This Day Last Year
How We Built Our Greenhouse

The Day Pap Died


Pap's rainbow

Rainbow over Pap's house after his funeral

It was a little before 3:00 a.m. on Tuesday April 19, 2016 when Granny called and told me I better come Pap was in a bad way. I told her I'd be right there. I was disoriented because of the time and because of a dream I was having that was so real that I couldn't seem to break free from it. I was dreaming about Pap and his best friend L.C. who died the previous year. In my dream L.C. and Pap were laughing and having a big time just like they always did.

I hurriedly splashed water on my face, brushed my teeth and threw some clothes on. I told The Deer Hunter I'd let him know if I needed him and ran down the hill. As I rushed down the road in the darkness I thought to myself "L.C. you can't have him yet." Silly, ridiculous, and slightly crazy I know, but that's exactly what I thought.

Pap was thrashing around trying to get away from the awful pain he was feeling. I administered the meds the hospice folks had taught me how to use, but nothing seemed to help. Granny said he'd been up since midnight, but wouldn't let her call me until it got real bad. 

Pap cried out to God "Why won't you let me die Lord? Please have mercy on me even though I'm so unworthy." 

Granny paced and I gave him more medicine once the allotted time rolled around, but nothing helped. Pap kept changing positions from standing to sitting. He said laying down only made it worse although he continued to thrash and throw himself backwards in a desperate attempt to evade the pain. He was eating nitroglycerin pills like they were candy. He was shaking and thrashing so that he kept asking me to put them under his tongue. His lips and mouth were ice cold.

Pap cried out to God again saying "I'd curse you like Job's wife so you'd strike me down if I wasn't so afraid of your might. Please have mercy on me."

The minutes seemed to crawl and time seemed to stand still as the helplessness of not being able to comfort Pap surrounded Granny and me. You might asked why in the world didn't we call someone-an ambulance or the hospice folks? We didn't call because Pap had decided months before he was done with prolonging his life. He knew death would soon receive him and he made his own personal decision that it would receive him from the comfort of his own home instead of in a hospital room among strangers. Pap had signed all the necessary papers to prevent a resuscitation initiated by any medical person or even by his own family. I didn't even know such a thing existed until my experience with Pap. It is often referred to as a DNR.

Gradually as the medications begin to take affect Pap begin to feel a little better and was able to at least get a breath as the intense pain abated slightly. He went ahead and took his morning medications in the hopes that might continue the improving trend he seemed to be on. Thinking I would take his mind off the pain I said "You'll never believe who I was dreaming about when Granny called." I told him what I had been dreaming and he said "Well Tip I wouldn't leave you for nothing if it weren't for this pain, but I'd gladly go along with L.C. to escape this torment and I'd go right now." 

His comment about L.C. made me wish I hadn't told him about the dream. I was so afraid of losing Pap. 

He continued to improve and decided he was going to put his pants on. Pap was a fiercely private person. I believe his worst fear was that he'd end up in a sick bed dependent on someone to take care of his every need. I said "I wouldn't start stirring around too much maybe you ought to wait a little longer before you try to put your clothes on. He said "Oh don't you worry I'm going to go so slow nothing won't happen."

Pap got his pants on and in the next little while he'd managed to get his long john shirt and his flannel shirt on over his undershirt. He was feeling better all the time-not good, but better. It was getting close to 6:00 a.m. I texted The Deer Hunter and told him I thought maybe the worst was over and that I was planning to go on to work. He said okay and that he was about to leave for work himself. 

Granny laid down on the couch to get some rest and I sat watching Pap debating whether I should leave or not. 

I said "Could you drink a cup of coffee?" He said "Yes I think I could." I got him a cup and then set back down for a few minutes.

As he stood by the heater warming he said "Tipper I think I'm alright you can go on to work but go in there and get me a candy bar out of that drawer before you go. I said "What kind?" He said "A three musketeers." 

