This past Sunday, February 4th, we were getting ready to go to a Super Bowl party when my husband received a phone call. As my husband talked on the phone I instantly knew something was wrong as his voice started to trail off with a lot of yeah….yeah…uh huh. His face looked white as a sheet as he looked at me and then told me to grab my phone. I sprinted to my phone and found my mom had called several times and left a text, “your grandfather is in the hospital.” My heart sank and I immediately started throwing my belongings in my bag as best as I could. I could barely see due to a flood of tears welling up in my eyes. We were trying to decide if my husband should go or not and I thought well I’ll just call my Uncle since he is at the hospital and see how bad it is. The phone rang and he instantly picked up. “How bad is it Uncle Mark,” I asked….he paused for a moment and then said “It’s happened…your grandpa passed 5 minutes ago.” In that moment my entire world collapsed around me as I fell to the floor. I still don’t think I have come out of this moment.
We quickly threw our bags together and I pulled some old pictures I have off the shelves and walls and we were out the door. As we were loading the car up I handed my son his grandpa’s USS McCoy hat and his grandpa’s senior portrait. He didn’t understand fully what was going on, but he knew mama was very upset.
Once we arrived in Indiana I ran up to my grandparent’s door and my Grandma and mom were there to greet me. We embraced and we cried. My son, who is named after my Grandfather McCoy asked “where’s papa” upon entering the house. He kept talking about papa’s tractor (actually a lawn mower), so I let him sit on top of it for a bit.
Last week truly was a blur. I was sad, angry and felt very lost all at the same time. I am still feeling this way. We all had to pull ourselves together as best as we could, so that we could send him off in the best way possible. I love my family so much and I am so thankful we all were able to successfully pull this off during such a hard moment in all of our lives.
I don’t think I slept at all last week. I couldn’t get him out of my mind and trying to imagine a world without my grandpa. I’m just going to end with the eulogy I wrote for him, because it honestly is the best way I can sum up my feelings and the person that he was.
Grandpa’s chair…if you have seen it, you know it’s been loved. You’ll see where a mold of his body has been forged over time, like a fossilized cast in a rock. Since I have known him, 31 years to be exact, he has owned only two chairs. One of which met its demise in the fire of 2012 and the second one still sits in my grandma’s living room. Our lives revolved around that chair whether we were coming or going, but we always return to that same room and that same chair that grandpa sat so cozily upon, where he cuddled each of us, held our baby fingers, kissed our tiny toes, and lulled us to sleep.
As a child I snuggled up next to my grandpa in his chair as we shared a box of raisins and watched bugs bunny cartoons. As I got a little older I’d play on the floor at the foot of his chair. You could also tell quite easily if you were doing something you weren’t supposed to, because there was a distinct way he would flip the footrest down making everyone aware that whatever you were up to needed to stop. As a preteen I remember visiting in the summers and sitting in that chair watching VH1s pop up video. It was about the only time my bottom got a chance to relish in the comforts of Grandpa’s chair. When my Great-Grandmother passed, my Great-Grandfather moved in and for a while my grandpa cared for him. My grandpa sat with his father in that room together enjoying the last couple of years they had left, before my Great-Grandfather passed. We have spent many holiday’s circled around his chair, catching up, watching Mr. Bean, Claymation Christmas and his favorite, Sponge Bob.Now he loved his chair and being at home, but there were a few things that he would venture out for and you knew how special you were if he left the confines of his home to support whatever activity you requested he partake in. He would do really anything for his grandchildren, picking them up or dropping them off at school. In fact I am a bit jealous of one grandchild that got to eat a meal with Grandpa all to themselves…you know who you are. He attended volleyball games, swim meets, baseball games and graduations. He would even travel to Bloomington Indiana and help me move in and out of college!
When I got engaged I wanted to get married in the desert and be surrounded by red rock. Somehow we convinced him to fly to Sedona, AZ for my wedding. He begrudgingly went and when I needed somebody to walk me down the aisle he stepped in. I remember him delicately holding onto the crook of my elbow as we descended down the red rock stairs to my ceremony so vividly. He reminded me to take it slow, to remember to give Ashley (my bridesmaid) my bouquet and that he loved me before handing me over. This in itself told me he liked the man I had chosen to marry, because he didn’t tell me it would be ok if I wanted to turn around! After the birth of my son McCoy he ventured up to Chicago not only once, but twice. I never thought he would make that trip, but he did.
The last day that I saw my Grandfather was on December 30th. I stopped in for the night after I had photographed a wedding up in Ft. Wayne and needed a break before I met up with my husband at my in-laws in Noblesville in the morning. That night couldn’t have been more perfect. I had him all to myself since my grandma was in Kentucky for the weekend. We stayed up late like usual. Unfortunately I have inherited his night owl genes. That night I sat in the neighboring chair next to his, like every visit. We discussed politics, music, he told me a few of his work stories and we watched some of our favorite shows until 3am. That night, Keeping Up Appearances and Bluegrass Underground was on the menu. Before I went to bed I asked him if I could borrow some of grandma’s pjs since I didn’t pack anything for just one night. He said “well let’s see what we can find” and took me into his room, but instead of looking through my grandma’s drawers he got into his own and pulled out a black thermal shirt and pants. I had never slept in my grandpa’s clothes before, but I did that night.
Even though a good portion of his life was spent in his easy chair, it’s sometimes hard for me to believe he was as amazing as he was. How could somebody be so cultured, open minded, insightful and down to earth without ever having the desire to step outside of the box on occasion? The only thing I can think of is that it was the fact he was born with a beautiful mind. He was always wanting to learn, understand and evolve. Something I wish more people would seek out. He wasn’t just intelligent, he was brilliant. This is probably one of the biggest things I am going to miss, our midnight conversations. My Grandpa may have rarely left his chair, but he was always there for us. It’s hard for me to imagine a world without my grandpa in it. That chair will always be empty and the thought of that is crushing. I don’t think I have ever felt a loss this great before. He was my grandfather, a father, a protector, a mentor and a huge comfort in my life. He was my rock, he was home…just like his chair was his safe place that brought him contentment, relaxation and comfort, he was all of those things to me. I am not sure how life will be without him. The unknown is a scary thing. The past few nights I have been in my grandparent’s home I saw him so vividly standing on the porch as I looked out the window, walking in through the front door, walking the halls and even getting in the cupboard for late night snacks.To say he will be greatly missed is an understatement. He meant so much to me, so much so I named my child after him. He touched all of us deeply and in his very profound and unique way. I feel as if a cog in the wheel that is my life has been stolen. How do I function with this missing piece? It can’t be replaced, it can’t be repaired, so where does that leave me? I know life is chaotic and there isn’t any order to what comes our way. The laws of nature are indifferent to life and death. I know too, that the pain will lessen with time. I find comfort in the fact that even in his passing, the essence that was McCoy Venters is a tidal wave of energy, echoing through time and will have impacts I may never see or realize. The butterfly effect at work. I am and we are the people we have become, because of those that have come before us. My grandfather will remain in this world because of us. He is in our memories, hearts and lives and in the stories we tell… in the actions we perform. We are an extension of him, not just our DNA, but the impression he made. My son, McCoy may not remember his “Papa” the older he gets, but he will know the great man he was named after. When I embrace him, that will not only be me, but the love my grandpa invested in me. When my son encounters conflict, the wisdom I pass on was set in motion by him. I’ll continue the trajectory that was his life through my thoughts, love and the deeds I carry out. His chair may be empty, but my heart is full in remembrance of him.
I love you Grandpa.