as my last remaining grandpa passed away when I was 2. It's really a sad situation, but that's okay. It was their time.

My mom's aunt, Josephine, and her husband, Phil, couldn't have kids. They wanted them so badly and tried for years, but were unsuccessful. I think they were born to be parents and grandparents, but again, life doesn't always work out the way we wish it would. But sometimes little miracles happen and people enter our lives to fill those little voids, making us whole. Which is exactly what happened.

Not to sound vain or self-centered, but when I was born, I immediately became the apple of Aunt Jo & Uncle Phil's eyes. Little Jen could not speak very well, as many toddlers can't, so I referred to them as "JoJo" and "Fufu." (Somehow I got that from "Uncle Phil.") They slept on each side of my playpen when I stayed the night there for the first time at 6 months old. They came to all my grandparents days. They spoiled me beyond rotten. Mom would take me there several times a week and while Fufu was fixing cars out of his garage (he was a damn good mechanic) and Jojo was doing the office work, they'd let me draw on their yellow legal pads. It was just poorly drawn people and misspelled words, but they kept every one of my drawings. My uncle said I'd be a nurse one day, because every time he'd cut or burn himself while working on cars, I would wash off the wound and fix it up with Q-tips and bandaids. (Boy, I had a lot to learn.) And they loved to hear me sing. He always say "Jenny, you'd better do something with that voice." He was massively biased.

In 2007, Fufu was diagnosed with lung cancer. They removed the tumor, but didn't realize that he had pneumonia at the time of surgery, so that complicated things. They kept him in a drug-induced coma for 45 days, after which he miraculously recovered. They had told us to plan for the worst, because they didn't think he'd make it. During one of our phone conversations amidst his slow recovery, he told me that God sent him back because he needed to make sure I got married to a good man before he passed away.


In 2009, I did. Only they didn't make it to the wedding, because of more illness. Still, they proudly displayed my wedding photos all over their home.

Having moved away in 2006, I still called them every single week. Fufu encouraged me through my application to nursing school, my acceptance to nursing school, my wedding planning, the difficulties of nursing school, all my crazy stories, my crippling self-doubts about my potential as an RN. He would laugh it all off and tell me that I was meant to be a nurse. And though he was still struggling with illness when he celebrated his 73rd birthday in December 2011, he told me, "Jenny, I need to stick around to see those great-grandbabies of mine be born. Your aunt and I need to spoil them."

The day after his birthday, he suffered two heart attacks. What's worse, they found a malignant tumor in his bladder that had metastasized to his kidney, his ureter, and the surrounding lymph nodes. The cancer was too advanced. There was an option for a 5-6 hour surgery, but the urologist advised that he would only have a 5% chance of surviving the surgery. The decision was made to just keep him comfortable, which the doctor had told us would give him 3 months to a year to survive. But last Wednesday, my mom told me that his potassium level had skyrocketed to 6.6 and his calcium level was through the roof. He fell into a coma. I drove up there Thursday morning and they only had him on 1.5L of oxygen and
a morphine drip. The palliative care nurse said he had hours and that he probably couldn't hear us because he was so doped up.

I didn't care. I talked to him anyway. I told him how loved he was and will always be. I told him how I wouldn't have had anyone to bring for Grandparents Day without him and my aunt. And I promised him we'd take care of Aunt Jo.

On February 24, 2012 at 4:15pm, his heart stopped. He was surrounded by about 15 of his beloved family members and his wife. Everything feels different now and it's weird. But I feel peaceful, because I believe there is a place better than this one. So I do have hope th
at I'll see him again someday. I wanted to get up and share my memories about him at the funeral, but I would've crumbled. So this is my way of making up for that and letting anyone who cares know what an impact he had on my life.

And it's kind of funny. He thanked me after every phone call we had. He thanked me for calling him. And here I am, unable to even begin thanking him enough for all the memories, the laughter. And for being the best grandfather that a great-uncle has ever been.

RIP Fufu
December 19, 1938 - February 24, 2012
I'll be looking at the moon, but I'll be seeing you.

34 comments:

  1. Hugs and my deepest sympathies to you and your family Jen.

    RIP Fufu

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  2. This makes my heart ache with sadness and happiness at the same time. Sadness that Fufu has gone away from you, but happiness that he had such a wonderful life (and niece) and that you'll see him again someday <3

    My thoughts are with you and your family, Jen.

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  3. God bless u, Jen. My deepest condolences to you and your family. May he RIP.

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  4. Your uncle sounds like an amazing person. And this is a wonderful way to honor him. We're lucky to have people in our lives who love us and believe in us, even if it's just for a short time. I just wanted to offer my condolences :).

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  5. I'm so sorry to hear about your uncle. My sincere condolences.

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  6. I'm so sorry to hear that Jen!
    Your Uncle sounds like a wonderful person!
    Thanks for sharing your moment with us!
    My sincere condolences!

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  7. Uncle Phil has some Haagen-Dazs waiting to share with you.

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  8. I'm so sorry, Jen! My thoughts are with you! Your uncle sounds like a wonderful person.

