Look Towards Heaven and Home

Today, I lost one of the finest men I’ve ever known. I love you, Pop.

There are so many things that fill your head when you watch someone you love pass away – fears; hopes; prayers. Your mind is aflame with a thousand different thoughts, a thousand different emotions, until you’re suddenly jerked back from within yourself and into the moment at hand.

It was that way for me this morning. I found myself battling an almost overwhelming fear that watching Pop’s death would override every other memory I had of him. I wrestled with the knowledge that I would have to stand and speak in his honor, to somehow find the words and stories that best encapsulate his life. I worried over how MawMaw would respond – not just to his death, but to life without him. Scanning the faces of my father, my aunt Pat, my uncle Greg, and all of the assembled family, I wondered what would become of all of us without Pop.

All of this vanished when the moment came.


The day started, for me, around 4:30 AM. I woke up for the third or fourth time since going to bed around midnight. My mind was a mess of nightmares and incomprehensible dreams, so not being able to sleep was a bit of a blessing. I spent the next hour and a half either praying or crying, wondering if today was going to be the day, or if Pop might hang on another day or so.  Eventually I dozed back off around 5:50.

My phone rang at 6:00. The caller id read, simply, Dad.

“Hello,” I managed.

“Jason,” my dad said, his voice composed for a moment. “It’s…”

Dad fought back tears. So did I.

“…it’s close. He’s close.”

“Okay,” I said, “let me get dressed and tell Rachel what’s going on, and I’ll be there as soon as I can.”

“Okay,” dad said. “See you in a bit.”

I jumped out of bed and tried to get my brain to work. Clothes were a necessity, as were my wallet and phone. I fumbled in the dark for my glasses, and hastily got dressed. Rachel stirred, and I told her what was going on.

“I’ll call you,” I said, then kissed her goodbye.


The morning air came in cool through my car windows, hinting that summer was nearing its end. It was hard for me to stay in a decent frame of mind; I was in a hurry to reach my grandfather’s bedside before he slipped away from me, but the rest of the world went on as if nothing were happening. I got trapped behind a school bus that didn’t seem overly concerned with getting to school on time, as well as three or four cars that had difficulty navigating in the pre-dawn darkness.

That was a moment of real anger for me, of deep insult at the world’s callousness. I felt slighted by the fact that every other human being on the planet didn’t defer to me and my grief, didn’t stop to acknowledge that one of its finest inhabitants was preparing to exit. I wanted cars to pull over to the side of the road, for flags to be flown at half-mast; I wanted people to stand along the road, hats over their hearts, out of respect for one more member of The Greatest Generation gone. Instead, I got slow buses and directionally-challenged people, and the end result was that I wanted to scream. I felt a rage in my chest that needed out, but couldn’t be allowed to roam free.

I think what I really felt was the smallness of being human; despite how it feels to our own minds, we are not the center of the universe. It was hard to accept that, as my world seemed to be falling apart, the real world kept right on spinning. Driving down the road this morning, that truth simply would not go down easy.

I got to MawMaw and Pop’s just as the sun was starting to rise. There were already several cars in the driveway – my dad’s; Greg and Marcia’s; Pat’s; my grandfather’s brother, Weyman, and his wife, Opal, were there too. And when I walked in and saw everyone’s faces, I knew: it wouldn’t be long.

My grandfather’s chest was rising and falling so shallowly and so fast. His mouth was wide open as his stomach struggled to pull in the air his body needed, as his lungs were long past working. The fluid that had been building up in his throat (the result of his digestive system shutting down) was now visible in his mouth, bubbling up and over his tongue with every slight exhale. It seemed very much as if Pop were drowning.

MawMaw was hunched over, holding the hand of Pop’s niece, Shurba, so I sat down beside her and simply rubbed her back. She turned, her eyes dark with grief and fear and sorrow, and let out a small moan.

“Oh, Jason,” she said, “they won’t let me help him.”

The truth of the matter was that she could do nothing more for him. But having been a faithful wife for so many years, having nursed him in these final days with the kind of love and dedication that seems beyond human capacity, she felt – and her eyes revealed how deeply this feeling ran – that if she could just do something, he’d turn around, get better, return to her. Instead, she simply watched as every breath took him further from her than he’d ever been.

My brother Ryan soon arrived, as did my cousin Chasity. I’m not sure who else was there when the moment finally came, but the room was full and we stood surrounding Pop’s bed, a human wall of love and adoration and hope and hurt. We moved so MawMaw could be near him, and she rubbed his chest and spoke lovingly to him, trying to reassure him, trying to hold on to him as long as she could. She spoke to him, and called him the most precious of names, one that certainly fit.

