Awhile back my dad asked me what sparked my love for writing and where I got my skills. My answer – a college composition class. The instructor, Valerie, encouraged us to write from the heart, and for the first time – I did, penning this essay, titled “Grampa Jim,” about the day I found out about the passing of my grandfather.

Breathing hard, running at a steady pace, she saw another turn and after that the last hill of the race. The finish line chute was in sight. Pick up the pace, she said to herself. Keep going. Stop thinking about the burning in your lungs. You are almost there. It was over. She had survived another grueling cross-country race.

The girl’s team boarded their van and the boys theirs. Now on the open road, the girls’ speeding van was filled with light-heartedness and laughter. Jokes soon arose suggesting that the driver would get ticketed sooner or later for speeding in a school owned vehicle. Then suddenly the light-heartedness turned to urgency and a frantic race to buckle up. The van was being pulled over. The girls all knew what was coming, after all they had just been joking about it.

The officer came to the driver’s window. “Is Terryn in this van?”

Shocked at this question, “Yes, I’m here.”

In a troubled tone the officer asked, “Could I ask you to step to the back of the van, please?”

Her heart was racing as she replied, “Sure.”

“I am really sorry to have to tell you this.” There was a pause.

Thoughts raced through the girl’s head. Are my parents okay? Are my bothers okay? What happened? This is taking forever. Just say it already.

“Your grandfather passed away today.”

Immediately tears filled her eyes and she began crying hysterically. The boy’s van pulled up. The cross-country coach jumped out and ran over to the crying girl on the shoulder of the road, hugging his heartbroken athlete until her parents pulled up.

Once there, her mother rushed over to her. Throwing her arms around her daughter, she explained through her own sobs how they had found out. The girl’s father approached the two hysterical women on the side of the road. He held them both close to him, hugging them very tightly. His own father had passed away four years earlier and he knew exactly what is wife was going through.

After getting her things out of the cross-country van, the girl and her family headed down the road the seven miles it was to the town where the tragedy had taken place. When they arrived the girl and her mother rushed into the house. They were desolately greeted by one of the EMTs that had answered the call and the girl’s grandmother.

Her story began, “When I opened the door after arriving home from work, I smelled stuffed green peppers in the oven…” She paused to wipe her eyes.

“I said ‘Smells good Jim,’ but there was no answer.”

Tears rolled down her cheeks and between hiccups she continued, “As I walked further into the kitchen, I could see him in our bedroom on the bed.”

She paused as a blank stare overtook her face, then continued, “I walked into the bedroom to find him laying back with his oxygen tank running wide open. I checked his pulse… I didn’t know what to do… I called 911…”

“I knew he was gone…”

Her voice shaky and troubled, “I have an idea as to what happened. I think he must have been getting short of breath and probably scared. I’m thinking he came in here and hooked up to the tank because it can run at more liters than the concentrator.”

The girl, her mother and her grandmother were all hysterically crying together. Loud sobs of grief filled the space that was once her grandfather. The girl’s father, and the EMT that had stayed, tried to comfort them through their sobbing.

***

The girl’s grandfather had always made himself out to be a strict man. He was old-fashioned and didn’t take kindly to back talk and disrespectful behavior. Her brothers had a knack for pushing his buttons, but the girl, on the other hand, could bring a smile to his face. They had a special bond. She was his only granddaughter and, not to mention his oldest grandchild. Ever since she could remember, she had been her grandpa’s “Snooks.” She has him wrapped around her little finger and he spoiled her rotten. They had games that they would play and special words for just the two of them.

She was the only grandchild allowed to sit on his lap for more than an hour at a time. His lap was her own personal chair when she stayed at her grandparent’s house. There was no place she loved sitting more than his lap. He had a big belly that hung over his pants; it was soft and warm. It was nice to cuddle up to on cold days. He had a way of putting his hand on her shoulder or back making a railing so she wouldn’t fall out of “her chair.” They would sit together for hours watching TV, reading the newspaper, or sleeping.

They also had a special game they would play. It didn’t really have a name, but the rules were very clear. When she stayed with her grandparents, her grandpa would give her kisses before her grandmother would get kisses from him. She wasn’t allowed to keep any kisses from her grandmother. If her grandmother gave her a smacker, she was to wipe it off.

“How ‘bout a kiss, Snooks,” he would ask with a mischievous smirk smeared across his face.

As she looked at her grandmother out of the corner of her eye, she would say, “Okay.” She would walk over and give him a kiss on the cheek and he would return it.

