A Belated Goodbye–or Maybe Hello

September of 1995. I was 5-years-old with a swimming pool, a german shepherd, two braids and my first loose tooth. I went to my first day of kindergarten in a specially bought purple dress with large flowers and white sandals that shone against the summer tan I’d gotten by way of the aforementioned pool.

I had two older sisters, a mom, and a dad. And don’t forget the german shepherd.

And then I didn’t. I had two older sisters and a mom, and still the german shepherd. Still the swimming pool and the plum tree in the front yard that we would grab to snack on as we cannonballed back into the water with purple juice dripping down our arms. I had twin cherry beds, and a giant panda bear that I slept with, and a Red Ryder bb gun that I used to shoot the light pole. But no dad.

And that was it.

Death and its permanency and separation is a thing you can’t comprehend when you’re 5. And I think that’s probably a blessing. In fact, I know it is.

And so one day I had a dad and then I didn’t. We had funerals and visits and a lot of casseroles. We had sad looks and long hugs and friends that couldn’t make eye contact. But no dad.

And I think we did okay. Each in our own way, charting our own course, but I think we did okay.

Because when you’re 5–you don’t say goodbye, because you don’t know what it means to do so.

It’s weird then, isn’t it, that I’m saying goodbye, and maybe hello, and maybe nothing at all, all these 25 years later? When the swimming pool has been taken down, and the plum tree mowed over–the german shepherd passed on, and my big sisters are further away than across the hall.

People take shape in our realities and in our visions. My dad was a vision colored slightly by imagination.

I don’t remember his hands, or his laugh, or his smell. I don’t know if I remember his face from in person or a photograph. “Did this really happen or did I dream it?” Most of the time, I dreamed it. Did my fingernail biting come from him? My obsessive personality? My love to organize? Who can say?

It’s hard to miss a dream. You can’t say goodbye to a vision.

And since he never took shape as a real man — life did as life does and moved on.

Today, I went through my grandmother’s mementos–photographs and letters and slides that aren’t even a thing now, but somehow I’m going to need to find a slide projector. And I fully expected to miss every inch of who she was. Because she was my solid reality. I can tell you exactly how her hands felt like paper and how she smelled like the perfect mix of Estee Lauder perfume and Suave aerosol hairspray.

I didn’t expect to be introduced to a father I thought I’d sufficiently grieved 25 years ago.

Because as his mother, she hoarded every memory, snapped every photograph, saved every birthday greeting and summer camp postcard.

And I’m wondering why she never brought them out.

We spent nearly every moment together. We talked over everything. There were no secrets, no grudges. Was the pain of seeing his slightly crooked “r” in the note written when he was 10-years-old just too painful? It’s too late to ask.

So I’m left piecing together what I can from newspaper articles, commendations, and baby pictures of a towhead who looks shockingly like the grandson he’ll never know.

So please humor me, if you will, this rambling I don’t know what journeying toward something that may not exist–to someone that surely did.

From what I can tell–there were two of him. The man (boy) he was in September of 1968, working at IBM, and the man he became in A-Shau Valley, Vietnam doing things that earned him the Purple Heart and Bronze Star that I have in a box in the basement. For “heroism in ground combat in the Republic of Vietnam.”

“Sgt Stevens ran to the wounded man’s side despite the heavy volume of enemy fire. He returned fire on the enemy positions while the medical aidman administered first aid to the wounded. Sgt Stevens then carried the wounded to safety amidst heavy enemy arms and rocket propelled grenade fire. Sgt Stevens’ personal bravery and devotion to duty were in keeping with the highest traditions of the military service and reflect great credit upon himself, his unit, and the United States Army.”

Oh. So that’s my dad, huh?

The Louisville Times did a story following him to the reveal of the Vietnam Wall in 1982.

“We’re just trying to find some meaning,” said Bob Stevens, a former reconnaissance team sergeant and now a counselor at the Lexington Disabled Veterans Outreach Center. Some people have been finding each other, but to this point I haven’t. Yesterday, Stevens found two people he knew. Their names were on the wall. “This guy died in the first firefight I was in,” Stevens said as took a picture of the name. “I carried him 500 yards to a chopper. I got a bronze star, but he didn’t make it.” Pointing to the second name, Stevens said: “I found out about Ed here about a month after I got home. He was my closest friend there. I’ve got pictures of us eating with the same spoon. This is a once in a lifetime experience,” Stevens said. “Many of these guys were just 19 years old and at an important stage in their development. They lost their youth and innocence in Vietnam, and some of us want to go back and find it.” 

