One of my favorite 7th grade essays ever is this memoir about a grandfather. Ashley Aucker, is now a 25 year old, wife, mother, singer, and songwriter. She was a sweet, quiet little 12 year old in my 7th grade English class many years ago when she wrote this essay. It blew me away then, and it still moves me now. It’s a tribute to the power of a loving grandparent and the deep the inner lives of children.
The first thing I saw upon waking up were tears streaming down my mom’s face. My eyes were still groggy, but I could tell she has been crying a lot. She told me to get up and get dressed as quickly as possible. The one thing about mornings is that it is the most confusing time of day. Therefore, asking no questions, I got up and did as my mom told me. I threw on a shirt and jeans, brushed my teeth and hair, and ran out to the car.
“We are going to see Grandpa,” she finally told me on the way over to my grandparent’s house. I soon understood what was going on. Grandpa had had cancer for about two years, and this day he was struggling greatly, and I knew that this day he would breathe his last breath. He wanted to die at home, and that’s where he was. Although we didn’t say it, we knew that this was going to be our last day to see our dear grandfather.
We got to Grandpa’s bedside and told him stories, sang him songs, talked to him, prayed for him, and cried for him. My favorite part of that day was that I got to sing to him as much as I wanted to. I was lucky that day because on a very sad day, I got to do the thing that makes me happier than anything on earth. I got to sing.
The first time I sang for people was when I was three years old at church. Ever since then, I have loved performing, helping, and reaching out to others. Whenever I am stressed out, I sing or play the piano because it always helps me to think. Whenever I am doing anything musically, it is almost like I go into my own world that no one else can bother me in. Not death, not fear, not guys, not friends, not teachers, not homework, not anything can take me away from my thoughts and my world. Although it may sound kind of crazy, it is the best thing in the world to me. It is a chance to get away from all the bad things in my life, and make the good things in my life better.
I sang to Grandpa all day as much as I could. I wanted to know how special he was to me. He was very special to me. And he still is to this day. We used to always watch train movies together because trains were my favorite things when I was little. No matter how many times we had watched the movie or how annoying the sound of a train whistle became to everyone else, Grandpa was always there to watch the train movies with me. I also remember that he always videotaped my cousins and I playing in the yard with all of the fun toys he had just for us. Those were the good old days.
However, this day was different. This day was a lot different. When I saw him lying in his bed, waiting to die, I realized that nothing could help him. His life would be over in a matter of hours. I knew there would be no more trains or video tapes left in his lifetime. This realization was very hard for me. I felt that all of a sudden he just up and left me and never returned. I prayed and prayed for a miracle – as I often do when I am sad about anything at all – but I never got one.
Although I was only in third grade, I knew about God and who He was to me. I knew that He answers prayers, but not always the way we want him to. I didn’t understand why, with the snap of a finger, God didn’t save Grandpa. I knew that God hates to see his people suffer, so why did He do this to my grandpa and to his family and to me? Sometimes, I can’t quite understand why God lets bad things happen in my life.
I didn’t fully grasp the reality of his dying until about two hours later. Mom and I were sitting by his bed, talking and thinking. Soon things got quiet. I saw a fearful look on my mom’s face and she got up and walked over to his bed, right next to him.
Mom started to cry. Grandma came in and cried too. While this was happening, I was still clueless. However, I was soon able to grasp that reality that I had dreaded so much. I put my face in my hands and cried.
I cried myself to sleep every night for a week. I still do sometimes. At that moment, I knew things wouldn’t be the same without my grandpa. I had known that before, but I never realized that it was true. I wished I could have said goodbye again, but I couldn’t. I wished that I could have said “I love you” again, but I couldn’t. I wished that I could have sung him a smile, but I couldn’t.
The coincidental thing about that day is that as soon as I stopped singing to him, he died. He was gone. He left the world to go to heaven.
I am happy for him because my musical world is just a slice of heaven, and I love it. I know that is where he is, so he has to be happy.
From this tragic day in my life, many good things happened. I got closer to God, and I discovered my favorite Bible verse. James 1:2-4 says, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, when you face trials of many kinds, because you know that it is the testing of your faith that develops perseverance.” This is helpful with other troubles that come up in my life.
I will never forget my grandpa dying, but I will also never forget what he helped me receive: a slice of heaven.
UPDATE: Ashley now writes: I think in the long run, my grandpa’s death brought our family closer together. In particular, my mom and I grew closer because we were both in the room when grandpa took his last breath. We still talk about how we miss him and how much we are excited to reunite with him in heaven.
I also think that losing my grandpa at such a young age helped me grow up a little faster than most of my peers. It gave me a better understanding of how to encourage those who are grieving.
Ashley’s blog – http://ashleynotes.blogspot.com/
You can preview her music on iTunes… http://itunes.apple.com/us/artist/ashley-aucker/id401436148
Here’s a music video… http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nngxgoVxaNM
Also, Ashley’s brother, Brett, is making some waves in the music world with his band Tidewater. Preview his music on iTunes… http://itunes.apple.com/us/artist/tidewater/id382504834