Where’s Papa…explaining loss to Eli

This is one piece that I never wanted to write. Honestly, it still doesn’t even seem real. My Daddy died. The strongest, most loving, honest, could fix anything from cars to hearts, loved me more than any man should, gave me his last goodbye kiss 3 weeks ago.

At 36 years old, my heart can hardly handle it. I’ve lost something that can never be replaced and only now in these empty moments without his laughter, his welcoming hugs that greeted me at the door, and that smell… I can’t describe it, the smell of my Daddy.. only now do I realize how incredibly blessed I am to be his.

And not only was he my Daddy, but he was Papa. Papa to my three children, his only grandchildren. He has loved them each step of the way. And like us, he learned how to be a Papa to a child who didn’t always want to be held, who sometimes needed extra understanding, and who he never got to sit down and talk with. Even though, his last grandchild wasn’t who he may have imagined him to be, he loved that child fiercely! He loved him for exactly who he is. He was never disappointed. He always said… “Eli is exactly who God wants Eli to be” “And Eli will always be Papa’s buddy!”

It was such a beautiful bond the two of them had, they just understood eachother without words. He was an amazing Papa to my two older children too, but they were at an age that they no longer needed the tickles and “neck sugar”. And because he still had so much to give, Eli was lavished with hugs, tickles, and all the “neck sugar” he could endure.

Even on his last day with us, as we brought the children in to see him one last time and say their goodbyes, he put them and their needs first. My two oldest gathered around him, heartbroken, hugging him and kissing him. Telling him how much they loved him and him telling them the special things he wanted them to know. Eli mostly stood in the background, looking around at this strange room, not understanding why Papa was in a bed, but happy to eat the candy from the basket that sat on the window. I could see on his face how much Daddy wanted to hold him, to hug him, to kiss him one last time. But as I tried to hold him up to see my Daddy, he began to wiggle and cry from fear. Seeing that he was afraid, Papa just stopped me… “I know this is scary for you buddy, how about a high five?”… And Eli gave him a high five instead. And then I had him repeat after me “I”… “I” “love”…”love”…. “Jesus!” He smiled so pleased with himself. “No, Papa!” I corrected him. And with a big smile on his face, my Daddy said… “Nope, he got it right the first time!” “That’s right buddy!” “Love Jesus first!”

I know that Isaac and Avri will always remember their Papa, but my fear is that Eli will not understand or might soon forget his precious Papa that he had for such a short time. You see, Eli has never shown that he actually “misses” people. Even when Phillip and I have been gone for long trips and we come back, it’s as if we never left. He doesn’t look for us. He doesn’t look excited to see us return. It almost seems like, out of sight out of mind, for him. And maybe he does, but just can’t verbalize it or show me how he feels. And like most stops on this journey, I am at a loss. I don’t know the right answer. I don’t know exactly what to say. All I know, is that we will never stop talking about Papa. I know that each time we enter my mother’s house I’ll ask “Where’s Papa?” and show him the picture of the two of them asleep, arms over head, on the big couch. I know that there will never be another like the man he will see in those photographs. I know that as he grows older I’ll point out the dimple in his chin and remind him where it came from. I know that no matter where this journey leads us that I want to make him proud. Just like my Daddy always said, “Eli is exactly who God wants Eli to be.” and I’ll let him take the lead on this one. We love you Papa.

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