“Daddy,” she called him.

His breathing grew shallower, and then, as if each one of them shared some sort of unspoken spiritual connection, MawMaw, dad, Pat and Greg leaned in, their hearts pounding out of their chests, their eyes red with tears and expectancy. His head moved slightly, his chest drawing in, and then the miracle happened.


As the sun broke through the trees outside his window, Pop Harold opened his eyes, looked at his beloved MawMaw and then at his family; then he turned his eyes as if looking above him to the left. His last conscious act in this world was to look towards home.

And with that, he was gone.


My grandfather left this world on the same day my father entered it 57 years ago. Surrounded by his faithful wife, his loving children and grandchildren, he slipped into our memories and eternity.

We stayed right there beside him until the funeral director, Tim Stewart, and his assistant, Todd Burton, came to take Pop’s body for burial preparations. I was amazed at how small the gurney for Pop’s body was; roughly 24-inches wide, it seemed far too small to handle a man as big as Pop. But when they lovingly wrapped him up in his sheets and transferred his body over, it fit with room to spare. And standing there, staring at someone who for so long had been larger than life, I was struck by this thought:

It is the soul of a person that gives them size, gives them weight, in the physical world. It is the soul that contains their essence and gives life and presence to the body. Absent the soul, the body shrinks to an almost unfathomable size; I know this because that’s twice now two men whom I’ve held so dear – Pop Harold and Pop Emmette – have left this world, and in both cases their bodies, which once seemed so massive to me, seemed incredibly small in death.

We followed Pop’s body outside, and before they could load it into the hearse, the nurse’s assistant who’d been Pop’s primary caregiver, who had bathed him and helped change him, came walking down the driveway. And if we had ever doubted the sheer goodness of the man, those doubts were forever put to rest when Ms. Marie, who’d known him only so briefly and only in his lowest state, put her head on his chest and wept as one weeps for their own. MawMaw draped an arm around her in comfort, and then we all stood back as Pop’s body went into the hearse and disappeared behind its closed door.


I can say, without hesitation, that on behalf of my family, we are grateful for the many prayers and sentiments shared with us over the past few weeks and again today. Pop, for as much as he will be missed, is now in a far, far better place of hope, restoration and peace.

Tomorrow afternoon at Tim Stewart’s Funeral Home in Snellville, we’ll receive what is likely to be a considerable number of visitors from 2-4 PM, and then again from 6-8. On Wednesday afternoon, in the little church he loved so much, we’ll remember Pop and celebrate his life, just before we lay him to rest next to his son, Terry.

Who knows what Thursday will bring.

Much like Pop’s body, the world is now a smaller from his absence. But one day, in a world much larger than this one, we’ll see Pop again, unbound by time or illness or the restrictions of this life, and we’ll fall into each others arms, laughing, rejoicing and praising the God who gave us life that there will be no more goodbyes. We’ll pull Terry, and Ruthie, and whomever else we loved into the fold and we’ll give thanks that finally, we’ll always be together.

Until that day, we wait. Until that day, our eyes, like Pop’s, will look towards heaven and home.

A Heart So Big

I had a curriculum meeting at Ella’s school tonight, so I stopped in at MawMaw and Pop’s in the middle of the afternoon. Pop was lying in bed, sleeping, and MawMaw was visiting with my cousin Chasity. Pop looked better, but only because he had his glasses on and his teeth in; apparently, he woke up this morning determined to feel normal, and MawMaw was happy to oblige.

The feeling didn’t last, however, and he quickly returned to his now-normal status of near-constant sleep. His breathing is constant, interrupted by the occasional snore or hand gesture, and every once in a while you can see his mouth move, as if he’s having conversations with people we can’t see.

MawMaw sat back in her recliner to rest for a bit, and I began to tell her about the pictures I’ve been scanning onto my hard drive. She had given me complete access to all of her pictures, and I’ve been trying to comb through the massive albums to find pictures that best represent Pop, or that reflect memories that are important to our entire family. Some have been funny; others, revelatory; and still others have been the bitterest pill – seeing my grandfather so full of life, so opposite of his current condition, swells the eyes with tears of all kinds: happiness, regret, sadness, joy, and on and on.

There was one picture in particular that caught my attention, because it was of my grandfather and the preacher who was his best friend for many, many years, Mr. Sonny Drummond. Here it is:

I knew there was a story here...I just didn't expect it to be so good.

