Grandpa Gene

I’ve often wondered how Tony would take a death in the family.  My father-in-law passed away on September 21st.  We had watched him suffer for years and we were all prepared… or so we thought.  He had been getting progressively worse.  We talked about what we’d do with Tony in this situation.  We wanted desperately for him to be able to say ‘good bye’ to Grandpa. 

We took Tony to the hospital the night before he died.  We were nervous, as we hadn’t ever brought Tony to the hospital before.  Lots of things ripped through our minds.   The fluorescent lighting (the humming makes him scream), the unpredictable noises from other people, the elevators, the smells, the cords and equipment, the beeping equipment, the computer screens, the “how would we escape if he started to scream” fear…  we thought of it all… in a matter of a few seconds.  That’s a ‘gift’, so to speak, that a parent acquires while raising a child with autism.  I call it crisis management with a twist — you never get to manage a crisis the same way.  Every situation is a mystery to unravel… to try to solve… to try to cope.

However, on that peaceful night, Tony amazed us.  He walked through the hospital effortlessly.  When we got to Grandpa’s room, it was full of people,which normally would have been hard for him.  Tony sat down by his big brother Michael.  That alone usually upsets him.   Not that fact that he saw Michael — he adores Michael — but the fact that Michael comes and goes.  He no longer gets to see him every day, so the “change” is always a hard adjustment.  But not that night.  Tony held Grandpa’s hand and leaned in very close and stared.  He whispered something so sweet, so soft, that it made me sob.  I was the only one who could hear him.  He said “I’ll miss you  and I’ll see you again in heaven someday”.  Even today, when I think back, I’m still amazed.  I’m amazed that he understood.  I’m amazed that he remained calm.  And I’m really amazed that he talked directly to Grandpa Gene.

I shouldn’t be so surprised.  I mean, he HAS read the bible, and he loves to read biographies and life stories.  He knows our geneology better than anyone else in the extended family.  He probably can process death better than all of us. 

The next evening, Grandpa Gene died.  We were so happy that everyone got to say ‘good bye’.  We talked to Tony in great lengths about the process of the funeral and we decided to have a private viewing at the wake for Tony.  Again, he amazed us.  He was silent, he knelt and prayed, he kissed Grandpa and made the sign of the cross on his forehead.  I took some pictures from afar for him to process it more and we are making a scrapbook.

Through this whole process, we couldn’t have gotten through it all without the help of my Mom.  She literally dropped everything and came to stay with us for an entire week so I could be by Dave’s side in making the funeral preparations and helping his family with all the details.  I truly don’t know what we would have done without her.  Someone had to stay back with Tony — and she didn’t hesitate for a minute to come to our rescue.  That says a lot about her character.  It’s the kind of person I inspire to be.   So thank you, Mom…  I also want to thank my sister-in-law, Jess, who came to stay with Tony so my Mom could attend the funeral.  Jess is an occupational therapist and she came armed with activities.  Tony adores Jess.  They ended up taking a lot of pictures in the backyard — Tony posing with our dog, Beau — pictures we can use for his graduation.   

Funerals seem to bring out the very best in people.  We were amazed at those that took the time to come, or send a card, or an email even.  Every one of them touched our hearts.  But Tony touched our hearts the most.  It gave Dave and I a glimpse into his mind.  To know that he actually understands death is still humbling me.  To know that he knew enough to say good-bye… to know that he will forever memorize the visual of Grandpa’s face and his dash.   The dash between his life….   the dash that now defines his life.  I know Grandpa Gene’s legacy will live on… Tony will make sure of that. 

In loving memory of Eugene W. Becker  

September 26, 1928 — (dash) —  September 21, 2010

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7 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. What a beautiful tribute, Becki. Thanks for sharing.

  2. What a beautiful story. Thanks for sharing. What a wonderful family you have. You are a very gifted writer Bec -keep it up! Xoxo 🙂

  3. WOW! Bec, I read this last night on my phone but it wasn’t quite as clear as this with the pictures. It’s still hard to believe and I wish I could process it as well as Tony. Love you!

  4. Thank you so much for sharing your experience with Tony. God bless you all and my deepest sympathies on the death of Grandpa Gene.

  5. Tony has learned from the best! He has the best parents anyone could ask for, the best brother, the best Grand parents, the best family support system that anyone could ask for. It is no surprise that Tony can teach all of us so well on how to say goodbye to someone we love so much. Thank you Tony, thank you Becki and thank all of you for for being a part of our lives, we are truly honored. Our condolences go out to Dave and all your family for your loss.
    God Bless!

  6. Maybe it was perfect timing for me to read this. Tomorrow would have been my dad’s 61st birthday and I have yet to understand “why”.

    This has brought tears to my eyes. Tony is someone that has so much teach us. A true inspiration; to the very least.

  7. It sounds like Tony did understand all about death. He is very special .


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