My children’s other grandfather is dying from his fourth attack of cancer. Tumors like softballs stud his chest and torso. Prior cancers removed his lower jaw and all but a thin fold of vocal cord. Family group texts to my children kept me informed of his worsening condition and of the many tender family visits from his eight children and thirty-six grandchildren and twenty-eight great-grandchildren. Though I have not been his son-in-law for six years, I love and respect the man, and I knew it would be right for me to say good-bye. Sitting at his bedside, we fist-bumped and we talked and reminisced and we shared our hopes for our families’ futures. He expressed his love and admiration for my seven wonderful children. I conveyed Mom’s and Dad’s expression of love and admiration and respect—“Right back at ‘em,” he chimed. He told me stories of his early life, like when he was a little boy and he and his cousins laid on their grandmother’s down-tic mattress listening to her tell stories of their Mormon pioneer ancestors. “She was barely 4-foot 10-inches tall,” he marveled. “We loved her. But you didn’t want to make her mad!” like when the children tried to ride the sheep. When I asked what he most looked forward to on the other side, he listed reunions with his father, Charles, who died by train in the shunting yard in 1961, and his mother, Jessie, who died of a stroke the year I married (1988), and many other family members, like his brother Kay, who died of the hardships of homelessness. I told him I felt very sorry that things had not worked out for his daughter and me, but that I loved him. “You are family,” he assured me in exhausted whispers, “and I love you.” He squeezed my hand hard, then let me know he was so tired and needed to sleep for a while. He stopped eating five days ago—he made it to March 1—everyone has said good-bye—I have said good-bye and god speed.
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