That was 8 years before I entered the picture and only 13 before he passed. I’d like to think that journey toward his lost youth and innocence in the jungle came to an end in 1995, because I’m not certain he’d found what he was looking for before then.

“We’re just trying to find some meaning,” he’d said. Did he? Find meaning, I mean. In marriage? In fatherhood? Or did his meaning only come when finally his two souls became one. In her journal, Grandma wrote: “When I say my son returned from Vietnam, that is false. Bobby did not return–a part of him will always be back in those jungles. He was a prisoner to the war that he was still fighting and could never find his way out home. I lost my son in Vietnam, too. There should be a monument next to the Vietnam Memorial in Washington with the names of the ones who did return. These men are also the casualties of this conflict.”

“Bobby was a fine and brave soldier with many medals and commendations for his years in Vietnam. I, as a mother, cannot say how proud I am of him and what a brave soldier he was to the very end. In the hospital, they told him his condition, which was very bad, and he took it bravely, writing to me “no life support,” and he went home to be with our Lord. One of the last things he wrote not long before he died was “peace.” He finally was going to find peace after twenty-six years.

Maybe what I found in these old, 1977 McAlpin’s shoe boxes wasn’t a need to say goodbye, at all, it was a way to say hello. I finally was going to find a peace I didn’t know I needed after twenty-five years.

And may I just say, God Bless the American soldier–may he find his peace on this side or the other.

Here’s Looking At You, Doc

When we first met in college, John (then known as J-Whit) was studying for his MCAT. I remember asking him what he wanted to do and he responded by telling me what he was going to do. I started jokingly referring to him as Doc one night when a tipsy sorority girl kicked off her heels and cut her foot open on a broken glass bottle before formal. I ran through the Castle with a bottle of peroxide yelling “It’s fine–he’s going to be a doctor one day.” (This surprises no one.)

And then one day is today. Medical school isn’t an easy journey, it isn’t supposed to be. But for us it’s been an all out war. I watched you struggle through the first year–wanting to quit because you’d never gotten a B before–realizing you were now surrounded by the rest of the #1s. I watched you balance fatherhood and being home for dinner and playtime with Rose which meant sitting at your desk hours after we went to bed to prepare for the next day. I watched you leave every day at 6:00 am to study for your boards and saw your hands shake when you opened the email with the results. I remember the rotations in your third year when I watched you move from the classroom to the clinic and the OR. And you excelled. This was your world, out of the books, working with people–helping people. You were so hesitant to fall in love with orthopedics because you thought you weren’t enough. “Let’s do it,” I said. So what if it’s competitive. Let’s go for it. And it meant months away from home for away rotations and you felt so guilty for leaving us girls. But we opened the match email and cried. It was worth it.

Four years ago at your white coat ceremony we didn’t know anything. Just two dumb kids that had a newborn baby in a new city and we no idea what was coming down the stretch. There were days we didn’t know that we could make it. We stumbled and stammered and mostly guessed our way around figuring out marriage, parenthood, and life. And well–to be honest, not much has changed. Just two dumb kids with a 4-year-old (crying) and no idea what’s coming down the stretch.

Through it all, you somehow managed to be what everyone needed you to be. You were where you needed to be, studied what needed to be studied, came to dance class, coached soccer, got up with Rose in the middle of the night, and still made sure we made it to church on Sunday morning with a little bit of dignity (and no sanity). You love God and you love your girls.

Today when Doc officially becomes Dr. John R. Whitaker, the world will keep spinning for most people, but for me, it’s going to stop for just a minute. Because it hasn’t been pretty–it hasn’t been neat–and some days it was just about surviving. But you did it. You put this family on your back and kept your head down. You never ask for any credit or recognition–you just work hard because it’s in your bones. And as this chapter closes, as we move from our first home and into the next, and the challenges of residency come, we’ll get through in the classic Whitaker way–by having no idea what we’re doing, but loving God and each other a whole heck of a  lot.

And in the words of ole Frank:

“I planned each charted course
And more, much more than this
I did it my way.

Yes, there were times, I’m sure you knew
When I bit off more than I could chew
But through it all, when there was doubt
I ate it up and spit it out
I faced it all and I stood tall
And did it my way.”