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  9. Sorry for your loss. I lost my grandmother, who raised me, on July 13, 2011 to a heart attack, so I kind of know what you're going through. It is really hard to deal with sometimes, but you'll get through it. I'm sure he would have wanted you to enjoy your life and power on, even though sometimes it's hard not to dwell on the loss. Your great uncle must have been a great man, and he sounds liked he was well loved, so he lived a full life. Stay strong!

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  10. Oh, Jen.I am so, so sorry for your loss.

    <3

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  11. You are so loved, by so many. This was beautiful Jen. Thank you for sharing this piece of your heart with us.

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  12. Thoughts and prayers to you girl. So sorry for your loss. :(

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  13. Oh, Jen, this is lovely. You were all so lucky.

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  14. Oh Geraldine <33 I heart you even though you just made me cry. This is beautiful tribute to him. It's so clear what a wonderfully special relationship you two had! <33 Thinking of you!

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  15. My heart goes out to you Jen. It sounds like Fufu was an amazing person and I'm glad he was a part of your life. Cherish the memories, until you meet again. :)

    *hugs*

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  16. Jen I felt this. It hit me hard. I don't know what to say, because "sorry" sounds so inadequate. I don't know what I'd do without my maternal grandparents and I can't imagine a single day without them in my present and future. Maybe that's even a tiny bit comforting, knowing that someone else's heart breaks for you because she can't imagine the kind of pain you're going through. I hope you start to feel... better somehow, even if that doesn't happen anytime soon. I hope you're receiving all the comfort you need. I just wish you hope. I'll take yours and Fufu's story with me, and I thank you for sharing something so painfully beautiful and touching.

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  17. This is beautiful, Jen. Your feelings are pouring through this and is a great testament to his memory.

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  18. What a beautiful post, Jen. I think I completely fell apart at "he told me that God sent him back because he needed to make sure I got married to a good man before he passed away." What a man. You were so blessed to have him in your life!

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  19. I am sorry for your loss. Loosing a family member is hard and this tribute you paid him here at your blog is amazing. Carry him in your heart and he will never be forgotten.

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  20. I am so sorry for your loss. This was a beautiful written tribute to your great uncle. A lovely story for a wonderful relationship!

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  21. My grandparents are this age and I worry of them passing all of the time. I'm always afraid I won't tell them how much I've appreciated them in my life. There were better parents to me than my real parents. Thanks for this post Jen.

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  22. I'm so sorry, but I'm glad you shared in this post. {{{HUGS}}}

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  23. Oh Jen. If only there were words and actions that could take someone's pain away. There will never be a person that will know exactly what you are going through. We've all been there... but everyone's experience is different. The fact that you can look back at your life and recall these moments is just one of the things that will get you through this. Losing all of my grandparents except for my mother's mom these past 7 years has not been easy. I'll tell you this. That crap about time healing all wounds... doesn't work on this type of love. I still miss them every day. I think I'll see my grandpa driving the car that just passed me, i'll see something that will remind me of them and I'll still have a twinge in my chest knowing that they aren't there. But those moments... the ones that remind of something from the past, the way they encouraged you or taught you how to do something. They are still alive in that way... and they are living through you. So even though Fufu is gone, he is still very much alive in everything he instilled in you. Thank you for having the courage to share this with us. Love you.

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  24. Oh, Jen. Major hugs and I'm so sorry for your loss.

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  25. I know we don't know each other and I'm just someone who follows your reading blog, but I'm so very sorry for your loss. Fufu sounds like a wonderful man that is now your guardian angel.

    In sympathy,
    SueT.

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  26. What a great tribute Jen. Thank you for sharing your wonderful memories with us.

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  27. I'm so sorry for your loss. He sounds like a wonderful man and you were lucky to love and be loved by someone like that. I know you don't know me, but I just wanted to share my condolences.

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  28. Oh, my goodness. I should have stopped reading and resumed when I got home. I am sitting here with a class of 5th graders, ready to bawl my eyes out. Stinging, stinging, holding it in....oh my.

    Jen, it is SO amazing that you had someone like your Fufu in your life. That is the kind of person I hope to be for my niece. I want to be like Fufu! Honestly.

    I am so sorry for your loss. Brimming tears, brimming...

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  29. Thank you, everyone, for your kind words. It's a tough thing, to lose a loved one. And before Fufu, I never had lost a loved one before. It's weird how life just....goes on. I keep his prayer card from the funeral home in the visor of my car, because I know he'd want to be right there, making sure I'm not speeding (I am, Fufu. I'm sorry!) It's such a warm feeling to know that so many have read my tribute to my great uncle. I can only hope he realizes how important he is and always will be :) Thank you all.

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  30. Oh my, sweet Jen. Somehow I missed this entire thing and I am eternally sorry. But this is one of the best things I've ever read. I don't really have any words to say the depth of what I'm feeling, but just know that I'm FEELING what you wrote. And even though it is days later, you still are feeling too so there are and will be prayers with your name in them. Starting now and carrying on.

    I'm so sorry I've missed this. xoxo

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