On our way to Graceville on Sunday the 21st, we got a phone call from Ryan, who was staying home since he had to work all week. His mom had called saying that his granddaddy had been taken to the hospital that morning. He had bladder cancer and had been undergoing chemo and radiation treatments. Prior to this, he had some good weeks and some bad weeks with the treatments.
By later that evening things had gone from bad to worse. Decisions had to be made that no one was prepared for. On Monday morning, I was notified that the end was near and on the way to Georgia, I got the sad and disappointing news. His weakened immune system, already ravaged by the chemo, was battling pneumonia and some other infection. It was too much for the sweet but frail 88 year old man and in an instant earth said goodbye to one of the best men I have ever had the privilege of knowing, and heaven said hello to a dear saint.
I had the honor of knowing Isaac Shiver Jr. for almost 9 years. I first met him in March of 2002 at the Shoney's in Fernandina Beach. It was the first time that I met most of Ryan's family. I have never known a sweeter man. He willingly claimed me as a part of his family. He was a huge part of Ryan's life and so he was a huge part of mine. He was there for the big moments in our lives such as our marriage, Ryan's graduation from college, and Abigail's birth. And he was there in the small moments such as birthday's, holidays, family gatherings, church services, etc. When you were around Granddaddy you could always expect a hug, a pat on the back, and a huge laugh. I have so many memories of a man who wasn't blood kin but might as well have been because he treated me like his own granddaughter, not someone who had married into his family.
For a while, Ryan and I attended FBC Fernandina. Mimi always played the organ so Ryan and I sat with Granddaddy in the balcony. It was a joy to sit next to him in church. And I loved going out to eat with them afterwards. We had some of the best times and conversations at Down Under on Sunday afternoons.
In the 7 1/2 years that Ryan and I have been married, we have cooked meals and hosted family events. It's something that we both love to do. On most of those occasions, Granddaddy would say that he didn't have much of an appetite and probably wouldn't eat much but I always caught him going back for seconds. That always made me feel good about my cooking. On Ryan's birthday one year, I made Taco Soup. Granddaddy came to the house with the notion that Taco Soup was something that he wasn't going to like or eat. I got him to try a bowl and I think he near about made himself sick that night! He loved it!
Another thing I could always count on Granddaddy for was his opinion of my hair. He liked it long and dark, the same way Ryan does. He would always tell me when it was looking good and when it wasn't. His comments always made me laugh. The last time I saw him was the end of March the day before we moved to Louisiana. My hair was still fairly short and over the last 8 months it has grown tremendously. I was looking forward to seeing him again with my hair long and dark and seeing what he had to say. I'm sure he would have loved it.
I will never forget how proud he was when Abigail was born. I remember the day we brought her home from the hospital, he and Mimi came to see her. The look on his face as he held her was priceless. He just oohed and aahed over her. I always thought she stole his heart that day. Abigail loved Granddaddy too. I am sad to think that she probably won't remember him as she gets older but we'll never stop showing her his pictures and telling her stories about him.
We loved visiting with Mimi and Granddaddy at their house whether we sat inside or if the weather was nice, outside on the swing. Ryan was always kidding with his granddaddy about borrowing one of his Lucky Strikes. He sure liked them but he didn't want Ryan to take up his habit. :) When the visit was over, he would walk us to the door and eventually follow us out to our car. We would finally get in the car and then roll down the window and talk some more before finally leaving. It was always as if he didn't want us to go.
Ryan deals with emotions in his own way but I on the other hand can always be counted on for tears when I'm sad. It was hard seeing his empty chair at his house or the empty chair outside by the swing. It was hard getting into our car and him not standing next to it. Even though I knew we were in town for his funeral, I still caught myself looking for him in the crowd, wanting that hug, and needing to hear that laugh. I know how I feel after only knowing him for a short while. I can't imagine what other's in his family are feeling and how they are dealing with the hole left behind where Granddaddy once was.
Thankfully, we don't have to grieve like those who have no hope. Thankfully, we will see him again. He may be gone from our lives here on earth but he will never be forgotten. And I'm sure, I'll always look for him in the crowd on holidays and at family gatherings even though I know he won't be there.