Love and other drugs,
E. Hunter W.



The Rest of the Story: The Truth About Family Pictures

This past week, Doc, Rosebud and I decided to participate in the time-honored tradition of the family photo session.
The location was beautiful, the sun was shining in a cloudless sky, the leaves were a beautiful shade of rust and gold; I’d spent forever perfectly coordinating our fall outfits–conceded to letting Doc wear his boots, and curled Rosebud’s hair just right.

We were ready.

But see–I’d forgotten the most important detail of all. Rosebud is three.
And three year olds suck sometimes.

After two hours of begging her to sit up straight, look at the circle in the camera, and for Heaven’s sake, SIT STILL–Doc had exhausted his Dad voice, we’d threatened to take away every toy she’d ever owned, and told her she might not be able to sit down for a week.
No matter.
Our typically well-behaved daughter decided that family picture day would be the perfect opportunity to complete her transformation into an official ‘threenager’.

Connie with January June Photography kept trucking through the pursed lips, stuck out tongues, and monster faces that Rosebud insisted on making and that afternoon shared these two incredible preview photos:

Look at that. Would you just look at it? A perfectly happy American family. You’d never know that 7 seconds before this picture was taken, Rose had just kicked her feet, caught Doc in the “tenders”, and yelled “NO MORE PITCHAS.”

And that got me thinking. How often do we measure the success of ourselves and our families up against the snapshots in life rather than in the rest of the story?

The people in this picture look like they have it all together. They don’t look flustered or sweaty or like they’re considering returning their only child back to the Baptist East Hospital from whence she came.

This came from the hands of a gifted photographer, because trust me–that is not the reality of the Whitaker family.

Typically you can find us running out of the house five minutes before after we need to be somewhere with Rosebud still wearing her breakfast milk mustache, and me brushing crumbs from our clothes and throwing on my lipstick from the reflection in the window.

In this social media driven world I am so guilty of falling victim to comparing my world to the snapshots I see of others.

So I’m here to tell you that while snapshots are a beautiful way to capture the memories of these seasons of life, they are not all there is. There are also piles of dirty laundry, no makeup days, and misbehaved three year olds. Don’t get caught up in comparing your worst days to someone else’s best days, and most importantly be the friend and person that takes the time to listen to the rest of the story. Because there is glory in the rest of the story–because there is beauty in the rest of the story, and best of all–because there is grace in the rest of the story.

Rosebud: 1
Family Picture Day: 0

Love and Other Drugs,
E. Hunter W.

Maybe We Need This: A Look At the Olympics

This year, the Olympics have been blowing up my newsfeed (and my life). Everywhere I look I see people cheering on teenagers they’ve never heard of  and screaming at the Russians. Because Russians.

And here’s the thing. Maybe we need this. Maybe amidst all this political turmoil and division, maybe we need something to cheer for.
Maybe we need a 31-year-old retiree to come back in and sweep the field.
Maybe we need a team of young girls to make us feel some spark.
And just maybe we need history to be made and records to be broken and time to stop when our anthem is played.

It seems silly.
When it boils down to it–these are just games.
But they’re also the chance to say “This is who we are. This is what we do. When one of us wins, we all win. When one of us falls, we pick them back up.”

Because lately the City on the Hill hasn’t been well…so shiny. We’re got a lot of anger and bitterness and maybe we’re even losing our way just a bit without the light.
All the discourse and the he-said, she-said and the different stories that the media blares from sun up to sundown are taking its toll.

So at the end of the day.
Yes, they’re just games.
And yes, they’re just athletes–not superheroes.

But the next time America takes gold and the Star Spangled Banner’s first notes start to play, I dare you not to feel something. I dare you not to look at the Stars and Bars being hoisted and feel anything but pride.

Because this is America. And we came to win.

Just the Two of Us: The Tales of a Temporarily Single Mom

On Sunday Doc left us.

Okay. So that seems a bit dramatic. It’s only temporary, but still.
For the next 8 weeks, it will just be me and Rosebud attempting to navigate this crazy, busy world of being a working single parent.
Doc will be cutting people open somewhere in Cleveland for 4 weeks, and then somewhere in Missouri for 4 weeks after that.
55 days.
(Not that I’m counting or anything.)

SO. For 55 days, I will be responsible for shuffling Rosebud to and from school, getting her school supplies for her new big girl class, attending the parent meetings at school, laundry, dance class, dinner, bath time, 40+ hour/week job, grocery shopping.
Y’all, I’m tired just writing about it.

