Tonight, as I sit here waiting on the phone call letting me know that it’s all ended, I think of my Peepaw and I see the frail body that has been inhabiting, that can now barely move. My mom and I mutually decided not to go back up to see him because we didn’t want to be haunted by those memories forever. As someone who’s seen two other grandparents pass on, I knew I couldn’t handle it again.

Instead of letting those thoughts from the past few weeks bounce around in my mind I pulled out my photo album from the earlier 2000s and got out every photo of my Peepaw that I had. Then I started scavenging for the digital photos, to look at and try to fill my head with memories of the times that he was strong, proud, happy and surrounded with us.

He and I at my USC graduation in May 2008, the day before I turned 23. I’m pretty sure the only reason I made it through college was so I wouldn’t disappoint him.

The next day at my birthday party at my mom’s. This picture is pretty funny since he’s the one who gave me my love of gardening.

In his element- in the kitchen during Thanksgiving, a favorite holiday for both of us.

My aunt Terri, me, Peepaw, and my mom on my wedding day.

Thanksgiving 2011- this was after his health started declining and we knew it would probably be his last, so we pulled out the cameras. Apparently not knowing how to make a decent face is genetic.

Everyone was welcome at the Thanksgiving table, so it always spanned the kitchen. So many friends, neighbors and family members through the years have shared Thanksgiving with us.

All of my hard copy photos such as high school graduation, his posed sheriff’s department photo, and my parent’s wedding album photos are all sitting on the kitchen table now too. Patrick called me while I was going through those and caught me crying my eyes out and as sad as I am, they are also tears of nostalgia and happiness. I’m happy I have these photos to job my memories to try and shuffle away these last miserable ones. I’m happy I’ve had to re-prioritize my life to where I got to consistently spend more time with him than I had since I was a kid. I learned a lot about him (he went through the first Navy SEAL training, before they were even called SEALs), and gained a lot of wisdom and perspective that I’ll continue to carry on throughout my life and share with others just like he did.

Update, January 30th: He passed away Sunday, January 29th at 4:25 p.m. with one last breath of air. My mom and aunts were there with him. So begins this strange new era of my life where he isn’t but a phone call away.