My Grandfather died a few months ago, as I have attempted to cope with his passing, I have made sporadic notes about my journey with the loss of a loved one.
Here is the obituary:https://www.southernutahmortuary.com/obituary/sheldon-jessup
Thursday morning at 6:47 AM my phone, as well as my wife’s phone vibrated. I was sleeping in a lot later than usual, I was tired from night school and the hours of homework that followed. I didn’t care who may have been texting me, it could wait, I was tired. My wife rolls into me and wraps her arms around me; she softly whispers in my ear, “Honey, your mom just texted, she said that Grandpa Jessup passed away last night.” In my groggy waking fog, I didn’t understand, I didn’t want to understand. I just laid there trying to process what she had just said. After a few minutes it slowly sank in, I started sobbing. He was getting old, and he wasn’t as healthy as he once was, but I haven’t said goodbye, he can’t be gone.
I sat up and through the tears read the text message for myself, “Grandpa Jessup passed away peacefully in his sleep last night.” It was real. I cried. I made it to the shower. I cried. While I showered, I cried. After a long shower I told myself it was time to focus. I pushed all the emotion to the back of my thoughts.
I climbed in my truck, I turned on some metal rock music, the loudest, and most aggressive music I had. I turned it up as loud as it would go, trying to block out all thought, all memories, I needed a brave face for myself as much as anyone else. I wanted a few minutes of mental silence, and the best way for me to do that was with noise.
I made it to work, it was go time. Time to focus, get some work done, stay busy enough I could keep my mind off what it really wanted to focus on. I closed my office door, kept some music blaring, and I spent three hours doing every task I could, knowing that if I stopped, I may not get started again.
I did great up until a coworker and friend walked into my office. He had heard through the grapevine that my grandfather had passed. All he asked was a somber “How are you?” I cried. I cried really hard. All the emotions from the morning rushing back. Through my sobs I told him how bad ass my grandpa was and how much I missed him. Throughout the day other co-workers, and even one of the owners of my company came in, offered their condolences, and asked me questions about him.
Every summer for as long as I can remember I visited my Grandfathers farm. From a young age I remember spending hours upon hours riding with my Grandfather in the tractors. His big hands holding me on his lap while I steered the tractor down the field. Once I was old enough to drive a tractor on my own then I would drive one while he would drive another.
The older he got the more he would like to stay in a single tractor for longer periods of time. One afternoon I drove up to check on him after a whole morning of driving through the fields. I asked him if he needed anything and all he wanted was a bag of cereal he could snack on. He seemed to love cereal.
I would spend hours of the night hunting jackrabbits and raccoons and when I would come in around 2-3 AM he would be up for the day and be eating a bowl of cereal. Whenever I walked in and saw him eating a bowl of cereal, I always joined in. He was always happy to hear how many rabbits and raccoons I got and what fields had the most.
He loved cookies to. There was a very specific dollar store cookie he absolutely loved. One evening after working together all day he invited me to go into town to pick up a few things. We drove straight to the dollar store so he could get some cookies.
I remember watching NCIS with him one night. One of his favorite TV shows, and the victim in this episode was wearing a referee shirt, he rather loudly exclaimed, “Well he’s a ref! No wonder they shot him!” For such a quite man it was a very entertaining moment.
I remember he would just listen. I was always very talkative, and he was so much fun to be around because he just listened. I could talk anyone’s ear off, but he was always willing to listen to whatever I had, or wanted to say.
I remember late one night he woke me up because one of the neighbors showed up to the house about 2 in the morning, having just been kicked out by her boyfriend. Grandpa and I drove her into town. The whole time grandpa kept asking her if she needed anything, if he needed to take her to a hospital, to get food, if she needed money. He was always willing to help another in need. Once we got back from town we went inside and ate a bowl of cereal at 3-4 in the morning.
Grandpa was always soft spoken, but there was one time I walked in late from hunting rabbits and raccoons and there was a car parked near the haystacks. It was about 1-2 in the morning and he was sitting at the counter eating some cereal when I told him. He jumps up and says lets go, we hope in the truck and we get towards the car, the car starts driving off. My grandpa slams on the brakes and screams “Hey!!” That dude slammed on his brakes so hard, he started hanging out the window apologizing, Grandpa just told him to stay away from his hay. Driving back he just started chuckling, “I think I scared him a little bit.”
When my wife and I visited the farm after having our daughter, one morning grandpa said “She looks like the gew-ber baby! It took him showing us a case of baby food to realize that the gew-ber baby was the Gerber Baby”
We always planned our trips to Beaver around the 24th of July for the Beaver parade. Grandpa always sat in the same spot while all the family sat around him. He never stood up, never moved, until the cheese factory float pulled up. He was then standing at the curb with all of the other kids. My grandfather worked at the cheese plant for decades, and produced milk for them for decades more. They knew my grandfather by name and always had a box of squeaky cheese just for him.
Day 3 was really hard for me. This was when it really sank in that things were different now. As I said earlier, every year as early as I can remember we spent every 24th of July down on the farm, except for one: July 2019. The last 24th of July I could have spent with my Grandfather, didn’t happen. This was hard. This is hard. I have plenty of excuses, but none of them change a damn thing. I was going to summer school, I had a 4-month old son, a full time job with extremely busy projects. At the end of the day, I still regret not going down, not finding the time to visit. I still wish I could go back in time and make that a priority.
My grandfather isn’t my first experience with death, but it is my first experience not being able to say good bye. The good bye is for me more than anything. I just wished I could have said good bye.
With the heavy weight of regret, it was very difficult to find the peace I needed knowing that he was in a better place now. I took a drive and visited one of my close cousins that I grew up with. He was struggling as much as I was. He passed along a story that was relayed to him about grandpa.
While Grandpa was in the hospital he kept asking for Rita, (Rita was his dear wife who my grandfather regularly referred to as his sweetheart.) one of the nurses came in and spoke with him and said “What are you waiting for Sheldon. Go see her.” He passed that night.
I reached out to a buddy and went for a motorcycle ride I told him to plan out the course, he led me through some beautiful farm country at some point during the ride the music I was listening to said “Do you remember?” right when I got a whiff of a dairy farm. It was a comforting thought, I did remember, and I would never forget.
During the funeral there were many good talks highlighting the humor, compassion, and love that my grandfather exhibited on a daily basis. One of the talks that will always stick with my was one that my aunt gave. She talked about how Sheldon Jessup is in every single one of his posterity, she said “look at your hands” if you are a Jessup, you have big hands because of him. As I looked at my hands I of course cried again, I knew it was true, I had my grandfathers hands and he will always be apart of me, and apart of who I am.
I had the privilege of being a pallbearer and carrying the casket from the hearse to the grave. As we set him down I laid my hand on his casket and whispered, “Good bye Grandpa”
It has now been a couple of months since the funeral. I still get sad, it’s the little things that draw out spontaneous memories of him. I still miss him. He is in a better place, with his sweetheart again and I know that I will see him again.
Good bye Grandpa.