I walked into the kitchen with something bugging me, I figured out later it was the fact that Granny doesn't buy three musketeers. Before I even pulled the drawer out of the old metal cabinet Granny keeps her candy in I heard a horrible crash. I ran back into the living room and there lay Pap between the stove and the bottom of the day bed. He was already gone. He never even looked at me. Not one time. Granny started hollering and all I could do was cry "My dear old Daddy is gone. He's gone."

I might have felt a pulse one slow beat and that was all. I think he was dead before he even hit the floor. I called Paul not knowing he was in the shower and left some panicked rambling message. I called Steve and can't even remember if he answered or if I left a message for him. I called The Deer Hunter and said "Daddy died oh Daddy died." He said "Oh no! Oh no! I just opened the gate. Let me tell Brian and I'll be right there." 

Paul burst through the door wanting to do something. I said "It's too late he's gone." Paul said "Call somebody!" I said "He didn't want us to call nobody and he's gone anyway." 

I laid on Pap's chest and sobbed. I've never felt so sad in all my life. I cried and sobbed until The Deer Hunter came and pulled me off of him. Steve and his wife Kim rushed in but there was nothing left to do but call the funeral home and we didn't even know how to do that. 

Steve called 911 and asked them what to do. They said a deputy and a medic had to come to declare the death then the funeral home could come. 

We set and cried. Steve worried about Pap laying in the floor and wanted to move him but finally settled for putting a pillow under his head. Granny and I told the rest of them that he prayed to die, that God answered his prayer. It suddenly occurred to me, not only did God answer his crying plea for mercy He let Pap put his clothes on before he took him.

When the EMS folks arrived it was a gentleman and a lady. The gent took over the job of documenting everything that had happened and completed the necessary paper work. The lady set by me on the couch and talked quietly with the rest of us. After a moment of silence she said "I feel a lot love in this room. You're a lucky family. He was a lucky man. All the calls I go on don't have that feeling of love, actually most of them don't. You're lucky. Even though its sad you have much to be thankful for."

The deputy came next and since Pap had already told us he wanted his funeral conducted by Ivie Funeral Home they were called. In the mean time someone did call hospice and Pap's nurse Shawn came out. She said she had to be the one who officially declared Pap dead and by that time it was after 8:00 a.m. She said we should have called her first but it was okay not to worry. 

The next step was moving Pap's car so the funeral home could get close to the door. The keys were no where to be found. We looked everywhere including in Pap's pockets but finally gave up on the keys and left the car where it was. Later in the day when we went to the funeral home the keys were with his clothes. I guess they had been in his pocket but when he fell backwards they came out somehow and became tangled inside the three layer of shirts he had on.

Who knew the funeral home process took so long? By the time we left there my teeth were chattering even though I wasn't cold and I thought my head was going to explode from the headache I had. We split up, I can't really remember why but I went with the ones who were going to pick out the place for Pap's grave at church. I could go no further than a picnic table at the edge of the parking area. I laid on top of it and said any place they picked would be fine with me. 

Once we got back home I laid on the day bed while people brought food and The Deer Hunter and the girls mowed the yard. The chaplain from hospice came, he had visited with Pap and Granny on several occasions. He told us the price for great love is great grief. 

Just before we left the house to go to the funeral I told The Deer Hunter to wait I forgot something. I jumped out of the car and ran to my closest flower bed. I picked a handful of lavender snow drops to put in Pap's hand. I don't know what made me think of getting the flowers, but I think Pap would have liked knowing they came from my yard and that his Tipper put them in his casket. Granny made sure he was holding his favorite Marine hat too. 

Tons of people came to the funeral as I knew they would. The church parking lot was over flowing with cars parked up and down the highway in the grass. Pap was known far and wide from his many days of coaching baseball, singing and picking the guitar, teaching Sunday school, delivering oil, and building houses. The Deer Hunter always said "If your Daddy and me went to New York City I guarantee he'd run into somebody he knew in the first 15 minutes of being there." 

