What He Would Have Wanted

Submitted into Contest #140 in response to: Write a story inspired by a memory of yours.... view prompt

29 comments

Creative Nonfiction Sad

This story contains sensitive content

*Trigger warning: This story discusses death and dying.

You knew his picture was going to be in the church, but right in front of you, you didn’t expect. In a frame by the altar, his smile said it all; a proud father, grandfather, and future great-grandfather clad in his beloved plaid, flannel shirt and posing in front of the corn stalks that he planted for his family to enjoy. Pumpkins from his garden rested at his feet, and you remember family picture day as if it were yesterday. You remember the laughter, the silliness, and the joy. You’re excited to read at your brother’s wedding, honored even, that you were asked. With your hair in an up-do and donned in your mint green dress and sparkly shoes, you’re confident when you walk to the podium as you’ve read many times before. You’ve practiced the reading too, but that was before. Now, you’re unprepared. Sure, you have a solid start. You’re reading effortlessly until you see the word.

Death.

The little black letter soldiers were standing at attention; your attention. Their salute was in stark contrast to the bright white page on which they were printed. Put them in a different formation, and you wouldn’t have batted an eye. 

Death. 

The word was buried in a sea of other words. If you hadn’t been in charge of reading them, your eyes could have glazed over. Of course, the reading was about marriage, but all your focus has now become death. The marriage vows hadn’t been said yet, no till death do us part, but the waterworks wait for no one.

You and your family had made a pact. You had to compartmentalize your grief. The funeral was pushed to the next week. The wedding was going to be happy. That’s the way he would have wanted it. Only happy tears were expected. You’d set your grief aside and jumped into wedding mode; now, however, you were crumbling. Your sister had read first and had nailed her reading. No tears there. You thought you’d be okay, but all the emotions strike you at once. You remember the picture, and you can’t speak. You glance at the other bridesmaids, and your sister is in tears too. You barely pull yourself together, and you squeak out the rest of the reading. You felt guilty being sad at your brother’s wedding and were worried you had put a damper on it. You learned that many people cried with you. They supported you and weren’t judging you after all. It was a sad moment, but it didn’t ruin the wedding. The wedding was happy. 

After surviving for fourteen months post diagnosis, you started believing that your grandfather was invincible. That maybe somehow a mistake had been made. He didn’t really have cancer; he would pull through. You thought surely he’d live to see the wedding day, and then his birthday in September. Your mother had bought him dress clothes for the day, clothes that became his burial clothes, and he had even talked about being a part of the celebration. Your brother and your sister-in-law had a wedding registry. Even though he was ill, your grandfather had excitedly looked through it for the perfect gift for his grandson and new granddaughter. He hadn’t known your sister-in-law long, but you knew he approved. You knew he loved her too. Your heart broke when a day after the wedding, the gift was opened because it wasn’t fair. It wasn’t fair that your grandfather didn’t get to share in the day or see his gift opened. It wasn’t fair that the newlyweds were in mourning. You had to remind yourself not to be angry, especially not to be angry at God. God had other plans. Your grandfather had other plans. Death only reveals itself to those whose spirit is already emerging from their bodies. In fact, you’re pretty certain your grandfather was halfway to heaven even before he took his last breath.      

The weekend before the wedding, you and your brother went to the family reunion in Pennsylvania. It was your grandfather’s family. It would have been easy not to go because the rest of your family couldn’t, your grandfather included. Someone had to stay with Pop, but your brother was determined, and for that you’ll be forever grateful. You only saw the Pennsylvania relatives once a year. You thought it would be awkward with just you and your brother. Instead, you felt more connected and stronger bonds were formed. You were sure to send pictures to your grandfather. You also had passed the video chat around, so he could say hi to everyone. Little did you know, it was also goodbye. The Sunday night you returned home, your grandfather took a turn for the worse. By Tuesday morning, he was gone. His family was important to him and so were the family reunions. Knowing that he got to see them all happy and well and the timing of his death makes you believe that you brought him closure. You take comfort in that because closure is what he would have wanted.   

Death.

You take comfort in knowing he’s not suffering, that’s he’s finally at peace. You were blessed with the gift of time. You had fourteen months of dinners, visits, and card playing. You even did family bingo with your extended family over Zoom meetings because your grandfather loved to play, but you selfishly want more. You want your grandfather at your eventual wedding, and you want him to hug your future children as he's hugged your cousins' children. Now, he’ll have a different seat, an even better view. He’ll give your children a hug and a kiss before you meet them, before they’re sent to you. Every time you left his house he would tell you to turn on the outside light and watch your step. When the day came and you knew he had hours and not days, he couldn’t speak so you said it for him. The light is on and I’ll watch my step. You knew it was quite possibly the last thing you would ever say to him. What do you say? Instead of sobbing about how much you loved him- the love was there, everyone could feel it- you opted to show him that you would be okay without him. You didn’t know if it was the right thing to do, but you know it’s what he would have wanted.  

April 04, 2022 02:46

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29 comments

Michał Przywara
20:39 Apr 08, 2022

My condolences for your loss. This was a lovely piece of writing and it tugged at the heart strings. There's never really a "good" time for death, but before a wedding seems particularly unfair. But the writing itself is striking. You start us off in a church, with a picture, and it reads like a funeral – and only then do we learn it's actually a wedding. I got an emotional twist in the gut when I realized. Then the rest of the story lets us meet him, shows us how much family meant to him, and I think he must have been there in spirit if n...

