You slipped away on a Monday night in September.
Tim was there at the hospital, in tears. He later screamed in his car until his voice was coarse.
Simultaneously, I was at home, weeping and holding Audrey on my hip. “Why, God, why?”
Six-year-old Kayla walked up and put her arm around my waist, “It’s okay, mama. That’s just how life is.” A wee girl comforting her mama.
But I could not let go – of your sincere and unassuming smile, our Costco trips where you always always bought us baby wipes and ordered pizza, the way you stocked up on chocolate covered raisins and water bottles, your unceasing curiosity about astronomy.
You told us facts about the moon and the sun and insisted on ice cream at every visit.
All three girls begged to go to your house – a place of toys and a candy drawer and unconditional love. Oh, how you adored them – calling them beautiful and smart, blessing them with your presence. You never once told us “no” when we asked to come over so we were there often. Because you wanted it (and we wanted it too).
When I published my first ebook, you bought five copies. FIVE. And you didn’t even know what an ebook was. Every single time I appeared on the news, you watched and you called all of your sisters to tell them to tune in. A proud grandfather. You took me as your own.
Kayla’s tears join mine, “He was always my favorite grandpa. He was always so nice to me. I loved him so much.” She pauses, frightened, “When I start getting older, I bet I’m not going to remember him very much. I can hardly remember what his face looks like.” That fear jerks at my heart too. I know it. I tug her in close.
“Someone has to take care of his garden,” she says resolutely.
The memories hover over us. Tim at age 5, chomping on cherries and ice cubes on his way to California, side-by-side with you. Newly married, living at your house, eating fresh grapefruit from your trees. Watching you hold our three newborn babes in your arms.
“How can I go on without my grandpa?” Tim asks me the afternoon after, “He always said he’d live to be 100. I was counting on that.” The loss burns our throats.
In anguish, I realize I didn’t get even one picture of you holding our youngest. Not even one. Though you bounced her on your knee and delighted in her.
The night you left us, I sang hymns to the girls until they fell asleep on the twin bed they share. “Come Thou Fount” and “Amazing Grace” and “Take My Life and Let It Be.” The words escaped my lips and filled the room, my hands upturned in surrender to a God who is still good.
In loving memory of Grandpa Sheaffer. I will never, ever forget you.