That Time I Went Camping and Grandpa Died

July 29, 2010



My Grandpa Died and It Turned Into the BEST Vacation Ever
My grandfather had been sick for some time and the decision had been made the previous year to put him in the old folks home. He had lost a ton of weight and most of his memories.

It was hard to watch a man I love slip into someone who was a mere shadow of the man who had walked me down the aisle a few years before.

Every year my mom’s side of the family goes camping together. The ENTIRE family. My grandparents, all my aunts and uncles, their children, and thier children’s children.
It’s loud, it’s crazy, it’s chaotic, it’s my heaven.
Two summer’s ago my family decided on a week long vacation trip that everyone but me could go on. I had requested the entire week off but was only approved  for three days. What’s a girl to do? Thankfully the campground they chose that year was close to my home so I planned on making the trek down after work a few nights to get in as much time as I could with the family.
On Sunday when everyone arrived we all hung out. As hard as we tried we begged grandma to “take a break” from staying with Grandpa and come down she didn’t feel right leaving him for so long. She had spent everyday at his side since the day he moved into the home. She agreed that she might come out later in the week for a night but had wanted to be back in the morning to be with Grandpa.
That Monday we took the kids to the little water park, fed the deer at the petting zoo they had and pooled food to make lunch that day. We spent the day enjoy the weather and hanging out with the family.  Sadly I had to go to work the next day so I left the campground and headed back home to work for Tuesday and Wednesday shift.
Later that night my grandma called me and said that Grandpa was not doing well and my aunts were on their way to the nursing home. He hadn’t been eating and hadn’t been drinking. We had been through several rounds of various infection with him over the past few months so that in didn’t strike me as odd.  I knew the routeing and asked when they were going to give him an IV for fluids she told me “They aren’t Sweetheart, not this time.”  I paled when the realization of her words hit me.  I hung up the phone and cried myself to sleep that night.
I hadn’t made it through more than an hour of work the next day before the dreaded phone call came.  During the night my grandfather had died.
My grandma had been lying in bed with my grandfather in his bed at the nursing home.  She woke up and told him that she loved him and it was ok for him to leave. She kissed his forehead and went to sleep in the chair next to him.  When she woke up a few hours later, he was gone.
With Grandpa’s passing I was excused from work for the remainder of the week and headed down to the campground to be with everyone.
Grandpa couldn’t have picked a better time to die. 

Everyone was together when they heard that my grandfather had died.  Everyone was there  for one another.  Everyone could grieve and remember  him in such a powerful way.

We spent the rest of our vacation as a family:camping, traveling to the wake, staying for the funeral, and returning to the campsite.

Yes.  After the funeral we all returned to the campground. We were assured by all that “It’s what your granfather would have wanted.”   The youngest grandchildren and great-grandchildren played together not known fully the events that had transpired.  The adults looked on with smiles  in awe of their joy.   After all the children went to bed on our last night and the campground, we lit a fire, passed around a bottle of my grandpa’s favorite Windsor and told stories and shared his famous one-liners.

My Grandfather was an Irish man through and through.  He was stubborn to a fault and loved his family fiercely.    He lived a wonderful life and his legacy will live on forever.  His family was his source of pride.  And the camping trips are a tradition that now cannot be broken.  As I take a break from packing my bags for the annual trip the begins today I can honestly say that the time we went camping and Grandpa died was the best vacation ever.

We all joke that Grandpa knew what he was doing.

He chose a time when everyone was together so we could lean on one another and remember him how he would have wanted us to.

He knew.

The day he died after I had left work to be with my family I was looking across the lake a rainbow appeared.  Not a drop of rain in sight.  We all stopped and took pause to marvel at a rainbow without rain.  I looked down at my cousin who was holding my daughter and over at my sister who had a tear in her eye.  My uncle walked over to us and put his arms around us reassuringly and said “Look girls, that’s your grandpa.”

14 Responses to “That Time I Went Camping and Grandpa Died”

  1. Kelly Says:

    Such a beautiful, and sad-in-a-happy-way, story. My great-uncle is going through what your Grandpa did and I know he is not long for this world. The most amazing thing I can think of is all of us being together when he passes on. That rainbow brought tears. Thanks for sharing your story.

  2. Stacia Says:

    What strength your grandmother has. And in that rainbow your grandfather was reminding your family to live their lives with the the luck and love of the Irish tucked under their belts, don’t you think?

  3. Sheri Says:

    That is a beautiful, very bitter-sweet story. I’m glad you shared it.

  4. Amanda Says:

    Wow, what an amazing story! Seeing that rainbow was for sure a sign of him watching over all of you!!!

  5. Kristina Churchill Says:

    Wow, such a touching story of two people who knew real love until the vey end! It gave me tears in my eyes! Thank you for sharing!

    As Always,

  6. Rachel B Says:

    Wow what a story! The title threw me off a little but when I read it I understood.

    Oh and I love the title of your blog- makes me lol!

  7. Donna Says:

    What a beautiful thing. I got goosebumps over the rainbow.

  8. undomestic Says:

    Wow. It’s so nice for you that your whole family could be together to comfort each other during that difficult time. I’m sure your grandfather would have been happy to know you were all together doing something you all loved, and being there for each other.

  9. C.Mom Says:

    That is a beautiful (and so well written) account… and the rainbow…wow. Thank you so much for sharing this story!

  10. K Odell Says:

    I completely agree- he picked that day, that time. What a neat and a bit sad story.

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  12. Jade Says:

    Gave me chills..your sweet memories of your Irish Grandpa!

  13. Dayngr Says:

    What a beautiful story. Loved it. Thanks so much for sharing it with us.