Goodnight Poppy

“Poppy!  Come read with me! Please? My bed time isn’t for another thirty minutes!” I said to my grandpa.  “Alright sweetie, whatever you want.  What would you like to read?” he said in his kind voice.  “How about…ummm…Goodnight Moon!”  He began reading me the poem about the young rabbit.  I stared at the intricate drawings as he flowed through the book, giving me enough time to study each illustration.  I didn’t pay any attention to my grandfather, all I cared about at that moment was reading my favorite book.  “Goodnight moon,” he said aloud.  I was almost asleep, so he carried me to bed and put my head down on the pillow.  I turned my back to the wall, too tired to give him a kiss, and whispered, “Goodnight Poppy.”

I stood by his coffin, holding on tightly to my sister’s hand.  I stared down at his pale white face, in his nice navy suit.  This isn’t my grandpa!  He used to be so alive and full of energy.  Now he was cold, and still.  How had this happened?  The last time we had visited him at his nursing home, Tanglewood, he had interacted with me, I thought he was getting better!  The Alzheimers had struck him hard, but he was always happy to have company, that’s just how Poppy was.

Then he got pneumonia and everything changed.  My mom took the first plane to Lubbock and drove straight to Tanglewood.  That same day, Poppy was put into hospice.  My mom sat by his side all night, giving him massages with lavender-scented lotion.  The morning after she left, I crawled into my dad’s bed, knowing what would come next.  “Poppy’s dead,” he said.  I started crying as I hugged my dad.  That day we packed our bags and drove the 322 miles to Lubbock, Texas.  As we drove along, my dad began reciting a poem.  The poem is in Spanish.  It is, “Arquitex Vitae,” Architect of Life.  The poem is about life, how we’ve had hard days, but we’ve also had glorious days.  The last part of the poem is, “Life you owe me nothing.  Life, we are at peace.”  We all started sobbing as he said the last line.

That poem flooded back to me as I stood in the room where my grandpa lay.  Most of the flowers were from people I didn’t know, people from the bank who had worked with him or friends of his, but there was one pot of white tulips from our family friends in Albuquerque.  I took a picture of them to show our friends that their flowers were there and that they had been recognized.  Those flowers actually made me feel better.  Now I was connected, by these flowers, to my home.  I walked around and looked at more flowers as people started coming in for the visitation.  My mom, my uncles and my grandma started shaking people’s hands and thanking them for coming.  I stayed close to my mom and every few minutes I would look over to my grandpa, to make sure he was still there.  I felt like he might just disappear.  Nothing had really settled into my brain yet. I was just floating on the surface.  Two hours later, there were only a few lingering friends.  They said their goodbyes as two men came in to carry my grandfather away.  As they carried my grandfather’s frigid body away, I only wished I could go back to that night and turn my head around to give Poppy a peck on the cheek.

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