His name was Ferrill Morris White. I called him Gramps. Before retiring, he was an executive of some sort at AT&T during the day and a beekeeper on the weekends. He taught me the difference between real backyard honey and the stuff that’s mass produced. He had a wood-shop and could fix or build just about anything. After we bought our first house, he helped me hang new cabinets with the greatest of precision and ease. He served in the Navy during the Korean War and had a lot of funny stories about life at sea on a Navy ship. When I was little, he took me fishing and showed me how to make pancakes. He was one of only two men I’ve ever let call me Mikey (the other is my dad). He’s gone now and I will definitely miss him.
My grandpa passed away this week after a long fight with pneumonia. Last November (two days before his 77th birthday) he went in for a “routine” heart surgery. The surgery went extremely well and the doc said he’d need to be on blood thinner for the rest of his life but that he thought he had several good years left. Then, while he was still in recovery from the heart surgery, he had a stroke that left him unable to speak and all but paralyzed on one side of his body.
Ever the fighter, he spent the next 5 months working to get better in rehab. Even though he’d had a few minor setbacks, he was starting to figure out how to walk again and his communication was improving a little bit every day. Then he had a bowl obstruction. Then he got pneumonia, and despite the best efforts of his medical team, his body just wasn’t strong enough to fight anymore.
The last few weeks have been a roller coaster of emotions for my entire family. We’ve spent a lot of time together by his side and in the waiting room at the hospital. We’ve celebrated as things seemingly got better and we’ve comforted each when things got worse. He’d been non-responsive for a few days and was supposed to go home on Wednesday of this week where hospice was going to take over his medical care. The doctors had prepared our family that he probably wouldn’t last much longer at home. Everyone was a little worried about making the decision to send him home, not sure if we were doing what we would have wanted. Somehow he must have sensed all of that because on Tuesday evening he simply stopped breathing and passed from this life into the next before any decisions had to actually be made on whether to send him home or keep him in the hospital.
The funeral is tomorrow and my brother and I will be pallbearers. Somewhere in my mind, I always knew this day would come, but I just never expected it so soon. My wife is pregnant with our first baby and I had always hoped he would make it long enough to hold his great grand daughter. After all, he was the chief culprit and source of most of the “When are you going to have a baby?” type questions that we’ve so frequently received the last few years of our marriage. We never quite knew how to answer those questions and they always caught us a bit off guard, but as I think back now, I can’t help but smile about it as we look forward to our daughter’s birth.
I will really miss my Gramps. I was very fortunate to be able to know him so well and get to be around him for so many good years of his life. Through his words, his actions, and even his demeanor, he taught me so much about what it means to be a man and I’m so grateful for the life he lived.