On top of that all, I hurt somewhere deep inside. Doc and I have never spent this much time apart and I don’t have anyone to put my cold feet on. Plus I have to sleep with the light on. Okay. Two lights on.

In the near future please plan to be regaled with hilarious stories about running out of gas (because I’m used to him taking care of that), and almost losing a hand to the weedeater, because hey–he does that, too.

Also plan to be regaled with stories of emotional breakdowns because I’m experiencing the reality that real single parents face on an everyday basis with no light at the end of the tunnel.

The truth is, sometimes you don’t realize what you’ve got until it’s gone. Even if it’s only 5 hours away, has FaceTime and is eventually coming home.
This entire process has made me appreciate the man that I married so much. Whether it’s the looks that say: “Hunter. You need to chill and quit stressing,” or him making sure my coffee is made before he leaves for the hospital.

This season of life is hard and involves a lot of tears. But it’s also pretty amazing to see the way God prepared us for this weeks and months in advance. He got my brother-in-law a new job in Lexington, meaning that now I have my family right down the road if I need them, and Rosebud has plenty of cousins to take her mind off of missing dad. I have my best friend’s wedding to look forward to which makes the time go faster. I have a great job that keeps me excited and busy. Doc recently got a new car that will take him safely to and from these long trips. Steve Jobs created Apple which created FaceTime to make the separation easier…..all for the Whitakers.

Every morning, I have to look in the mirror and tell myself that I can do this.
Every night, Rosebud and I FaceTime Doc and she marks another day off on her Frozen calendar.
And though I know this is only temporary….right now it really just sucks.

If you wouldn’t mind, throw your extra thoughts, prayers, vibes and hugs our way.

Love and Other Drugs,
E. Hunter W.


The House that Built Me

When I was 5-years-old, Grandma bought me a duffel bag out of a Harriet Carter magazine. Because what a quintessentially grandmotherly thing to do. It was pink and had a little blonde girl screen printed on it, and H-U-N-T-E-R emblazoned across the top. Along the bottom, in bright yellow letters it said “Going to Grandma’s”.

Most Fridays I would pack that duffel bag and take it to school with me. When Grandma and Grandpa picked me up on Friday afternoon, that was it. All bets were off. I was “Going to Grandma’s.”

I spent more time in that house than anywhere else in my 26-years. As a little girl, I scuffed up the hardwood floors running in and out in the summer. As a teenager, I learned to drive in the neighborhood streets. As a wife, I brought my husband and baby girl there to eat pancakes cooked on a griddle from 1954.

The house has looked the same since they moved in. No re-decorating. They didn’t even move the furniture around. When I hit the door, whether at 6 or 26, Grandma was either in her black rocking chair, or standing in the kitchen.

But here we are, and the final papers are signed.
906 Plainview Drive is no longer “Grandma’s house.”

My sisters and I went through her 88-years of life. Clothes and quilts, newspaper clippings of 4-H talent shows, pictures we’d colored in 1994. We took down pictures and emptied cabinets.

It looked so much bigger with everything emptied away. The shell that held a home. And I want to cry for everything that I had.

The house that built me.
Standing at her stove, wearing a red apron, Grandma taught me the prayer to say to ask Jesus into my heart.
Laying in the back bedroom, I learned that books and words could create power beyond measure.
Laying on the couch after knee surgery, I experienced servant love while she washed my hair in a pan.
Building blocks in the living room, I learned to start all over again when the tower falls.
Watching ‘Anne of Green Gables’ on the old VCR taught me about passion and heartache and laughing and growing up.
It was the house that built me.

And it always smelled like mashed potatoes and sugar cookies.
It was that house that built me.

Love and other drugs,
E. Hunter W.

Look Out World–I’m Sinning Again

I make a lot of mistakes in life. Like–a lot.
I constantly am finding some new way to get in my own way, or losing my temper, or “letting my mouth write checks that my butt can’t cash” to put it in Hudge’s terms.
I sin. Sometimes a dozen times before I’ve had my morning coffee (more if it’s a Monday).

I judge.
I hate.
I judge again.
I covet.
I lose my patience.
I run from the Word.

And that’s just on a normal day–you should see me during basketball season.