I told MawMaw about the picture because I thought it was a perfect representation of Pop: his innate goofiness, his love of friends, and his long-time eschewance of sunscreen.

She knew exactly the picture I was talking about, and she smiled. “I remember that picture because I took it. Have you ever heard the story behind it?”

“No,” I said. “Didn’t really know there was one.”

“Well,” she began, “one night Preacher Sonny called Pop and said, ‘Harold, I can’t see.'”

Apparently something was wrong with Preacher Sonny’s eyes; he was having trouble focusing and none of the remedies he’d tried worked. Desperate, he called my grandfather and explained his plan: he wanted to drive down to Florida and get in the ocean.

“I just know if I can get in the water in Florida, everything will be fine.”

I stopped my grandmother here. “Was this something he felt that God had told him or something?”

I was thinking about the Bible story of Naaman the leper (see 2 Kings 5:1-15) who was told to dip in the river Jordan seven times, and when he obeyed, Naaman was cleansed of his leprosy. I’ve heard some cool stories, but this seemed like it had the potential to take the cake.

“No,” she said, “nothing like that. He just knew that if we went down to Pensacola and he got in the water, his eyes would clear up. So we went.”

My grandparents went to bed early after getting that call, and set the alarm for 2:00 AM. By three in the morning, they had their Ford Crown Victoria loaded up with Preacher Sonny and his wife, Miss Tessie, and they were on their way through the Georgia darkness towards the salt water shores of Florida. My grandfather drove, Preacher Sonny rode shotgun, and MawMaw and Miss Tessie sat in the back, worrying and praying non-stop.

They rocketed through the quiet Southern plains, barely speaking, the early morning stillness only upset by the hum of the Crown Vic’s tires. MawMaw didn’t say this, of course, but I know that she and Pop had to be worried sick about their friend; I knew Preacher Sonny, and he was a good man, a good preacher, and certainly one of the closest friends Pop ever had. They were buddies from the start, and Pop loved him as dearly as any man ever loved a friend.

And so, as they sped through the dawn, MawMaw and Miss Tessie fell asleep, and probably Preacher Sonny did too, leaving Pop alone behind the wheel, driving for his friend’s life.

They reached the beaches of Pensacola by 10:00 AM. As soon as they arrived, Pop found his way to a public beach access, parked the car, and while Miss Tessie and MawMaw watched, he and his best friend went racing into the ocean. After an hour in the salt water (an hour that cleared up Sonny’s vision), they joined their wives on a nearby bench and waited beneath the sun until their three o’clock check-in at a nearby hotel.


There’s another picture from that trip, taken by MawMaw shortly after they checked into the hotel. Pop is sitting on the edge of the hotel bed in his boxer shorts with dark dress socks pulled halfway up his calves. His thighs, knees, and lower legs are beet red from sunburn, and he’s grinning like a kid who just skipped school to spend the day at the beach with his best girl. There’s a matching shot of Sonny, too. Both are smiling, showing off the kind of war wounds you collect only for best friends. MawMaw laughed at the memory.

“We stayed three days,” MawMaw said, “just to make sure Sonny was okay. Then, he wanted to drive over to Daytona Beach for a little while, so we drove clear across to there and stayed.”

“Wait a minute,” I said, “you mean you guys just took an impromptu Florida vacation with no more than a few hours notice?”

“Yes,” she said, looking at Pop. “But that was back when we were strong. Pop was in good health; Sonny, with his bad knees, used to watch Harold climb ladders and do other things with ease and Sonny’d just say, ‘Boy! Look at ‘im go. I sure do wish I could do that.'”

She paused and looked away. “Those were good days.”

Pop’s breathing got loud, so the story ended there, but it’s stayed in my mind all night. It’s a simple story, really – nothing too grand about it, until you start to imagine what must have been going through their minds as they drove towards a beach, hoping for a miracle. The more I’ve thought about it, the more I’m left staggered by the incredible selflessness of that kind of love; I mean, we’re not talking about making this drive for a family member or a grandchild. We’re talking about a friend.

What kind of person has that much love? Whose heart is really that big? It’s not just the fact that they packed up and left with little notice – it’s that they did it completely on faith. No one called the doctor to ask if the gamble would work. No one double-checked with WebMD.

My grandparents never even asked the most natural of questions: Are you sure about this?

They just said “Yes.”

They packed their clothes, got in their own car, and put their lives at risk for the life of a friend. Amazing. Mind-blowing. Inconceivable.

