I don’t know if I’ve ever actually written about this before.

I had an experience the night my grandfather died that has stayed with me for almost 20 years… it’s like an imprint on my heart. I’ve wrestled back and forth over whether or not it was real, but my memory of that night is so crystal clear, so I feel like it was. I don’t speak about it very often as it always makes me very emotional (I’m already ugly crying as I type).

I’ve always hesitated writing about it because it was just so personal for me, but at the same time I want to record it and share it. Over the last few months I’ve felt very impressed to write this out, and my word for 2020 is “Listen”, so… here I am.

When I was sixteen, we sold our house up north and moved in with my grandmother. My Dad was already working at his new job in our new town seven hours away, and my mom stayed behind with us to sell the house and let us finish out the school year. I loved living in that house–it has always been wrapped up in happy memories for me and it was a perfect way to say goodbye to a city I loved before we moved.

In my family, my grandpa was affectionately known as “Gumpo” (a name that has now been passed on to the next generation). My Gumpo had been quite sick for a while before we moved in. He had moved to a long term care facility to better care for his health needs, and we would often visit him. His health declined a little shortly after we moved, and he had spent some time in the hospital. My mother went to visit him pretty much every day, and often asked me to go with her. I loved Gumpo deeply, but hospitals creeped me out and I sometimes had a difficult time going. One night, she asked me if I wanted to go but I declined as I already had plans with my friends (and the boy I had a crush on).

When I got in that night, everyone was either already asleep or getting ready for bed. I wasn’t tired, so I decided to watch a movie. I curled up in my grandfather’s big brown chair and watched What’s Love Got to Do With It. When it finished I went on the computer and wrote in my journal, and it was nearly 2am when I started getting ready for bed.

It took me about 15 or 20 minutes to get washed up and changed, then I turned off the light and crawled into my bed at my grandparent’s house. My mom was living in the basement, and I was just down the hall from my grandma’s bedroom. She slept with her door open, so it was easy for her to shuffle down the hallway to the bathroom if she needed it.

As I lay in the quiet darkness of my room, I felt this overwhelming impression that I wasn’t alone. I didn’t feel afraid, and when I looked down I felt that there was someone standing at the end of my bed. I can’t tell you how I know, but even in the total darkness I felt so strongly that it was my Gumpo. I felt his presence there for a few minutes, and then it was gone. More than anything, I remember the stillness of the room during that time… it was filled with peace. I looked at the clock and marked the time in my mind, then fell asleep.

A few hours later, I woke up to hear my Grammy crying down the hall, sobbing his name over and over. I flew out of bed and crept down the hall to learn that my Gumpo had passed away in the night–right at the time I had felt his presence with me in my room. That took me several days to process, and it was some time before I even told my mom what had happened.

I don’t know why he came to see me, but I believe in my heart that he did. Maybe he wanted to prepare me to help my Mom and my Grandma, or maybe I was just the only one awake as he came to the house one last time as he left this world… but I’m glad that I was. There’s so much about death and the afterlife that I still don’t understand, but I do have an absolute concrete faith that we will have the chance to be together again with those we love.

So his presence in my room that night has never like goodbye, just… until we meet again. I know we will. I know he’s up there waiting for me with the rest of my family we have loved and lost. One of my favourite family photos was taken when I was a little girl, with all of us together and me perched on his knee. When we lost our baby last year, one of the things that got me through those dark days was imagining that same family gathering in heaven waiting for me–with her perched on his knee. I know she’s in good hands… and some day we will be together again.

It’s funny how these moments can have such a profound impact on you. It lasted only a minute or two and I was only sixteen. But telling it, reliving it, it could have been yesterday. I still don’t fully understand it, but I’m grateful it happened.

I miss him a lot. He wasn’t a perfect man, but he was a pretty perfect Gumpo. I was a lucky hot dog to be his granddaughter.

Until we meet again. 💓

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One Comment

  • Susan Gowan

    Such a beautiful memory, Heidi. It gave me chills. Both my parents are gone but they are so much a partcof my life after 33 years(Mom) and 28 years (Dad). My best friend in Aylmer Quebec and I lost our mothers on the same day, June 21st (Father’s Day, 1987. My friend knew her Mom had passed away in the afternoon and in the eveing she was alone in her old house. She heard footsteps on the stairs and one of the boards underneath creaked. She was not afraid as she knew they were her Mom’s footsteps and she wanted my friend to know she was alright.