As the third anniversary of my dad’s passing approaches, I share this poem written just days after his death. It is an account of how my children processed their new reality without grandaddy Jimmy. The most poignant moments were the moments with them: telling them the truth, holding space for their sadness and questions and love and truth.
Drawing the Tummy
Grandaddy is dead.
I told them, he died. I’m so sorry.
One son threw up.
Yes, I thought. That is how this feels.
Details, mom. How?
Middle of the night. Up to get decaf coffee and pee.
Grandma held the coffee for him so it wouldn’t spill.
He collapsed. Stiff, he fell to the floor.
Grandma spilled the coffee.
She called the helpers and they came.
She called me. I went.
His heart had stopped beating, the heart they had just fixed.
Something was wrong that couldn’t be mended.
Tired, worked so hard, finished.
All of our bodies will stop one day.
I’m glad he was home.
I’m glad we were near.
The kids made papers for his casket—for him to carry to the other side.
Older son wrote a note. Younger son drew a picture.
Note from older son: Funeral logistics.
We will have a funeral. I will go.
You will be in a casket.
A church, a graveside, dress up clothes.
Picture from younger son: The scene.
A birds-eye view of the bedroom and how he imagined it looked.
A bed. Grandaddy. Blood splattered. No coffee.
“Is it OK to draw the tummy?”
How does he know that even in our final scene we may not want to look as fat as we really are?
How does he know this?
“Yes, son.” It is ok to draw the tummy.
To tell the truth.
We tucked those papers in, sent him away.
Dotted lavender on his head, on the place that had ached so badly.
I looked at his face. Last time.