And yet, that’s who my grandparents are. As long as they have breath and strength and time and money, if you are in need, they are going to help you. I mean, why else would two retirees plant God-knows-how-many acres of corn, tomatoes, beans, peppers, squash, collards, turnips, peas, and other assorted vegetables? It might have been part of their Depression-era ethic, but the quantities that they gave away to friends and family and neighbors tells me otherwise. They were relentless on the dinner-for-the-bereaved circuit, the dinner-for-the-sick circuit, and the dinner-for-the-recently-pregnant circuit. They visited shut ins, hospice, hospital and all others who needed a smiling face.

They essentially gave away their lives to people who needed hope.


MawMaw and I talked about a lot more after that story. I asked her questions about her and Pop, about family history I’ve never been clear on, and we spent a good bit of time talking about the death of my uncle Terry. At one point, MawMaw teared up and said, “So many memories.”

She took a breath and continued, “We’ve been together 61 years, and have never really been apart. We’ve done everything together, and even these last years, when he couldn’t do like he used to, at least he was still able to talk to me.”

Pop shifted in his bed and we both turned to look at him. He took a moment, but finally got settled, and when I looked back at MawMaw, her eyes were still fixed on him.

“I just don’t know what I’ll do when he’s gone,” she said, as much to herself as to me.

The time passed quickly, so much so that my phone buzzed with a text from Rachel wondering if everything was OK. By that time my aunt Pat had walked in and I knew that MawMaw wouldn’t be alone. I gave her a kiss and promised to check in on her and Pop in the morning, since I wouldn’t be able to come back for an evening visit due to a work obligation.

“That’s alright hon,” she said, kissing me on the lips. “You come back when you can.”

I said I would, and as I walked through the door towards my car, I heard her call out, like always, “You come see MawMaw, now!”

Right now, every visit counts. One day soon, they’ll count all the more.

The Insistence of Memory

The existence of forgetting has never been proved: We only know that some things don’t come to mind when we want them. – Frederich Nietzsche

I took Jon and Ella to go visit my grandfather yesterday. We’ve become semi-regular visitors to his bedside, making sure that we take advantage of the time we have to speak to him and let him know we love him. Pop interacts with us as best he can, but mostly he sleeps. The kids will usually end up playing on the floor in another room, zooming toys on top of my grandmother’s coffee table, losing themselves in their imaginations or in MawMaw’s stash of cookies. I usually find my way to the stool by Pop’s bed and wonder what it is I’m supposed to say.

So it was that MawMaw and I began talking about Pop’s father and how, before he passed away, he became an ornery old coot with a fading memory bolstered by his stubborn will.

“Oh, he could be awful,” she said. “He’d tell you that he had lived longer than you, so he knew good and well what was going on, and nobody was gonna tell him any different. Only you knew that he didn’t know what he was talking about.”

She mentioned Pop’s brother, who’s having some trouble remembering things lately. “His memory is starting to go like Papa Brooks’.”

Then she looked at Pop. “At least he still has his mind. And he’s obedient, which makes things easier.”

This isn't from my grandmother's house, but you get the idea...

It’s funny, but we end up talking about memory more and more when I go over there. Whether she brings up her own memories of things, or I bring up mine, the universal conversation piece seems to be what we carry with us from our past. Even Pop, when he’s having a good moment, likes to remember – everything from the trailer “up home” to the gardens he used to plant, and (unfortunately) embarrassing stories from my childhood. Memory surrounds you when you visit with them. Literally.

I mean, if you were to go and visit their home, you’d see nothing one might call “the latest” in anything. The refrigerator is at least 10 years old, the furniture probably twice that, and the walls are filled with photos or knick-knacks of another era, one in which their life together was robust and full of joy and adventure. Now, they have only what hangs on the walls to keep them connected to that time, and they are fiercely loyal to those mementos. Looking around the house, you can see that at some point in their life together they decided to not waste wall space on anything that wasn’t a bridge to the past.

The house itself is now an inhabited memory.

I had this truth reinforced for me when one of the students in my youth group visited and saw an especially heinous family photo from 1986, I believe. It’s a photo we’ve all asked MawMaw to take down, or at the very least burn, and one which she steadfastly refuses to touch. For her, it’s a cherished part of our family’s past, and she wants it front and center, I think, so we can each share our personal memory of that moment and thereby expand the collective memory for her. The picture itself is worthless, but for what it elicits from her children and grandchildren whenever we visit, you couldn’t give it a high-enough valuation.