The Ten Commandments are full of some pretty heavy, pretty lofty processes and goals.
Don’t lie. Don’t take stuff that isn’t your’s. For goodness sakes, don’t kill anybody.
Don’t covet. Keep Sunday holy. Be good and respectful to your momma and your papa.

These should be pretty easy standards to match.
(They aren’t.)

But by far my biggest struggle in this life lies in the two (arguably most important) commandments:
1. You shall have no other gods before Me.
2. You shall not make idols.

Growing up in the Church from a young age, these two commandments always struck me as a bit archaic. Sure they applied back in BC whatever when the Israelites were over there worshipping gold cows and everyone was running around with Baal-Zebub (which I mean, what an awful name for a god–even a fake one).

But how many of us modern evangelics are going around praying to a piece of jewelry?
So as a child I went ahead and gave those two commandments a mental check.
Like, okay. I’m good with those. Never going to struggle with cow worship, so moving on. What’s next?
Failing to understand their importance and true meaning made me particularly vulnerable in failing to follow their calling.

But as I’ve grown and matured in my life, I’ve learned a thing or two. Okay, maybe just a thing, but still. God knew exactly what He was doing when He handed down those Commandments to His people so long ago. He made them uniquely applicable to the BC Christians, to the 17th Century Christians, and to the Starbucks drinking millennial Christians of today.

Because maybe your god or your idol isn’t as tangible as cow jewelry.
Maybe your god or idol is money, success, acceptance, adoration, your job, or shoes (guilty).
Or maybe of all things your god and your idol is a 3-year-old little girl with bright blue eyes and her handsome, bow-tie wearing dad.

What do we do when we create idols out of the very blessings God has given us?

I’ve never struggled in my belief. I’ve often struggled in my faith and reliance–but never in my belief.
I always said quite confidently that if anyone were to ever persecute me for my faith or to hold a gun to my head and ask me if I believe in God, I would be able to answer “yes”. Genuinely.

But then Rosebud was born. And the question became instead: What if someone were to hold a gun to HER head and ask me if I believed in God? Then what?

Wow. Hold the phone.

Thankfully I live in a time and place where my freedom to chose my faith is without persecution.
But what about Abraham? What about Isaac?
If I’m being completely honest, here, which I always try to be: if God commanded me to sacrifice my Rosebud as He did with Abraham and his beautiful baby boy, Isaac……Well–Boy oh boy would I fail that test.
Abraham believed. And God provided.
But could I take that chance? Do I have that strength? Nope. Nu-uh. No. Not even a little.

The Bible tells us to love one another. But that when compared to the love we have for God, those Earthly bonds should seem like hate.

What if eternal life didn’t include my Doc and sweet Rosebud? What then?

But it’s love, right? How can the God of Love deem loving a sin? It all seems so bass-awkward.
But the thing of it is–I’m not called to love them less. But to love Him more.

God gave me Doc and Rosebud, and in them I get to experience joy and grace abounding .
But even what I feel for them pales in comparison to what God feels for them.
So I have to give up. Something I’ve never been good at.

I have to realize that all the goals and dreams and desires for good things that I have for Doc and Rosebud are absolute dirt compared to what God wants for them.
So I have to bow to His love and stop competing against it.

It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done. Ever.

What’s your god? Who’s your idol? And how do you deal with it?
In the (over-sung, over-played, super annoying) words of Elsa of Arrendale: LET IT GOOOOOO.

I’m going to fail at this today. And probably tomorrow, too.
But I’m really hoping God has a special place is in His heart for mommas that parked their car on Struggle Street.

Love and other drugs,
E. Hunter W.


This Is As Good As It Gets

I don’t have a very good memory. Things that go into my head get lost a lot.
I like to think that it’s because I’ve got so much knowledge from all my years of living that there just isn’t enough room, and so I have to filter out a lot of things.

But the reality is that it’s mainly just useless Disney trivia, a lot of facts about Abraham Lincoln, and the entire script to Forest Gump.

Either way, I don’t have a lot of moments that stick out in my mind, so the ones that do usually mean something.
I have this distinct memory of a field day in the fourth grade. Mom took off work for the day to volunteer at the parent booth, and the Italian ice truck came to the school just for us. I ran in the sack race and won a medal, and momma was there cheering, and I clearly remember thinking: “This is as good as life gets.”

I have a distinct memory of a Friday night my senior year of high school. About eight of my closest friends were all crowded onto a single trampoline with a bunch of comforters. We were staring at the stars and waxing poetic about the fear of graduation and the future and how much we loved one another, and I clearly remember thinking: “This is as good as life gets.”