John Ivie could not have been nicer to us during the whole ordeal. Once he found out Pap was a Marine he arranged for Military Rites at the graveside. Granny rode across the road to the grave leaving Paul, Steve, and me to walk together. With arms entwined we held each other up and shared a smile when we heard a man playing Amazing Grace on bagpipes. The song was lonesome and beautiful all at the same time, the reason we smiled was we wondered what Pap would have said about the man's kilt. We have no idea who asked him to play, but sure are thankful they did. 

Pap's pastor of many years, Paul Ray Morgan, conducted the graveside service. He said Pap had recently told him "The Lord's waited on me my whole life now I'm just waiting on him." Two sharp dressed Marine's folded the flag a top Pap's casket and presented it to Granny. It made me wish Pap could have seen them. 

After we were home my nephew Mark took the picture of the rainbow over Pap's house. 

The rainbow seemed like a sign that everything had worked out just like Pap wanted it to and that we would be alright until we meet him again on the other shore in the shallow water where he told Granny he'd be waiting. 

Tipper

p.s. To read Pap's obituary go here: Jerry Marshall Wilson 1937 - 2016

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I just now tonight brought myself to read of your tremendous pain and loss when your Daddy died. I am so very sorry for you and your family's loss. It will be 5 years at Christmas time that I lost my Daddy, and the continual pain has dulled somewhat, but there are still times that the loss almost overwhelms me. I'm glad you have your faith to keep you strong.
Love from the riverbank in Marshall.

Oh Tipper, I didn't see this till today and I'm praying for all of you. Although it's been a year I know there's a part of ya'll's heart that's gone but knowing he's there waiting for you all is the best of all. We can hold on to the good memories and they will sustain us till we meet them again. I lost my mom on Dec. 13th 1997 and four mos. later daddy died on April 27th 1998. He wanted to go on home to mama and he fell that morning in the yard. Our hearts were broken but those memories have kept us going and they will you also. God Bless all of you.

Tipper,
I didn't see this post until late last night, and it affected me deeply. I can certainly identify with much of it in my Daddy's passing: the meds to help with pain, hospice kindly and quietly ministering, whom to call and when, the closeness of family and being together. The rainbow is an added serendipity - so glad you captured it!
I greatly admire your writing and sharing of these final moments to add to Pap's wonderful testimony of a life well lived and reflected in those he loved. I know it must have been difficult to do, but such a balm for all.

Thank you for sharing this, thru tears of grief and joy I know he's alright now. May God continue to heal the hurt you all must still feel.

Tipper, thank you for sharing your story of Pap, it touched my heart. Your love of Pap and your family poured out in your words. Bless all of you!
Pam
scrap-n-sewgranny.blogspot.com

How is Granny holding up? I worry about her now!

Keep telling those stories.
One of my favorite movies is "Big Fish" in which a young man tries to sort out the fact from the fiction in his father's stories - but that's missing the point. The Truth is there. Sometimes, the truth isn't fully experienced by the actors in the story but only comes to light through the observer's tale. The elaboration, the questions, the speculation, the decoration, the good humored teasing, the exaggeration, - these just capture our attention and draw us in so we can participate in the story and get acquainted with the people in the story as well as the tellers of the tales - just as you have done .
You have created this whole extended family by way of your direct yet gentle storytelling - you have drawn us all in. We feel like we know all of your family as well as becoming acquainted with many of your readers because of the stories your share. Some of us have a better understanding and appreciation of Appalachia because of the stories you share.
I had hoped somehow to meet Pap in person, but I must settle for the strong sense I have of him because of the stories your share. He lived an exemplary life and those stories teach lessons to not only your family but your readers as well.
Story telling has been going on for ages and each story has many tellers with different lenses. Even the gospel writers didn't tell the same story the same way but The Story still is true and its message is the Truth and that Truth still lives.