And it becomes infectious, this remembering. Yesterday, long after our visit had concluded, I found myself thinking about their garden, how it had shrank from a massive, multi-site monstrosity capable of feeding the 101st Airborne into a simple half-acre plot that still manages to produce more vegetables than the local Kroger.

I was thinking about this because MawMaw sent me home with a sackful of her tomatoes, which – if you know me – is like sending Rosie O’Donnell home with a 12-pack of Slim Fast: it’s a nice gesture, but everyone knows it’s ultimately a waste.  But last night, while cooking dinner, I found myself staring at those tomatoes and thinking about how we used to shell butterbeans on MawMaw and Pop’s carport, the concrete cool and relaxing under your bare feet. We’d shell bushels of butterbeans – speckled-heart, brown, you name it – and we’d sit there as a family, laughing at one another or shaking our heads in silence over the latest news of sickness among our community. And we’d switch from butterbeans to green beans to field peas, or if it was season, we’d shuck and silk corn. I can still smell the sweetness of a fresh ear of corn as you pull back the shucks to reveal the Satanic silk underneath. MawMaw or someone else would tell us how corn silk was used to make doll hair way back when, and we’d roll our eyes as if this were the lamest thing we’d ever heard, but secretly we’d wonder what it was like to have a homemade doll.

Not that boys wanted homemade dolls, mind you. We were just curious.

So many memories came flooding back to me yesterday after our visit that I got distracted and reached into the oven to pull out a skillet of green beans and forgot to use an oven mitt.

Fortunately, I neither dropped the skillet nor held on to it too long. But my hand did get red, and I bit my lip to keep from cussing. I immediately ran cold water over my hand and had Rachel get me a cold ice pack. And that’s when the next round of memories hit me: I began thinking of my cousin and her being chosen as a “fire-talker”.

I still don’t understand what “fire-talking” is, mainly because I’ve never had it done to me personally. But in the little community where MawMaw and Pop lived, there were, I think, two people – a man and a woman – who had the ability to come around and talk the fire out of a bad burn. These people would literally come to your house, take your burned hand or arm or leg in their hands, put their mouth next to the burned area and begin speaking. What they would say, I don’t know; why it had to be whispered, I really don’t know; but it was as close to the supernatural as we ever came as kids.

I still remember how Kristi was chosen to be the next generation fire-talker. See, the tradition held that the male fire-talker had to choose a younger female to whom he could pass his gift, and Kristi was selected. I was so jealous; I don’t know if I’ve ever copped to this or not, but I so badly wanted to be a fire-talker. I wanted to know what it would be like to have some sort of juju power coursing through my veins. In my mind I had made this gift out to be like a superpower, and I was totally into superpowers. So when my cousin was tabbed, I got jealous.

But all of that’s beside the point; the point is, memory is on my mind constantly, and when I burned my hand, I longed for the days of my childhood, when the fire-talker was just across the road, and could be at your house within minutes of you being burned to help take the pain away. I immediately went to another place and time, one replete with smells and sights and sounds, an entire other universe that exists within my own mind through the power of memory.

And whenever I visit Pop, whether it’s the reality of his condition or the walls full of reminders, I’m floored again and again by the insistence of memory on the part of my grandmother; not just that we shouldn’t forget, but dang it, as long as she has wall space and a hammer, we will NOT forget. Ever.

Which brings me back to what MawMaw said about my Papa Brooks and my grandfather’s brother, how their memory started going long before their physical health did. As sad as it is to see my grandfather imprisoned by his own body, it’s nowhere near as sad as it would be if he were trapped in his own mind. I would rather have him physically challenged, but mentally present and able to recall the past than have him be the opposite.

So many thoughts, so many memories – some I’ve not been able to recall in years – are keeping me company during this time in our family’s history. One day, those memories will be all I have.

But they will be enough, because they will be full. The little home on Lenora Church Road makes certain of that.

Going Home

I could spend a lot of time torturing out the metaphor of “going home”, but let’s just be honest: today I get to go home and see my wife and kids for the first time in days.

Pretty soon, my grandfather could be going home too.

Both homecomings will be sweet, both will be joyous, and both will be welcomed. Right now, both seem imminent, but neither is certain, because what in life is certain until it happens?

All I know is I look forward to going home. I look forward to seeing my son, and hugging my daughter, and being able to sit down on the couch next to my wife and simply rest. I would imagine my grandfather will do similarly when he gets home; he has a son waiting for him, as well as a granddaughter, not to mention brothers and sisters and parents and friends long gone. And he will be able to rest, not for a moment, not as a temporary state – but he will truly rest. It will be final. It will not change.

