Never stop learning...

Two weeks ago today was Valentine's Day- the last day of normalcy for my family for a while.

Rewind back to December 7th (Pearl Harbor Day). My grandfather had a slight stroke that was caught very quickly. The MRI also revealed that he had a slight stroke even before this one that went undetected (possibly the day after Thanksgiving).

Life went on like usual, we kept Dah (nickname for my grandpa) in our prayers, we sent him his Christmas gift full of pictures of Luke- not even thinking this was his last Christmas.

December 29th he sustained another stroke. He had made such good progress and this knocked him back a few steps. Through all of this, everyone thought he would recover. Even after his 2nd major stroke, the doctors were certain he would pull through. He did and continued recovery in rehab. All through this the goal was to bring him home. Surely he would heal enough to be able to go home. His biggest concern was his bathroom. He was worried that he didn't have the bars to help him. My aunt (who we lovingly call Queen- long story) and her family arranged to have his bathroom completely demolished and redone. At first it was a surprise, hoping that he would recovery quickly. As things started to drag on and he really began worrying about the bar situation in the bathroom, she told him what was going on and that his bathroom was getting a complete makeover.

January passed relatively uneventful. My aunt and her family were super diligent about making sure he had the best care possible. They questioned every medical procedure and they were right by his side every step of the way. By the way he had his complete and whole mind with him the whole way- his beloved NY Giants and NE Patriots were in the Super Bowl- he predicted the plays, the winner, AND the point range that the game would be. Amazing.

February came and on Monday the 13th they were talking about the timeline of when he would be going home. Things were looking up! On Valentine's Day he was totally normal, I'm sure talking politics and whatever current event was happening. He grumbled that they made him eat with "the old people" (he was 93) in the dining room. He had come such a long way from not even being able to swallow after his first stroke.

He went to sleep Tuesday night and never woke up. They suspect he had a massive stroke in the early morning hours. They went to wake him in the morning and he wouldn't wake up. He still responded to pain, but there was no communication and he was unconscious. He was transported to RI Hospital where they ran tests for a few days. They concluded that the stroke was in fact huge and that he probably wouldn't recover. The decision was made to move him to Hospice where he would be the most comfortable for his last few days/weeks. The nurses said he was never in pain- actually through this whole process he never complained of pain which is exactly how he would have wanted it.

Last Tuesday (the 21st) the Hospice nurses called in the family around 5pm and said his breathing had changed. My aunt rushed up to be with him, but his breathing stabilized. She left after a few hours and went home to get some rest. They called right before midnight and said his breathing had changed and he was passing. They didn't make it in time to be with him, but a nurse was there with him. He died 1 minute before midnight but the death certificate actually says the next day.

Wednesday morning was a complete blur as I tried to wrap things up at home and school. I needed to plan 5 days worth of lesson plans, and make sure everything would be okay at home while I was away. Although we knew this was coming, it was still such a surprise when it actually happened. We had decided when he had the massive stroke that whenever the time came, that my parents and I would go up. Luke is just too young to spend 4 days driving in the car. We needed to drive so we could bring things back.

We drove Thursday and Friday (the 23rd and 24th) to Rhode Island. What a whirwind. Some friends from Atlanta flew into Providence Friday night so we picked them up at the airport on our way in. How incredibly generous for them to spend their weekend with our family!!!

Saturday was the funeral.

Dah was a World War II Veteran. He enlisted before they started the draft which put him at a higher rank than the drafted. He trained troops before the Pearl Harbor attack, and then spent some time at Hickam Field in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii after the attack. I learned so much about his service through my family on this trip and it's super ironic because my lesson for Thursday was Peal Harbor at school! We are right in the middle of WWII.

Because of his service, a military funeral was in order. The military really strikes a chord with me. Thinking about the men and women that leave EVERYTHING behind to protect our country really makes me emotional. And there is nothing that gets me going more than a flag draped casket.

The funeral service was great (as far as funerals go)... The preacher talked about his love for education. Although he didn't go to college he believed in a great education. They moved when my mom was school age so she could go to good school. If his life could be summarized in a motto it would be "Never stop learning". He tended to his garden in all seasons and knew the name of every plant/flower. He kept learning even into his old age.

Next we moved to the cemetery which always seems like the hardest part.

This is when the military part of the funeral took over. We arrived to see the 3 lone soldiers, standing off to the side. The pallbearers (including my daddy) carried the casket into a building. It was so cold, and super windy that this was where we did graveside.

The preacher said a few words and then asked everyone to prepare themselves for the military part of the funeral. Two of the soldiers fired three shots (for a total of 6 shots) and then Taps was played. As a former trumpet player this was absolutely incredible.

Then the soldiers walked inside and folded the flag. They presented the flag to my mom and said "This flag is presented to you, on behalf of a grateful nation. And these three blank cartridges are a symbol of what is ___________  today." I left the word blank because I can't understand this word in the video- it sounds like glorified- but I'm not sure.
It was amazing to say the least. I have a video of the gun shots/taps and the flag folding and presentation. Mom is going to give the flag back to my aunt after she has it put in a box since she did so much for him the past few months of his life.

We went back to the church for a luncheon. The set up was gorgeous...

The rest of the trip was wonderful! I had my coffee fix every morning:

We did some sight seeing and lots of eating!

His house just as he left it:

The cousins got their picture together.

I think the last time we did this I was 13!

Before we left we visited the rehab center where he had been recovering. It was amazing to see some of the nurses who helped him and so many of them were just as shocked as we were at the turn of events. We also visited the grave.

Driving back we went over the Tappan Zee Bridge in NY.
And I missed my baby SOOOO much and I think Lulu missed her Luke too!! Of course he wanted nothing to do with me and everything to do with her!
So somehow I'm supposed to break out of this time warp and move on with life. Although he lived such a long, full life I think I'm grieving the loss of the ancestry. I'll miss not hearing his stories and hilarious comments. Luke will never remember his great-grandfather- although he met him. Since he was my last surviving grandparent, this was the only way to get a 4 generations picture... (yes maybe we shouldn't have had 3 cameras taking pictures all at the same time;) ) and pardon my fatty fat-ness 6 months after birth :)
Thank you EVERYONE for the prayers, calls, texts, messages, and cards. It really means the world to us!!!

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