My Grandpa, the founder of this ranch, has lived a long life. In fact, Aug 23rd will mark his 89th birthday. Unfortunately, he will probably not make it to celebrate this year. After a long battle with Alzheimer’s, the Drs have said that his time is nearing the end and have given him just hours to live. While it is so hard to say goodbye, it is also comforting to know that he is passing, not because of the Alzheimer’s disease, but simply because of old age. His body has simply said it has finished its race and is slowly shutting down.
My Grandpa has been in the William R Courtney Veterans Home for the past couple of years, since a fall and a broken hip left him unable to walk and the Alzheimer’s disease left him confused and, at times, very hard to handle. My Grandpa served his country with great pride, and I must say that this home has honored that to the highest standard. My Mother has spent countless hours with him from the time he moved in, making the long drive back and forth to Temple more times than anyone can count, and the kiddos and I have visited often. The staff has been wonderful, the home is always clean, the tenants are happy and full of activities and options for enjoying life. The honor that is placed on the veterans is convicting. Walking with my children down the halls, we stop to look at the memorabilia that covers every inch of every wall. Pictures of residents and past residents serving their country in younger days, framed awards and metals, honoring those that gave everything for us. Plaques honoring those lost in battle. It’s really like going to a museum, only the ones being honored are still walking, or rolling, down the halls.
When we first started going to the Veteran’s Home, my littles were somewhat shy and taken aback, not sure what to think of so many gray hairs in one place. But as we continue to visit, they have become accustomed and open to the men and women there. My Shadow is always a favorite with her curly hair and bright smile. Many a hugs she has given out. Preston’s Sidekick loves to give the old men high fives and tell them all his snake adventures. It gives me pride and is also humbling to watch my little ones interact with those that fought in order for them to live their lives in freedom today.
We have been prepped for the coming hours when my Grandpa will say his final goodbye to this life. He will receive a final solute leaving the home, and will receive an honorable military burial. I am trying very hard to prepare myself for this, but even now, at the thought of it, tear up.
This is a man who has blessed his family. This is the man who gave bear hugs, squeezing so tight that we could barely yell uncle to be let go. This is the man who took us on countless camping trips as kids, enduring rain, sun, and raccoons. This is the man who gave me my love for ranching, the man who made our life real. This is the man who gave the best tickles wars ever, effectively keeping all three of us grandkids in stitches laughing ’till we gave up.
Things are changing forever. Honestly, I hate death. We have dealt with so much loss in our family. And, frankly, I feel those left behind are stuck with the bum deal. It’s us left behind that have to deal with the loneliness, the sorrow, the memories, the emptiness, and the hurt. I know my Grandpa will be rejoicing soon in heaven, joining our son Eli, my Brother, and my Father. That fact brings me great joy and happiness, to imagine the reunion they will have, no more hurt, confusion, pain. And we will continue on here.
This morning as I went out with the cows and goats and chickens, watching them all flock around me as I checked waters and put out food, the feeling was a little different. It’s almost like a stepping up of another generation, the handing of the batton. The commitment deepening to carry on the dream from those that started it. The next leg of the relay race really getting underway.
I love you Grandpa. Thank you from the very bottom of my heart.