He will be at peace forever.

So much going on in the old noggin today that I just needed to get that out of the system, and now I can focus on both homecomings with joy and anticipation. Today, I’m going home. For my grandfather, well, we can only say one thing:

Soon. And very soon.

When The Yellow Brick Road Runs Out

This is Pop Harold, my grandfather.

You spend most of your life not noticing it, but there are moments that burst into being to remind you that your life is made up of people. Not moments. Not memories. People.

Your parents. Your spouse. Your kids.

The people that help you define who you are.

They are the ones who shape your habits or sharpen your edges. They are the ones who call you out when you lie, lift you up when you succeed, and lay beside you when you need the comfort of a loving arm wrapped around your shoulder. We rub against them, dance with them, move ourselves in and out of their lives as seamlessly as a spider spins a web, yet too often we don’t think about them at all. We take them for granted.

That is, until we fear we are about to lose them.

After years of battling cancer in his bladder and prostate, my grandfather – a big, barrel-chested man with an equally large laugh – has become so feeble that even a cold can lay him low. God bless the doctors, who have done everything they can; they have reached a nadir of sorts – they don’t know what else to do, but can’t not do anything. They took an oath, and we’ve become accustomed to their being able to pull one more rabbit from their medical bags. So it’s back to the hospital for another round of tests and observations and medicines and whatever else they can think of.

And if you’ve ever had a loved one who’s chronically ill, you know how draining it can be. If you don’t know, I pray you never do. It’s mentally and physically exhausting, particularly when you’ve reached the stage where my grandfather is at: a hostage in your own body.

But that’s where we find ourselves as a family: on the edge of the unknown. My father is on his way to the hospital right now with my grandfather, and once again we’re wondering whether or not Pop will come back to us or go on to rest. We’ve all begun preparing ourselves for the day when our lives will lose someone who has help define it. It’s like the Statue of Liberty suddenly shedding it’s copper jacket. We know that the edifice can somehow remain, but the glory of it, the beauty of it, is diminished.

It’s in times like this that grief, a cheating son-of-a-gun, tries to get an advance hold on you. You begin to peruse regrets like an expert shopper, fingering each one that comes to mind,  looking for the one that’s just right, that fits like a glove and wraps you in the warm sensation of shame and tears. I don’t know what that exact right regret will be for anyone else in my family, but I know what it will be for me.

Years and years ago, when I was in my mid-twenties, Pop called and asked me to go fishing with him at a relative’s house. He said he had the rods and reels, the bait and tackle, even a cooler full of Co-Coler (his way of saying Coca-Cola); all I had to do was agree to meet him there.

I can remember it clearly – there was a sing-song in his voice, a lilt that sounded like freedom, and for whatever stupid reason I said “No.” To this day, I can’t remember why I said it. I just know that it rolled off my lips so effortlessly and with such speed that it had to be a heart-punch to my grandfather. No hesitation? No stammering? No trying to think of a response?

None of that. Just a clear, cold, immature “No” from someone who probably felt too busy at the time.

He didn’t betray any hurt. “Ok,” he said. “We’ll try it another day.”

We never have. I got married and life got busier and now here I sit on a freaking Friday afternoon telling myself that he’s going to be fine, all the while still running my fingers over that mink of regret, wondering when I’ll be able to finally pull it on and own my shame.

Am I being overly dramatic? Probably. But this is part of the process of losing someone, part of realizing that the path doesn’t always lead to Oz and a Wizard who can fix your problems. Growing up means learning that the yellow brick road runs out.

So what do we do? We should be hoarding moments like Ebenezer Scrooge hoarded pre-visitation gold, but we continue to tell ourselves that the people who make up our lives will be there tomorrow because they’ve always been there tomorrow. We’ll convince ourselves we have enough time to make that phone call later, or to drop in and make a visit sometime next week, because we’ve always been able to live at our leisure. That’s the illusion of time as a line – we can’t see the end, but we always assume it’s farther away.

I’m just waiting to get a phone call that tells me I have tomorrow to go by and visit (which you always do after a scare; you immediately go by and visit and promise to do better, but you never really do because you’ve always got tomorrow). I’m praying to God I don’t get a call that tells me tomorrow will not come for me and Pop.

Basically, I’m straining my eyes to see if the yellow brick road will take me just a little bit further. Here’s to hoping.