Thanks for sharing your tender, touching and victorious story and the picture of the rainbow. I read the account and prayed that releasing it would help your grief. Certainly your readers identified with your pain. When I've experienced death of beloved ones (which has been many times during my long life), I sometimes have written a poem to help with my grief. Here is one from several years ago but I pray it will speak a message of comfort to those who read it. -Ethelene

Death Be Not Proud

“Death, be not proud, though some have called thee
Mighty and dreadful, for thou art not so.”
-John Donne (1571?-1631)


Be not proud, O Death. Laud not the power
You hold to end this life, to smother breath,
To bring this earthly span its ending hour,
To boast that over all hovers dark Death.

Your call to mankind brings a way of walking
Through shadows of a valley dark and drear;
But I know a Friend whose gentle talking
Lends my journey courage, assuages fear.

Not unlike birth that brings from Mother’s womb
The newborn babe to face this life on earth,
Your summons to endure the fearsome tomb
Is but brief passage to resurrected birth.

“Grave, where thy victory? Death, where thy sting?*
Be not proud, Death! I’ll rise to shout and sing!

-Ethelene Dyer Jones
November 20, 1999

(*from 1 Corinthians 15:55)

Oh sweet Tipper, I can sure feel the loss and ache in your words. We had a beautiful rainbow too, on my Daddy's funeral day. You just never stop missing them and some days hurt more than others but goodness, we were lucky girls to have such loving daddies. I just spent a few days in East Tennessee and feel like mine was right there with me walking the woods, looking at the pretty wildflowers, and listening to the river sing. Wishing you hugs and happy memories.

Tipper, I'm so glad your Daddy knew the Lord!

Tipper,
Thank you for writing this story about Pap. I don't think I could've done it so eloquently, I know this was hard for you. Pap was a good Christian and his Spirit is in the Presence of Our Lord. I was there for Pap's funeral, and the house was packed. Even at the Gravesite, as I stood close to Don and Susan, hardly knowing anyone, but I could tell everyone Loved Pap. My Prayers are still with the entire Wilson Family. ...Ken

pap was still looking out for you and Granny right to the end - sparing you those last moments. I love that the love surrounding all of you was so palpable that the EMT could feel it. Your family was, and still is, truly blessed

The rainbow is so meaningful, a sign from above. During my beloved uncle's funeral, while at the graveside, a beautiful double rainbow arced over the church. The picture from that day is displayed in the church.

Prayers and hugs to all of you.

I can't think of a more kind thing for the nurse to say, than that she could feel the love in your Pap's house that day! Your family has something very special. Thanks for sharing your memories with us.

This makes me think of the powerful old song, "What wondrous love is this, oh my soul, oh my soul..." Wondrous love of your Pap for his family; wondrous love of the community for you and your family; and the wondrous love of our Father who supports us in this life and has prepared a place for us in the next. Thank you for sharing your story with us, and for sharing the love and music that will continue.

Thank you for sharing. Pap was an inspiration to so many. I hope you have lovely comforting dreams of him. I dream of Mama quite often and always feel blessed. Two redbirds flew right up to me this morning and paused for a moment. I immediately felt her presence.

You have touched my heart this morning with the story of Pap's passing. What a powerful story of love.

It's springtime in heaven now! It's always springtime in heaven and it is always now! The path that took your father to heaven was a rough one, with many a rock and root to stumble upon. But he is no less for the wear. In fact, he has never been better! Just wait 'til you see him!

I know your pain. I still feel mine. Thank you for the "The price of great love is great grief." I believe your Pap's spirit still watches you from above as does my Daddy's watch over me. Sometimes I smell his pipe tobacco so strong as though he's standing right there. He comes to comfort me when he knows there will be sadness coming. He's never failed. When I smell his tobacco, I know to be ready and that he'll be with me through it all.

One thought as I read this was he knew it was time and had you to leave the room so you wouldn't see it happen. I sat with four of my wife's family members as they passed away. Each of them held on till she and others left the room. They let me stay as I was humming a hymn or reading the Bible to them.
I've seen the same thing happen with others I've ministered to through the years.

I recently told her family if they got sick and wanted to live they better stay away from me.
Dwell on the happy memories. Give yourself a hug from me.

