GunDiva's note: This is an assignment that Ashinator had to turn in for one of her classes; I think it's a lovely tribute to her great-grandfather, who was without a doubt the patriarch of our family. He's sorely missed, even if he was a cranky ole curmudgeon. He loved us all with all of his heart and we loved him.
Moses Arthur G., born January 1st 1914 died February 20th 2001. He was married to Mary Tilia G.; they had three children, six grandchildren, and eight great-grandchildren. He was a train conductor and a World War II veteran. He was my Papi and my best friend. He taught me how to treat people, how to laugh whole-heartedly, and how to make sunny-side up eggs. Of all the things my grandfather taught me though, perhaps the most important was how to mourn. All of this made him a hero. A success of the American Dream.
I said goodbye to my Papi for the last time on a Tuesday night, February 20th. I didn’t know that at the time of course. I thought I’d see him in the morning when my mom dropped us off before school. I had thought wrong. He had a stroke, hours after I left, my grandma called her son, Russ, in a panic. Russ got there in time for my Papi to die in his arms. The next morning, my mom let us sleep in and when we woke up she told us to go watch TV in a shaky voice. She called us to her room, one by one, Digger went first. He came back and sat down next to me, never saying a word, I looked to his eyes. The light in them had dulled, and they were full of tears. I had never seen my brother cry, he was always so strong. My mom called me next. I lay next to her on her bed, she took a few moments to play with my hair, and the she said it. “Papa had a stroke sweetie. He’s dead.” I wanted to cry and scream, but I had no tears or voice. All I could do was lay there, mute. I could hear my mom sobbing next to me, but I didn’t look. I laid there for ages, listening to my mother come undone. I got up without a word and walked back to Blue’s Clues. Monster was called to her, he came back moments later, crying and shaking. Both of my brothers were crying, and I wasn’t. I tried to force myself to but I couldn’t. The ache in my chest was deep and throbbing. I couldn’t cry away the pain, I wished I could. My mom got us dressed and we went to my grandparent’s house. It was full of people, some I knew and some I didn’t. I didn’t believe that he was dead, that he was gone. When we got to the house I went straight back to my grandparent’s room, I knew in my 8 year old heart that my grandpa was there. Lying in bed, he was probably still asleep. I counted silently in my head, down from five, and pushed the door open. He wasn’t there. I looked under the bed, in the closet, even the dresser. My Papi was gone; I fell to the floor and sobbed. I sat up, crying, I could hear somebody behind me, hear them breathing. I was scared to look; I thought I would be in trouble. I waited for the person to leave, but it didn’t. I looked over my shoulder, finally. I saw my grandma standing there. She came and sat next to me; I rested my head in her lap and cried.
His funeral was the following Monday, February 26th. It was an open casket service, but I refused to look. I didn’t want to remember him that way. It was a normal funeral, except for the number of people. You could tell that my grandfather was a great man just by the number of mourners at his service. He was their hero too. At the burial service, it was family only, the Army fired 21 shots, my Papi was at Pearl Harbor. When he signed up he was just a medic, but when Japan attacked they bumped him up to surgical nurse. It’s for that that my grandfather was honorably discharged after the attack. My grandpa told me they let him out because no man should ever see what he saw, and no man should have to watch his fellow troops die that way. Whether that’s true or not, I’ll never know, but my grandpa wasn’t one for lying. There was an American flag across the top of his casket, when all the speeches were done the soldiers folded the flag so smoothly and gracefully into the most perfect petite triangle. They handed the folded flag to my grandma. My grandmother hadn’t cried all day, but she cried then. That’s when she knew, that’s when I watched her realize that he was really gone forever. That was the moment it hit me too. My grandmother is the strongest woman I know. Seeing her cry terrified me.
I was depressed and distraught. That was what I knew of death. Death is made out to be a sad, horrible thing. I honestly didn’t know how to react. I knew to be sad, but the sadness didn’t hit me until the soldiers folded that flag. I wouldn’t eat, I wanted to but something inside me just wouldn’t allow it, so my parents had to force feed me for weeks. I was so upset; I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t know how to do anything. I was out of school for three weeks and the day I went back my teacher told me I had to write a report about my grandfather’s death/funeral and read it to the class. I was shocked that any adult would ask a mourning child to do something like that. I don’t care what motives she had behind the assignment, what she was asking of me was unfair and cruel. So, I kicked her and left. I was out for another week. The loss of my Papa taught me that you can’t mourn forever and you have to let go of the pain at some point. I learned that it’s okay to remember as long as you can let go. For that reason, when I got my first tattoo I made sure that my Grandpa’s initials were incorporated in it. He helped shape who I am as a person, and I know that where ever he is now he’s watching me and taking care of me. I know that where ever he is he’s happy.
My lesson ends on March 17th 2010, at seven o’clock when I looked in the mirror at the finished product of my first tattoo. That was the day I fully let go of my grandpa’s death. It was the day I accepted it. With his and my grandmother’s initials forever on my arm I know that he’s with me all the time. Recently, I was watching a show where a man got a tattoo as a tribute to his cousin who had died a few weeks earlier explaining that now he can “rest in peace”. I had someone come up to me and tell me it was great that I did this for my grandfather. But, I didn’t do this for him; I did it for me, so that I could be peaceful and accept his death. Some might call this selfish, but I don’t care. It took me nine years to recover from his death and I accepted it in my own way and I remember in my own way. I know I’m so lucky to still have my grandmother with me and I will never take her for granted. Because I know now, what the pain will feel like, it may even be worse. Time will tell. I think about my grandpa everyday, but now when I think about him I don’t feel sad. I feel thankful to have such a hero present in my life, even for a short period of time. Moses Arthur G., born January 1st, 1914 died February 20th, 2001.