A year ago

A year ago today is when we got our first indication that our world was about to change. I won’t go into all the details, but when I realized Chuck was yellow, jaundiced, I knew I had to get him to the ER. I drove him to the Medical West ER in Hoover but had to drop him off because the Covid restrictions were already in place.

We were under contract on our house already. I went home to take care of marking our electrical box per the inspection, via a wonderful young man who walked me through it by phone and would not let me pay him.

Within an hour Chuck called. They had done a scan and found a mass on his pancreas. When I went to pick him up he was standing outside on the curb, looking so lost.

That day was the only time I remember him really crying. This gentle giant of a man curled up in our big brown chair in the living room and said, “I wonder who will be my pallbearers?”

Then he began his brief fight against the monster that raged within him. Pancreatic cancer. Our journey brought our children back together and then took us to Jacksonville where Chuck died two months after we first heard the words “mass on the pancreas”.

He had no pallbearers, but he is buried in a beautiful cemetery, along with his great-nephew, Wyatt. I can’t say life has gone on without him because he is a part of everyday for me. I see him in the kindness of his daughters and the laughter of his sons. I watched my grandson Everett play chess last Saturday with one of my son’s friends and I thought of how Chuck played chess with him even when he was ill. I’m grateful Everett will have those happy memories of Grandpa.

Everett and Grandpa, 2020

Texts from the past #9: Julie

Juliette Marie Bell is eight years old today. Her Grandpa liked to call her Julie.

I’m thankful for the years he had with her. The snuggles, the jokes, the laughs, the sweet times. Last year on her birthday her dad sent Chuck a picture of Julie via text. Chuck’s response was: “Time is flying by. Bee-U-ti-ful”.

We never dreamed this would be his last year with her.

““Misfortunes will happen to the wisest and best of men. Death will come, always out of season.” -Big Elk, Omaha Chief

Escaping Irma 2017

View from Grandpa’s shoulders

This photo popped up in my memories feed on Facebook today. It does, yet doesn’t, seem like three years ago that Claire and the kids stayed with us while Ben went home to weather the storm of Irma. The storm where my brother-in-law lost all he had except for a few handfuls of memorabilia and later some rescued muddy clothes.

I hope E and J always have precious memories of Grandpa. Carrying them on his shoulders, reading to them, playing chess, hiking, praying. I pray that one day they will desire to follow in the footsteps of the one some described as a gentle giant.