I have a distinct memory of sitting in the front room of the house on Chestnut Street my junior year of college. I was surrounded by the greatest women in the world and we were all singing along to ‘Forever Young’ and with one another, thinking it could be true. We really could be forever young. I clearly remember thinking: “This is as good as life gets.”

I remember walking through the Colonnade after a Saturday afternoon tailgate and football game, holding hands and laughing with a cute boy with dimples and the bluest eyes I’d ever seen. We ran through the fountains and back to the Castle, and I clearly remember thinking: “This is as good as life gets.”

I remember walking down the aisle of a church with that same blue-eyed guy waiting at the end. I remember the part of the service that he leaned down and washed my feet to promise he’d always love me and serve me. And I clearly remember thinking: “This is as good as life gets.”

I have a distinct memory of walking on a park track, 9-months pregnant, holding the dog’s leash while the sun was setting, huffing and puffing attempting to encourage Rosebud to just be born already. We got in the car to drive home, and Doc said: “This might be the last day when it’s just the two of us.” And it was. And I clearly remember thinking: “This is as good as life gets.”

I remember having contractions and thinking: “This is absolutely as bad as life gets.”
Pause. Shudder.

I have a distinct memory of being in the hospital the night after Rosebud was born and looking over to see Doc holding her and staring at her for hours. And I clearly remember thinking: “This is as good as life gets.”

I have a distinct memory of a summer afternoon that we all three spent together, working in the garden, swimming, and the smell of Doc’s grill. We spread out a blanket in the back yard and had a picnic, and ended the day on the patio swing. It felt like nothing in the world could touch the three of us. And I clearly remember thinking: “This is as good as life gets.”

Now. Please don’t get me wrong. These perfect days–more like snapshots–were surrounded by moments and days where I just didn’t know if I would make it through. But memory often colors those bad days.

In every season of life, I keep thinking I’ve peaked. Nothing could be better. My heart it so nostalgic, and it  aches to see chapters close and these seasons end. I forget to look ahead toward what good could come, and instead I dread the unknown.
I fear the things I can’t see.

So if today you’re sitting on the cusp of the unknown–take heart in knowing that there are good days ahead. Even if you think that today is as good as life can get.
Rest in the peace of the One who knows exactly what tomorrow holds.
Rest in the peace of the One who is preparing you for your best day. When it really will be as good as life could get.

And take heart in the fact that somewhere out there, I’m just as scared sh*tless as you are.

Love and other drugs,
E. Hunter W.


One of Grandma’s greatest talents, besides feeding us all full of cheesy, fried, Southern food, and knowing the tricks to every game on The Price is Right, was sewing. All through our growing up years, she would make these beautiful dresses for Christina and Martha and I. Always matching, which, as the youngest, I loved. Them? Not so much—they were way too cool. But Grandma could take these scraps of fabric that looked like nothing to the rest of the world—and she could see their potential. The dresses and quilts and doll clothes that they could be. She was an artist.

Maybe it was that talent that allowed her to see the potential in all of us, too. She believed that we could do anything (except make mistakes—her grandchildren could do anything but make mistakes) and in believing that, she made us believe it, too.

Grandma’s hands that could take a scrap of fabric and turn it into the perfect Scarlett O’Hara barbecue dress could take this unruly, loud, bumbling little tomboy and smooth out the edges and help form something that could be somewhat mistaken for a lady. (If you squint your eyes and tilt your head a little to the left.)

The day before she passed, I wrote a blog about her, and even now I can think of no better way to describe her.

Death is a strange thing. The strangest thing that we can try to understand as humans, I think. Our bodies are wired to survive at all costs, so when they eventually fail us, our minds struggle to wrap around that. We say we lost someone, but to be perfectly honest, Grandma isn’t lost. I know exactly where Grandma is. On Tuesday morning she walked with Jesus like she always wanted, and she held her baby boy for the first time in 21 years. And she kissed her sweetheart.
If anything, now I’m the one that’s lost.
Without my cell phone constantly ringing for her to “tell me just one thing” or just to hear my voice. Without my trips to the nursing home, and her cravings for Taco Bell.

When she lost her only child, my dad, I sat in Grandma’s lap during the funeral and slept through it all. She said holding me is what helped her get through the day, so the Lord must have planned it. That may have been where this special whatever we had began. What she doesn’t know is that her holding me is what got me through the last 26 years.