Playing along with their game her grandmother would say, “Snookie Poo, do I get one too?”

I don’t know. What do you think, Grampa?” He would just look at her with that same smirk, as she walked over to her grandmother. Her grandmother would always put her cheek up to the girl’s lips, but she would never get a kiss. Then her grandmother would grab her with both hands, pulling her face closer so that she could kiss the girl’s cheek. After her grandmother had kissed her and let go of her, the girl would back away and smile roguishly as she wiped her cheek where she had just been given a kiss. Then the girl and her grandfather would smile at each other as if to say, “we have won again,” even though they knew that weren’t really any winners in this ongoing game.

***

The grief that had been in the house two nights prior, now filled the mortuary as the girl and all of her family endured the visitation. She was filled with an indescribable sense of loss, loneliness, and mostly, guilt. For weeks before he passed, she had promised to come stay with her grandparents, but never did. Now he was gone – forever. And she had not even said goodbye. If only I had made good on my promise and stayed with them… was all she could think.

The girl was reluctant to go to the casket and see him there, lifeless. When she finally made it up there, she saw that he was not lifeless at all. Yes, he was lying there motionless, but across his face was that devilish smile he always flashed her.

Her grandmother came up and hugged her from behind saying, “See, even now he is still being mischievous.”

Those words of comfort stuck with her through that day and the following days. To this very day, whenever she misses him she thinks about how even now he is flashing that smile at her.

So God Made a Mother book by Leslie Means

If you liked this, you'll love our book, SO GOD MADE A MOTHER available now!

Order Now

Check out our new Keepsake Companion Journal that pairs with our So God Made a Mother book!

Order Now
So God Made a Mother's Story Keepsake Journal

Terryn Drieling

Hi, I’m Terryn. I grew up on a northeast Nebraska feed yard with pens of cattle as my backyard. That is where I fell in love with raising beef. So when I went off to college in the big city of Lincoln, NE, I focused my studies on animal science with the goal of one day becoming a feed yard manager. While at UNL, I met my never-boring, always-entertaining husband, Tom. After earning my degree in 2006, we moved out to the panhandle of Nebraska where I took a job on the animal health crew of a local feed yard. I loved my job, so-much-so that I would argue I never actually worked. Over the course of the next seven years Tom and I got married, welcomed a son and then a daughter, and I continued loving my life and career. I couldn’t imagine life any other way. But then, God inserted a plot twist into our story… And I am so thankful for His twist because I am happier than I have ever been doing things I never thought I’d do. I am now a stay-at-home-mom and ranch wife who has discovered new passions in photography and writing/blogging. Faith Family & Beef where I share my story as a wife, mother, lover of coffee, and dabbler in photography – living in the Nebraska Sandhills, bringing up a family while raising beef. Follow along on my blog: https://www.faithfamilyandbeef.com/

It’s So Hard to Say Goodbye

In: Grief, Living, Loss
Small dog with head hanging out car window, color photo

Our dog Carlos has slowed down considerably within the last few months. He’s always been outspoken and opinionated–a typical firstborn trait–and to hear him snoring most of the day and tolerating things he normally wouldn’t tolerate (i.e. being carried from place to place by my son, forklift-style) put me on notice that he’s in the fourth quarter. Carlos looks and acts like an Ewok from the Star Wars franchise. According to Wikipedia, Ewoks are clever, inquisitive, and inventive. Carlos checks all three boxes. As a puppy, we tried crate training, but it never took. It wasn’t for lack of trying....

Keep Reading

You’ve been Gone a Year, So Why Does It Feel Like Yesterday?

In: Grief, Loss
Old photo of mother hugging her young daughter, color photo

In February, you will have been gone a year. How is that right? It was just yesterday. I still remember the day we got the diagnosis. One I knew was coming but still prayed wasn’t true. I still remember promising you that everything was going to be okay, and knowing that it wasn’t. I still remember the first time I saw you and thought to myself, “The dementia is moving too fast.” It was just yesterday. I still feel your hand in mine as I sat next to you in the hospital bed. You were talking and humming along while...

Keep Reading

God Redeemed the Broken Parts of My Infertility Story

In: Faith, Grief, Loss, Motherhood
Two young children walking on a path near a pond, color photo

It was a Wednesday morning when I sat around a table with a group of mamas I had just recently met. My youngest daughter slept her morning nap in a carrier across my chest. Those of us in the group who held floppy babies swayed back and forth. The others had children in childcare or enrolled in preschool down the road. We were there to chat, learn, grow, and laugh. We were all mamas. But we were not all the same. I didn’t know one of the mom’s names, but I knew I wanted to get to know her because she...

