Such Sweet Sorrow

My beloved Grandpa Hubert died this week and I’m devastated. The last few days have been filled with tears, memories, and grief, knowing that I’ll live the rest of my life without him. There are a handful of people that have known me my entire life, and I think any time you lose one of them, it hurts that much more. It’s crushing. I want to write this post as a tribute to him but also as catharsis for my broken heart, even if no one reads it but me.

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Grandpa Hubert was 97 years old when he died early Thursday morning and was set to turn 98 on January 5. Through my tears I keep sobbing to Adam, “He’s just like Joan. He wasn’t done yet.” Of course referring to the late great Joan Rivers (being compared to Joan in our household is quite the honor). Except for the last few months, he’s been in great health most of his life. I attribute his resiliency to having been born during the height of the Spanish Influenza Outbreak. During 1918 and 1919, one third of the entire earth’s population was infected with the disease in what has now been called The Mother of all Pandemics. One article I found said “woe to them that are with child” during the outbreak because of how catastrophic the disease was for pregnant women and their babies.But Grandpa Hubert and his mom were strong and spared during this terrible time in history. And Grandpa went on to live a long, prosperous life. (Picture below – Grandpa with his parents and siblings. He’s the one of the far right who looks exactly like my dad.)

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My Grandpa was a living history book. Not only because he was alive during critical moments in history, but because he could actually remember everything that he experienced! He was a child during the Great Depression. He could tell you how much he weighed and how tall he was in each grade. He knew exactly how much he spent on his wedding (the cost of my grandmother’s wedding dress, the cost of the pastor, the cost of the tickets for the movie they saw on their honeymoon and the chili dinner they ate that night). He was the first married man in his small Indiana town drafted for World War II. He knew his bunk # on the ship he was on when he crossed the Atlantic for the war. The fact that he could remember everything is what made him so special! He remembered his whole life and every time you talked with him, he had new details to share. Some people are bored talking to their grandparents, but this was never the case with him! And this is one of the biggest reasons why he leaves a hole in the hearts of those that love him. He was our gateway to the past and he grounded our family in history and tradition. (Picture below – my grandparents. These are my favorite pictures of them. So happy and in love. I also love the pictures because my grandpa looks exactly like my brothers and my sister and I look very similar to my grandma!)

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Grandpa Hubert had one of most unique and defined personalities of anyone I’ve ever met. For those that didn’t know him, here are a few things that may help you understand what I mean.

  1. He would set the table for breakfast before he went to bed and pour dry cereal in the bowls to speed up the process in the morning.
  2. He created his own color-coding system for organizing his artificial Christmas tree in order to speed up the process of setting it up.
  3. He ironed money so that it was crisp when he gave it to you as a gift.
  4. He used a ruler to sign his name so that it was straight.
  5. He kept a spreadsheet of how many trick or treaters he got each year to ensure that he had enough candy for the next year.
  6. He numbered the plastic eggs for Easter egg hunts to ensure that we found them all.

I mean, come on, you don’t know anyone else who has ever done these things! I like to think that my sense of organization came from him, then again we are both capricorns with our birthdays 2 days apart. I love having even a semblance of a similar personality to him. Makes me feel closer to him and like I’ll always have a part of him in my heart. I don’t really subscribe to astrological signs, but I definitely think that this capricorn description hits the nail on the head for both Grandpa and I.

When it comes to professionalism and traditional values, Capricorn is the first. Capricorn is practical and is considered to be the most serious sign of the zodiac, who possess an independence that enables significant progress both on the personal level and in business.

As an Earth sign, for a Capricorn there is nothing more important in life than family. Capricorn is a master of self-control and has the potential to be a great leader or manager as long as it is in the sphere of business.

Capricorn-born practical and responsible, so they know how to save money for the future.They are masters when they need to prove that they are right. People born under the Capricorn sign sometimes can be really stubborn. They strive to get to the top only with their experience.

 Responsible. That’s a great word to describe Grandpa. This man was the picture of aging gracefully and responsibly. He decided when it was time to move from his home to a retirement home. He decided when it was time to stop driving. He even planned his own funeral 20 years ago and wrote his own obituary! He had such a healthy sense of his own mortality and I admire that so much about him. (Picture below – Grandpa in World War II.)

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As my Grandpa’s health started to decline this summer, Adam and I drove from Chicago to Indiana more often to visit him. I wanted to be with him. Hug him. Kiss him. Have him hold onto the crook of my arm tight like he always did when we would hug. I knew the end was coming and I so desperately wanted to slow down time and spend any moment I could with him. He was progressively worse each visit we had and my last visit 2 weeks ago was almost unbearably sad. He could hardly talk and for the first time in my whole life his strong, powerful mind was gone. It was heart wrenching and I had to step in the bathroom so he wouldn’t see me cry. But while I was in there I heard him ask my dad if Sarah and Adam were there. I wiped my tears and swallowed the lump in my throat and went by his bedside and held his hand with Adam standing next to me. “I’m here, Grandpa. Adam and I are here.” I couldn’t say much more without choking up because I knew it would likely be my last time with him on Earth and my heart ached. I am so thankful for the visits these last few months and will never forget the final memories I had with him.

I’ll never know anyone like him for the rest of my life and my heart will always be stronger because of him but also a little more tender from losing him.

img_6103(Our last picture together. He gave me those Mardi Gras beads he’s wearing and I think I’ll hang onto them for awhile.)

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8 thoughts on “Such Sweet Sorrow

  1. Oh my Sarah, what a tribute, so beautifully written. I can only imagine the deep love he had for you and all your family. Although your are grief-stricken in losing him, you are so very fortunate to have all those amazing memories to keep in your heart forever. Love you!

  2. This is an amazing tribute to your grandpa, my Uncle Hubert. Thanks so much for sharing! It was always fun to see him and my grandpa, his brother Bill, together throughout the years.
    Prayers for you and all who knew this sweet man.
    Btw, my grandparents also set the table for breakfast like he did!

  3. Sarah You’ve started my morning off with a good cry. Your stories tell so much of who the beloved Hubert was. Beautifully shared and a wonderful tribute to an extraordinary man. 97 years is a good long life and I’m so sorry his last few weeks were hard. I don’t imagine with his independent personality he would have wanted to linger too much longer on this earth unless it was on his own terms. I only met him when Si and Laura got married and he was someone who made an impression on me. I want to grow old with his grace and wisdom. I hope you read your entry at his service because it truly honors and captures just how special he was. Sending you my love and condolences. Vicky Xoxo 💕

    • Thank you for such kind words, Vicky. I’m so happy that people who didn’t know him can read and understand how special he was! You are so right about his independence and I’m happy that he didn’t have to suffer for very long. And he loved going to Laura and Simon’s wedding and remembering when he and my grandmother lived in California. It was a special trip for him!

  4. Sarah, I very much enjoyed your story about your grandpa. I knew him from the time I was little. I have lived in Milroy all of my life. We have known the Matney family for years. My thoughts and prayers will be with you. God Bless you.

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