I just want to finish with a poem I wrote when Grandma was staying with me a couple of months ago.

It Is Time
She is pancake mix and chocolate chip cookies and pink lemonade.
She is buttercups flowers and knockout roses and yard sales on Saturday mornings.
She is evening walks and holding hands.
She is the nighttime reader who always said yes to “just one more.”
She’s seen the worst the world can offer, and remained good.

She’s the gift to my childhood–flesh of her flesh.

I knew this was coming.
I thought I was ready.
But I am the little girl again, not wanting to go home.
Please, please let me stay!
Please, please let her stay.

She has gone.
“It is time.”
And I am so very different.
How very much I loved her.
How blessed to have her in my world.
How blessed to have lived in her’s.

This is what I wrote for Grandma’s funeral–which was a lifetime ago and also only a second.
I cried today.
My first real ‘my heart hurts’  cry since she died.
Between all the funeral preparations and the estate probating and thousands of calls to life insurance, health insurance, social security, blah blah blah, I think I stayed just busy enough.
But I cried today.
Because I think I could search the whole world over, back through all of history, and never find someone who understood me like she did.

Thank you all for your kind words since last Tuesday. Thank you for your hugs and your thoughts and especially your prayers. And thank you for calling up your grandparents just to say hello.

Love and other drugs,
E. Hunter W.


Grandma and I have fallen into a routine of sorts.
I go in and help her pick her clothes for the day, wash, and dress. I get her dirty laundry, bring it home to wash, hang up the shirts and fold her socks.
It’s funny the way something so foreign can become so familiar so fast.

Smells you used to notice when you walked in the door don’t seem nearly so strong by now, and strange sounds in the hallway fade into the background.

There’s really no secrets between us at this point. It’s our new “normal.”

I noticed that her papery skin was getting dry and cracked so I picked up some Aveeno lotion and brought it with me. I was rubbing it across her shoulders and my mind was wandering at all the weekends and summer vacations I’d spent at her house. And this is our life now.

I brushed her hair. I trimmed her toenails and fingernails and painted them ‘shell pink’–her favorite. Rosebud’s favorite, too. Then I got her Taco Bell because she’ll be 89-years-old this year, and I think if you live that long you ought to be able to eat what you want, when you want–salt or no salt. And if what you want is a Mexican pizza, two tacos, and a root beer, then so be it.

I have no idea why I’m even writing about any of this except to process it myself.

She looks at me the way I used to look at her. Expectant. Like I have the answers, when really I’m just trying to figure out how to manage all of this.

All of our lives, grandparents have this special ability to make us feel so loved no matter what.
Growing up, we know our parents love us, but they also carry the burden of disciplining us. There’s always that risk of getting in trouble–because they are charged with shaping us as people.

Grandparents, on the other hand, just get to love without the hindrance of the “you can’t do that’s” and “I said no’s.”

Or at least if you’re as lucky as I’ve been.

My grandparents had this special ability to make me feel so….precious.
Loved isn’t the right word. And neither is special.
They made me feel like I made their world a beautiful place.

When I would spend the night at Grandma’s house–whether I was 6, or 16–she would come into my room at night, pray with me and kiss me and tell me how much she loved me.
And I believed her.
That no matter what I did in life and no matter where I went, her love and her prayers would go, too.

Yesterday before I left the nursing home, I helped her change into her nightgown–all of the awkwardness about modesty and whatnot washed away by this point. I leaned down to hug her and she kissed me on the cheek and told me “Thank you. I love you so much. You’re precious to me.”

And just like that I was 5-years-old again, holding Grandma’s hand as we took one of our walks.
I cried the whole way home because it’s hard to see the hands that cooked you a million pancake breakfasts fumble over buttons.
I cried the whole way home because I’d give about a million dollars to go back in time for just one day–to get up at 1 in the morning just to eat cinnamon toast and watch an old movie together–for no other reason than to be together.

But mainly, I cried the whole way home because even now, when there’s nothing she can really do or give, she still makes me feel so loved and so precious.

One year for Mother’s Day, we got Grandma a wall hanging that said “God couldn’t be everywhere, so he made grandparents.”
And with my grandparents, I’ve gotten to experience the truest, most unconditional love this side of Heaven.
And I hope you have, too.

Love and Other Drugs,
E. Hunter W.