Today marks ten months since my Pops died by suicide. Although every single day brings the sting of grief—the ones when we celebrate something important are the most difficult. One week from today will be a big one. It will signify the end of elementary school for my youngest daughter, his youngest grandchild.
Pops and Bella share a special bond, they always have. He has kissed her boo-boos, protected her from the boogieman, sat at our dinner table helping her learn the ABC’s, and held her hand at Children’s Hospital.
Pops was the one who waited outside her classroom at the end of most days, and the one who walked her to 7-11 for Slurpee’s. He played a hundred games of Candy Land, helped carve pumpkins at Halloween, and pretended he couldn’t tell it was her when she rang his doorbell dressed as a pirate.
I remember taking a picture of Bella and Pops after kindergarten graduation and will never forget the pride in his eyes. He thought she was the smartest and bravest little girl in her class and he made sure everyone knew that was his granddaughter.
For Bella, Pops held a magical power, and that hasn’t changed. Pops was the one who made every bad day into a good one. He made things fun, and he always made her giggle. No matter what we had planned or where we were off to, she always asked if her Grandpa was coming. He was her favorite. I’ll admit, sometimes I was a little jealous of their relationship. When I was uptight and stressed out, he was calm and smiling. After a long day at work when all I wanted to do was crawl into bed and pull the covers over my head, he made time to play games and tell bedtime stories. He made our household run smooth. He was a big part of what made us a family during the years we lived next door to each other.
Bella still talks to him. I know this because I can hear her in the room carrying on conversations with him. She talks about him in the present tense and points out the signs that my hurt and anger sometimes prevent me from seeing. I also watch her cry and hold her tight when I don’t know how to answer the very first question she asked that horrible night in August. After I ended my call with the police department and had to explain what suicide was, I did my best to answer. She has asked the same question many times since.
“Doesn’t he know how much we love him?”
My answer is yes. But when I try to understand that question from a child’s perspective, it breaks my heart. For Bella, there is no doubt that he loves her. She keeps him and his memory alive more than anyone else in this house. Rarely does a day pass without a random observation on her part and she makes sure we know his favorite color is blue, he tells funny jokes, and he hates shrimp.
Those who have followed our journey or read my book know the dragonfly story. It didn’t take much thought to come up with the perfect graduation gift. The only thing better than what I chose would be to make Bella believe that her Grandpa indeed knew how much she loved him, how much we all loved him. We love him still and always will. Love is the only thing that doesn’t end.
I’m excited to watch my little girl receive her promotion from elementary to middle school. I’m proud of her; she has the sweetest smile, a heart full of love, and she isn’t afraid to share either freely. She’s funny like her Grandpa, and she knows how to worry less and smile more. Next week we will celebrate her milestone with a flower lei and dinner at her favorite restaurant. I’ll hold my tears and try not to let my grief seep out onto her day.
When my little girl wakes up on what will be her last day of elementary school, I’ll sit next to her and watch as she opens her dragonfly necklace. And, I will tell her that her Grandpa knows how much she loves him.
If you or someone you know is contemplating suicide please reach out,
someone is always listening. You are not alone.
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-8255
Have you lost a loved one to suicide and need a resource?
American Foundation for Suicide Prevention can help.
© R.J. Belle and Transfer Of Pain, 2017
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