Keep Reading

Growing Slowly around the Grief of Losing Your Mom

In: Grief, Loss
Sad woman sitting on couch with folded arms

Everyone has heard about the five stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. Society often assumes the stages of grief happen in order, but those who encounter grief know that’s not true. Undergoing grief can feel like riding a rollercoaster blindfolded—disorienting and chaotic. There are numerous ups, downs, and twists you wouldn’t anticipate. Grief is like an ocean. When waves come crashing, it feels like you’re being swept away. Regardless of their size, waves are always rough. Despite everything, you also get pushed forward to the shore after every wave. Sometimes, you may feel like you are drowning...

Keep Reading

The Shattering Grief of Suicide

In: Grief, Living, Loss
Sad person sitting in darkened hallway, black and white image

Navigating through my second Christmas without my dad, the weight of grief seemed even heavier this year. In fact, everything felt and looked different to me. As I unwrapped the ornaments and cards he gave me over the years, a tidal wave of madness and sadness engulfed me. I know many feel sadness and grieve during these times, but let me just say . . . suicide is a different type of grief. My vibrant, happy, physically fit dad committed suicide on April 30th, 2022. There, I said it. In the aftermath, a myriad of emotions consumed me. One perplexing...

Keep Reading

Dear Dad, Maybe You’re the Bird

In: Grief, Loss
Young girl sitting on father's lap, older color photo

Maybe you’re the bird. The one I see outside my door. The one who flies so low it seems you’re somehow weighted down. Like you’re carrying more than just yourself. Like you’re carrying a message. Just for me. Maybe you’re the rain. The sound I hear that reminds me so much of home. Of you. Of driving in your car as a little girl when you looked over and asked my opinion about everything. When you made someone so small feel so very big. RELATED: Dad Left a Legacy in Fried Green Tomatoes Maybe you’re the butterfly. The one I...

Keep Reading

I Hope You Never Know What it’s Like to Forget Who You Are

In: Grief, Living, Loss
Woman staring at camera, black-and-white photo

I write best when I’m passionate. It’s always been my release. But lately, I’ve struggled to write. I’ve struggled to find purpose in my words. It’s all been twisted and choppy, not a bit poetic or beautiful. These feelings are what the struggles of loss, parenting, work, and marriage push against. It’s finding yourself over and over again and trying to make sense of the senseless. It leaves you questioning most things and leaves you feeling broken with no idea how to put yourself or others back together. I hope you never know. I hope you never know what it’s...

Keep Reading

I Don’t Know How to Live Without My Sister, But I Must

In: Grief
Sisters smiling in posed color photo

I’ve spent a year of my life living in a haze. Holding my breath, afraid to exhale. Focusing on staying in this frozen moment where there is no reality. I pressed the pause button. Pumped the brakes. I’ll stay right here and wait for my life, life as I knew it, life as I loved it, to come back around. Where there is no future to mourn, thinking about the way it should have been and no torturous past to remember, recalling the horror of that day. The special occasions that will come are now outlined in sadness. Wait, she’s...

Keep Reading

6 Ways to Be a Friend to Someone Grieving

In: Friendship, Grief, Loss
Friends hugging

Grief can truly be such a lonely experience after you lose a loved one. The loneliness isn’t necessarily because you don’t have anyone around you. It’s because only you had your relationship with the person who died, and it’s hard to find anyone to replace that. I have first-hand experience. My mom died recently and unexpectedly at the age of 62 and I at the age of 34, and it single-handedly has been one of the most painful experiences of my life. However, having support from family and friends will help you navigate this difficult time. Without it, the loneliness...

Keep Reading

These Final Gifts from My Mom Are Hard to Let Go

In: Grief, Loss
Little girls boots with worn toes, color photo

My daughter wobbled toward me in silver, square-toed go-go boots, one heel dislodged and flopping against our hallway’s faux wood floor. On her opposite foot, a striped sock peaked curiously through the growing toe hole. “Mama,” she said. Her tiny voice raised another octave, “My shoe!” I sighed, then sat on the floor. Waves of grief washed over me as I contemplated what kind of glue might capably reconstruct the shoe’s sole. Elmer’s glue? Textile glue? Maybe Krazy Glue? I knew the boots should just go into the bin. And yet, they—along with a vibrant, overbearing cat dress that would...

Keep Reading