It is stories like this that convince me to the reality of an afterlife. I don't need the stories of bright lights and tunnels and all that. That you dreamed of Pap's friend and Pap spoke of that same friend tells me all I need to know. I have a departed friend who I hope is there for me when the day comes (hopefully a long time from now). This is a comfort.

I wanted to speak to your post yesterday. I wanted to say something, then but I needed to study on it. I'm glad you tell these stories and you should never tire or feel strange about sharing stories about your father. For us, people of Appalachia, stories are how we keep those most important things alive. I read once that humans aren't born with instincts to survive, instead we are born with the ability to tell stories. In that very old Germanic tradition that, I think, has influenced Appalachian storytelling, we don't have a future...just a past and a right now. When we tell those stories, that person (or people or event) is brought into the now and lives just as real as if they were physically breathing, They are here now (in the story) to instruct us, love us, and make us smile. This is why I tell my children about my grandparents, great aunts and uncles, friends every chance I get. Not just to make them live again for my kids but also for me. I don't think it is stretching it to say that storytelling about our ancestors is like spending time with them. I feel that way.

So, thank you for sharing your story and your grief. I'm right there with you. You keep telling and I'll keep listening. To quote Don Williams, "and so it goes."

Oh, friend! I cried, I don't know how many times, as I read this. I know it was hard to open up like this and relive those memories...so, thank you. Thank you for including us in your grief and for letting us know the details. He sounds like such a Godly man, and how blessed you were that he was your Daddy. I am SO sorry he is gone. I know you miss him terribly. One day, you will be reunited, in a place where there is no pain and no good-byes. Sending lots of love, hugs, and comfort to you today. God be with you always.

Tipper, one can feel the love in this family just by reading your words. A wonderful Dad is such a blessing, and when you have them there is always that feeling of strength and unconditional love. I truly believe we will receive signs that all is well, even though our heart seems to feel differently.

My Dad liked to feed the wild life, and he took steps to protect the wild turkey and animals near his home. Even their feeding place seemed lonesome when he died. So glad the farm sold to a couple who preserved wild life as he did. It seemed meant to be. Writing about Pap will help. I wrote a story about my Dad that seemed to help my grieving process even though many tears were shed as I remembered. We have tears for a reason. Bless you and family.

Dear Tipper, My devotion this morning was about Jesus at Lazarus' tomb and the grief of his sisters. It is so hard to lose our loved ones, but we don't sorrow like the world does, because we know we will see them again. We also called my dad "Pap" and there is not a day goes by that I don't miss him and grieve for him. One day in heaven and all of these sorrows will be healed. Thank you for sharing your story. May the Lord bless and keep you.

Tipper,
I feel your pain and grief. We had rainbows unexpectedly as well. The day of the burial, at the gravesite... all of a sudden in the distance, I heard a bagpipe playing Amazing Grace...I thought for an instant in my grief, I was imaging the sound...I looked where I thought it was coming from and there he was playing in full dress, kilt and all! My son had requested this for us...he actually asked me about the playing of Amazing Grace with the bagpipes months maybe a year before he passed...never even the thought that a year later we would be listening to it at his funeral...
I was so sad that I could not even dream of my son right after he passed...I was over a year and I finally had a dream of him during a happy time with family and his joking...I don't dream of him now as often, only when we have discussed a memory maybe with his brother or others while visiting...It gave me some relief and maybe acceptance of his death when it happened the first time. I now feel that he is closer and sometimes feel his presence...and even more so when a certain Cardinal...not all of them understand...visit my window feeder when I am at the sink...When Cardinals abound, angels are around! I believe that old saying!
Thanks Tipper for your writing...although I cried trying to read it...It helps to put feelings to paper and carry us through the mourning process.

I enjoyed just sitting and talking with (mostly listening to the wisdom of) Pap. But what first comes to mind is the twinkle in his eye when he told us about the spider that "charged" Chitter. Pap told the story with that dry sense of humor which characterizes mountain folk, but somehow, along with the teasing, his great love for his granddaughter also came through. He was a special, special man.

