02 03 The Rhineheart Roost: Grandpa DeWitt 04 05 15 16 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 31 32 33

Grandpa DeWitt

I've waited a while to write this, mainly because I wasn't sure what to say, and also because it seems like the past few weeks have been so stressful, I don't know which way is up. But it's Sunday now, and I can take a breather.
Grandpa on his birthday, listening to some music. I'm pretty sure I
got my love of music from this man.

On Sunday, January 20th, my dad called me out of YW. He looked serious, and instantly thoughts began racing through my mind. They weren't very coherent, but they were definitely panicky.
"Grandpa and Grandma are on their way here now," my dad said. "Grandpa DeWitt is dying."
He had the sweetest laugh, and the happiest smile.

My stomach dropped to hear these words, and I fought the urge to cry in the hallway. I just nodded, and Dad told me to take the kids home after church and not to say a word. I came back to class and sat mutely through the rest of the lesson. I quietly drove home, and went into my room to collect my thoughts. Grandpa DeWitt seemed like the kind of person who would simply live forever. I couldn't imagine my life without him, and I honestly didn't want to try.
Grandpa playing along and gracefully accepting the hat that
his great-grandchildren presented him with.

I loved that man so much it hurt, and I still do. There are few people in the world that make me feel that way, and I started losing it. I distracted myself with other thoughts until Grandma and Grandpa came over, then I tried to put on a brave face for my grandma. She was about to be orphaned, and I could see that she wasn't her usual, cheery self.
I tried not to dwell on it too much, but my thoughts kept returning to my poor Grandpa. He'd aspirated some fluid, and couldn't get it out, slipping into a coma. We'd had a couple close calls before, but I knew this was the last time. Grandpa wasn't coming back. I prayed for him continuously over the next few days, hoping he wasn't in too much pain and that, if it was Heavenly Father's will, he would be able to come back. I was in denial, and didn't want to let him go, but I had to put my trust in God that everything would turn out the way He had planned.
Family picture
Every night I would write letters to Grandpa in my head, telling him everything I could possibly want him to know. I needed him to know how much I loved him, and how hard it was going to be to let him go. I would stare up at the ceiling and cry a little bit, remembering his strength and his sweetness. He was one of the strongest people I knew, physically, and spiritually. He could arm wrestle my uncles in his eighties, and he would chase around his great-grandkids, laughing the whole time. I remember every time we were together, he would cup my face in his wrinkly hands, call me his "Honey Sweetie", and remind me of his love for me, God's love for me, and bear his testimony of the truth of the gospel. He would also remind me to find my husband soon, so that he could have some great-great grandchildren. One memory I have of him counseling me in marriage was to pray to Heavenly Father, and ask that my husband and I be led to each other through His Divine Power. I've taken that to heart, and I still pray to be led to my eternal companion.
The oldest great-grandchild with the youngest female great-grandchild
(at the time, 2012)
Life continued at its break-necking pace, and soon it was opening night of Macbeth. The performance went swimmingly, and our spirits were high. I still worried about Grandpa, but I made sure to give my all to each performance.
Wednesday night, my mom came to help out backstage. A few days earlier, I had found a copy of Tuesdays With Morrie, and had persuaded her to read it. She brought it with her to read backstage, and I smiled every time I passed her. One time, however, I noticed she was crying. Instantly, I knew it wasn't just the book. Even though that book will make you cry, I had a feeling: Grandpa was gone. She remained teary for the remainder of the evening, but she tried to play it off. Still, I knew that Grandpa was gone. I could feel it in my gut. After the show, I wanted to come up to her and say, "he's gone, isn't he?" but I resisted. I tried to lose myself in the joy of another successful night running Macbeth, instead. I still wasn't 100% positive, and wanted confirmation.
When I got home, Dad's face gave it away.
"Grandpa passed away around 7:00 tonight", he said sadly.
As I watched Mom and Dad hold each other, I let the gravity of loss sink in. I'd known it was going to happen, I knew it had happened, but I couldn't grasp it. All of a sudden, a crushing feeling of grief pulled me down, and I lost it. I cried for all I was worth, and sunk to the ground, trying to breathe through it all.
Just that afternoon, my mom and I were discussing Tuesdays With Morrie, and she talked about how Morrie said that to be able to fully move on from an experience, you need to let the emotions wash over you. My mom remarked on how she wanted to let sorrow permeate her being for once, so she could process loss and move on, and now that time had come. I let myself cry, not caring about the copious amounts of mascara that were now all over my face. I sat down on my bedroom floor and thought about how he was really gone. I'd never be able to smell his cologne again, I'd never lean my head on his chest as he talked to me, I'd ever be able to hear his soft voice tell me a story, or watch his face light up with laughter. He was just gone.
Grandpa giving one of his famous talks to Alicya.
I went back to the kitchen, where my dad was on Facebook, composing a status message in honor of Grandpa. I remembered all the pictures I'd taken at Grandpa's 90th birthday party, and showed them to my dad. He really, really liked them and so he posted them on his Facebook. I had no idea what would happen next, but I never expected the reaction that came of it. Relatives all over Facebook were sharing a picture I had taken of him, and the responses were remarkable. I had taken a great candid shot of Grandpa that captured him so well, my relatives shared the picture again and again. I found out that my picture had been used in his obituary, it would be used in the funeral program, and my cousin Jennica, who runs a very well-known blog, wanted to put my picture on her blog for thousands more to see. I was truly humbled. I never imagined that my dinky four-year-old camera and a well-timed shot would be so integral to my family's healing, but here I was, all because I had thought to show my dad the pictures I'd taken. I almost forgot my camera, but now I will be forever grateful that I did not, because if I had neglected it, I would have missed out on a beautiful opportunity to capture the last few pictures of my dear Grandpa.
Without a doubt, this is my favorite shot. This is the one used on his program,
obituary, etc.
The funeral was hard. It took all of my willpower to walk in the room where the viewing was held, and even then I had to walk out again so as not to make a spectacle of myself. I swallowed my sobs and held my aunts as they came to comfort me. I seem to forget how loving my family is, but they are always there for me and I need to remember them more. I can't thank my wonderful family enough for being so willing to let me cry it out. It was nice to know I wasn't alone in my pain.
This precious man has touched the lives of countless people, and I am eternally grateful for the blessing I have of being his great-granddaughter.
Peacefully enjoying his family.
He lives on in my heart, and as cheesy as that sounds, it's true. I know I will see him again, and I know that he is up there right now with my darling babies, probably telling them stories and preparing them for life on Earth. Take care of them, Grandpa, and remind them how loved they are.
I love you eternally Grandpa,
Love, Haeley.
Grandpa and I.

(ps. Thank you so, so much for those of you that were there for me that week. It was a really hard time, but your unconditional love for me really helped lift me up.)
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