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Kate Winchester
22:03 Apr 08, 2022

Thank you very much for your kind words! 😊

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Riel Rosehill
20:18 Apr 09, 2022

Hi Kate, I'm sorry for your loss... It was absolutely heartbreaking to read this. And it was so beautifully written, I'm sure your grandfather is smiling down at you, reading it. Thank you for sharing your story with us.

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Kate Winchester
20:41 Apr 09, 2022

Thank you! Your words mean a lot. ❤️

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Sharon Hancock
01:52 Jun 20, 2022

“He’ll give your children a hug and a kiss before you meet them, before they’re sent to you. “—such a wonderful sweet thought I love this! It must’ve been hard to feel all those intense emotions at the same time, especially trying to suppress grief to be happy for a wedding. Someone once said,”both things can be true.”—and both things are true about your story. Well done! (I absolutely adore Supernatural, btw😻)

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Kate Winchester
05:22 Jun 20, 2022

Thank you so much! I appreciate the kind words. Yes, there was definitely a conflict of emotions. I’ve found that writing has been a good outlet. (Omg, yes! I got behind, but I’m hoping to finish the series eventually lol)

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Sharon Hancock
01:10 Jun 21, 2022

Don’t rush it with Supernatural I was sad when I finished it!

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Kate Winchester
02:06 Jun 21, 2022

Lol, it’s like an end of an era. I’ll take your advice.

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Graham Kinross
00:13 Jun 03, 2022

It’s strange the things that stick out to us at funerals. People can get through it all without breaking down in tears until someone says one word. When the priest was talking about god taking away all of our pain my uncle broke down crying because it triggered his memories about his dad’s suffering at the end. It’s hard to know in those moments whether it’s healthy to feel that or not.

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Kate Winchester
00:51 Jun 03, 2022

Yes, exactly. Aww, your poor uncle. Death is never easy. Thanks for reading my story!

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Graham Kinross
08:28 Jun 21, 2022

Are you working on anything new for Reedsy?

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Kate Winchester
13:31 Jun 21, 2022

I want to. It just seems like there’s not enough time lately. I also have a bit of writer’s block too.

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Graham Kinross
22:02 Jun 21, 2022

You could continue a story you’ve already started on here. It’s easier to work with characters you’ve already created and settings you’ve already imagined. Then you just have to bend them to fit the prompts.

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Kate Winchester
22:20 Jun 21, 2022

Good suggestion and I have done that. It is easier for me to add to a story. Maybe I’ll do that this time.

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Ally Kate
17:03 Apr 22, 2022

Cried reading this. This is so beautifully written <3

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Kate Winchester
14:01 Apr 24, 2022

Thank you!

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Tanja Riley
17:47 Apr 13, 2022

Sorry to hear about your grandfather and how it happened. I hope writing this piece helped you process your grief. Writing can be very therapeutic. This was a very good a brave submission and a great piece of writing. Keep it up! :)

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Kate Winchester
18:25 Apr 13, 2022

Thank you very much! Yes, writing has definitely been a good outlet. ❤️

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Atenaga Monday
19:32 Apr 12, 2022

Good day everyone, am a writer my finest book or should I say my greatest writing can't be published yet cause of lack of funds please I humbly solicit for your help in raising some funds, my plan is to help every kid in Africa able to access books even without payment please do this help humanity and make the world a better place; my email: mdatenaga@gmail.com, my WhatsApp number: https://wa.me/message/HOFB7PTVGI3TF1 I will be glad to have partners all over the world to join me, God bless God speed.

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18:12 Apr 12, 2022

What a moving story, Kate. I'm so sorry for your loss. Your love for your grandfather shines through so beautifully. What a tribute to him. Although the tone is somber and mournful, I enjoyed every word of it. Towards the end I had tears in my eyes, I could barely read your wonderful piece... You said in your bio that you're not a professional writer and that one day you'll write something worth publishing. LOTS of magazines would be proud to publish this... I have no doubts about it. Thank you for baring your soul and regaling us with you...

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Kate Winchester
19:31 Apr 12, 2022

Wow, that is a huge compliment. Thank you! I’m very happy you enjoyed it.

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L. Maddison
08:38 Apr 11, 2022

Such heartfelt writing. And a beautiful tribute to your grandfather. Thanks so much for sharing.

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Kate Winchester
11:00 Apr 11, 2022

Thank you!

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17:58 Apr 10, 2022

A well written and touching story. Well done!

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Kate Winchester
18:07 Apr 10, 2022

Thank you!

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Amanda Lieser
15:39 Apr 04, 2022

Hi Kate! This is such a beautiful piece. It absolutely touched my heart because I, too, recently lost my grandfather. I love that this piece had an ending of peace. I also loved the repetition throughout the story. I thought you contrasted the happiness of the wedding with grief very well. Nice job!

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Kate Winchester
17:01 Apr 04, 2022

I’m sorry for your loss. 💔 Thank you for your kind words. I’m glad to know the story read the way I had intended it. ☺️

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Amanda Lieser
01:56 Apr 08, 2022

Thank you! I truly loved the piece. It was beautiful. Nice job!

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Kate Winchester
02:41 Apr 08, 2022

🥰

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