Susan and I were among the many who attended Pap's memorial service. What really stands out in my memory wasn't anything about the service itself, but the tenderness with which a calloused-hand man who was clearly stricken by the loss of his father-in-law attended to his - and our - Angel of Brasstown on that day.

With tears rolling down my face, I finally finished reading about Pap's last day here on earth. Your pain surely equaled his-just in a different way. The price for great love is great grief says it all.

Tipper, thanks for sharing your story, I know it was hard for you but you helped me remember so much of the day my dad died on 21 April 1995. The things I think about this morning is how beautiful the dogwoods and azalea's were that morning I walked past his house to get in my car to go to work. Not knowing he was leaving even as I was admiring the work he and my mother had spent their life creating beauty all around their home. Thanks for the memories ...

Tipper--You've got me misty-eyed this morning for a whole variety of reasons. First, I was privileged to know Pap and share some tales and good times with him in his final years. Second, there's the matter of music from Pap and Paul and the way one of their tapes soothed Daddy in his final earthly moments along with the way they sang him home at his funeral service a few days later. All of us Casadas will be eternally grateful for that sharing of talent in such a deeply meaningful way.

I can also identify with your sorrow and the way it haunts you. Daddy died quite close to my birthday and I'll always associate that annual event with sorrow at his loss. Yet there is sweetness to offset that which is bitter, and like you I have so many blessed memories. As the grand old song says, "how they linger, how they ever flood my soul."

It has to be a comfort to know that you had such a loving and beloved father, and keep close all those treasured memories. They will uplift and sustain you.

Jim Casada

Tipper, my heart is with you. This reminds me so much of my dad, F.A. He went by his initials.
There is so much love in your family and that's a good thing. Love carries us and we know the Lord is always with us. It's been 8 1/2 years since Daddy went home. I still miss him, but the memories help. The memories become golden. Sending you a hug and you all are in my heart and prayers.

There is so much to think about here. Your Dad reminds me of my Dad. The doctors offered one last operation that would have kept him alive but he had had enough. Like your Dad, he chose to go under his own terms.

It may not seem like it, but seems to me it was a mercy you all were out of the room. I would like to take a walk in the woods and be like Enoch, not, because God took me. But I worry about who would find me.

Recently I have been thinking about whether there is a spirit of place. I think there is a spirit in a place made by the people most connected with it. There is, I believe, a spirit in a loving home. And I think it likely you all were overshadowed with another Spirit.

I think maybe this was how it was, Rev. 4:1 ... I heard was as it were of a trumpet talking with me; which said, Come up hither, .... Rev. 4:02 And immediately I was in the spirit,"

We poor mortals can't weigh in an even balance in this life because most all we know is this side of the veil.

Oh, reading about your heartbreak brings tears to my eyes. I'm sure you replay that story every day but it's taken you a year to be able to write about it. I do understand. I can't believe it's been a year. I'm glad that you'll soon be celebrating too happy graduates. Maybe that can bring some joy and dilute the sorrow.

That's life. A good one at that.
I know that anyone who reads this will be uplifted by the warmth that can flow from a bad day. These things aren't by accident.

I hope writing down your memories of such a sad day and sharing them with us helps you through this anniversary. Life is a journey filled with bitter and sweet. I'm glad you enjoyed the sweetness of a good father. Hugs to you....

Oh,Tipper, my prayerful thoughts to you and your family as you remember Pap's life and his homegoing. And how appropriate that our God put the sign of the rainbow over his home and you could see that as HIS sign welcoming your beloved Pap to HIS home. God be with you this day. Eleanor Loos

"the price for great love is great grief"
This is exactly how I always think of it, though it isn't much comfort when the grief is fresh and overwhelming. I'm so glad you were able to write about this, Tipper. As Miss Cindy said, it takes great courage. Seems like that runs in your family.
Sending a hug from up north.

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