Sunday, October 27, 2013

A True Blessing & A Wonderful Gift, Thank You Papa Joe

I disappeared from this blogging world I've put at the top of my list for the last 10 months. I went MIA without any forewarning. But as we know, sometimes life situations come at us without any forewarning. A new diagnosis for Papa Joe, a quick admission to the hospital, a discharge home, a celebration of life party Papa Joe had for himself while still alive, piano playing for the last time in front of his family and friends, another admission to the hospital, a discharge home, and then one last admission to the hospital before he left us. Three weeks, Papa Joe held on. He held on strong and I think not so much for himself, but for all of us he left behind. He gave each and every one of us those wonderful moments of stories, laughter, tears, and his still-living celebration of life party. And on top of it all, he gave me a true blessing and a wonderful gift.

A True Blessing
Up to this point, I had always feared the first death in our family. What role would I take on? Would I be the one crying all the time, upset, and unable to be around everything? Papa Joe showed me that I underestimated family gave me the opportunity to be the nurse as well as Papa Joe's granddaughter. The true blessing in it all was that I got to provide assistance for all his cares so he could maintain as much independence as possible, help the family make big decisions based on my medical background, prepare Papa Joe and family for the best and worse situations, walk everybody through the chronically ill/dying process, and spend hours after hours with Papa Joe whether it be sleeping beside him in a little cot majority of the nights he was at the hospital or in my grandparent's own home. We'd stay up until midnight chatting about life and wake up every couple hours at a time until morning where he'd share so many neat things with me. Sometimes it was jokes, sometimes it was a history lesson, at times he shared WWII stories, expressed his love and proud feelings to specific family members, prayed, and of course, we shared the idea of death and the dying process. I was blessed with those wonderful moments where I learned, I cried, and I began to understand Papa Joe on an entirely different level. He shared three weeks of the dying process with me, something in which not too many people get to experience that closely.

Just a few things Papa Joe shared with me...
*He could remember every possible invention in his lifetime. Take nylon way back
in the late 1930s. It was made out of coal, water, and air. That's it. Crazy, huh?
It's amazing how many inventions he saw in his lifetime. Pretty cool!

*Cereal...he could take it or leave it. The cereal tasted as good as the box. And it was
probably just as healthy as the box. (I think he had that right)

*WWII: he ditched his sleeping bag due to weight and shape. Instead, he dug foxholes just 
big enough for a couple people to share and use body heat for warmth instead.

*WWII: he earned a purple heart for being shot in the leg and yet another medal because he
hid a man under his black rain jacket, waited until the end of the battle,
and then went back to get him.

*Professional pianist: lots & lots of tunes. He knew them all. In fact, he could tell us what 
chord to play the song in, which keys to hit on the piano, and who initially wrote the piece.
It is something we will all cherish, but we will all miss so much...his piano playing!

*He was given the name "Joe" because his dad thought there could never be
enough of "good ol Joes"...and his dad was right, my Papa Joe was one amazing man!

*Favorite joke:
A man went to his doctor and said he wanted to be castrated. The doctor said that's a
big procedure and sir, I'd need you to read all these documents and sign your
name in several places so you don't come back to haunt me later in life. The man said
it'd be no problem, he wanted to go forth and sign away. The doctor got him in right away
and when the man got out of the procedure he looked down and saw all the bandages. He
looked over, saw another man with the same bandages, and asked what he had done. The other
man said he was circumcised. Then the castrated man said, that's what I meant to tell the doctor!

*Matthew 9:20-9:22. Cloaked in God's love. A daily reading we found in a magazine
that touched so close to home that night.

A Gift From My Papa Joe
Something I will never be able to thank him enough for and truly an amazing gift he gave me at 
the end of his life was understanding what it's like to be on the other side of that hospital 
room & knowing how to become the best nurse I can be to others. If you're curious, I'll 
explain later. Right now all I will do is cry. I'll leave you with the idea that it has 
been one of the best gifts I have received in my lifetime.

When Asked How He Wanted To Be Remembered...
One night at the hospital, my cousin had asked me to find out from Papa Joe what he
wanted to be remembered for. The rest of us would've assumed it would be for his piano
playing abilities, maybe his medals from the war, or the usual "a good person" or "good dad/papa."
Well he didn't say any of those things. Ty and I asked Papa Joe and his response was this:
"I'd like to be remembered for something like one of my favorite poems called
the Bridge Builder." For all of you interested, please read it. For those of you who don't,
it in essence is saying that he wants to be remembered for laying down the bridge for all those
behind him. He wanted to make their lives easy by laying down the path from the beginning. 
That way, they don't have to struggle. Papa Joe wanted to ease everybody else's life and lead 
them in the right direction in life. We can't thank him enough for everything he has 
done in not just Ty and my life, but for all our family, his friends, and all those he's touched.

A Neat Coincidence
In the last couple days of Papa Joe's life, he played what he called "Hum That Tune." He'd
either listen to songs on the TV and guess them himself or he'd "hum" songs and have
people try to guess them. Well the morning after he passed, I looked outside our front window 
and saw a hummingbird feeding on my favorite lavender plant. I find it coincidental that Papa 
Joe was "humming" on his last days of his life and that a "humming" bird came to visit 
me after he died. Call me weird, but I'm pretty sure Papa Joe just paid me a visit to say, 
"I made it! I'm humming songs, playing my piano, and enjoying my view from above!"

Papa Joe, you have eased our way in life, shared your life journey with so many, blessed
us with a wonderful future, and I can't thank you enough for playing me down the aisle at my
wedding, sharing your last three weeks with me so closely, and giving me a gift I can carry
in my heart the rest of my life.

We love & miss you so much Papa Joe!
♥Cori Lou & Ty

As we will always remember him...
the piano man himself playing at his "celebration of life party"
he threw for himself while still alive!

An emotional celebration of life, but he sure had quite the turnout on such short notice he said!

Enjoying one of our last family nights together with Papa Joe at home!
Papa Joe & Gramma "Nu" with their children...

And with part of the rest of the family...missing Curt & Ty!

Every night I went to bed at the hospital with Papa Joe, I was amazed by how much
my dad looked like him. To show proof, I had to get the photos...

Like father like son. I'm so fortunate to be so close to Papa Joe, knowing
how wonderful of a man he was...and now to be even closer with
my dad, realizing how much he takes after his amazing father.

I was so fortunate to have him play me down the aisle for my wedding. One night
he played song after song for me until he decided he'd choose the song I would walk down 
to. So that day I walked down the aisle, he surprised me and I will never forget how
amazing the piano was played that day. I was so proud!

Ty & I only have a year under our belt, but these two had over 61 years of marriage!
Hard to believe that they won't be walking hand in hand any longer when they come into the 
room. I'll miss those moments that Papa Joe would hear Grandma's voice coming 
into the room and the way he lit up EVERY SINGLE TIME! He'd always say,
"Hello Mama" in his sweet voice and give her a kiss on the lips.
To have this kind of love is to nearly have the whole world!

And on his last days, there was nothing better to do than to do what he loved to do...
play that piano. If we all wanted to live, we'd want a life like his. When we all
die, what better way to go then how Papa Joe did.