Last Friday, I lost my grandfather. Although he had been battling the affects of a life-altering stroke for over a decade, I was certain that he would live to see his first great-grandchild born. Over the last few months, his face lit up every time I walked into the room, beaming with pride as my stomach grew and grew. I knew in my heart that meeting my special little guy may just give him the will to keep pushing on.
God, however, had other plans. Jesse and I had a long, fantastic visit with him on Memorial Day, on that I hoped to replicate the day before he passed. Instead of his usual jovial self, he was shell of the man I grew up loving so dearly, and it was that night I knew the end was in sight.
The last few days has been an absolute blur of commuting back and forth to my parent's home, accepting well-wishers, and doing my best to help my mom through these troubled times.
I can't lie - there was a moment or two when I kicked myself thinking that if I hadn't lost my first pregnancy last summer he would have been able to be a great-grandfather, but those thoughts quickly passed. Sometimes it's hard to see the forest through the trees - or in this case, the joy through the loss, but I think this tragedy has somehow already pulled my family closer together, something I know baby Weeks will be more than grateful for. It's kinda like my grandfather's everlasting gift - that of love.
I was lucky enough to be able to give the eulogy at his funeral, I've included the text below as to never forget those moments I hold so dear:
Robert Fredenberg was larger than life. Despite all biases granddaughters must have of their grandfathers, I can firmly state that this is plainly true. My papa lived his eighty years with such fervor, grace and determination that nothing, not even death can hold him back.
My earliest memories of him take place in River Vale, New Jersey where my papa and grandmother made their home. The journey we took down there always seemed like a vacation to another world. Crossing the Tapan Zee Bridge and looking out in the distance to see the skyscrapers of NYC, my mind filled with wonder even before my mom and dad pulled into their driveway. Once there, we summered by swimming in their in-ground pool, seeing the sights of nearby New York and feeling the unconditional love only grandparents could give.
Once we were older, my papa made the decision to move north to CT so that he could be a fuller part of the lives of my brothers and I. We continued to relish visits to their house, visits that became more frequent as I adventured out after getting my driver’s license. One thing was for sure with every visit I made to my papa’s house – love was all around. My grandfather was a man who loved life and those in it with his whole heart. This all-encompassing love was an umbrella for all that he did. Whether it was his endless generosity, voracious appetite, or taste for fine wine – all that he did was out of love.
One would think this story would begin to change after my papa began his battle with stroke in early 2000, but rather, his battle made everything about him stronger. His shear will to continue living in love was evident to me from the earliest days of his recovery. Still mending in the hospital on the day of my junior prom, my grandmother delivered a note from him, that simply stated, “Megan – have fun – love papa”. In those early days, almost everything had been stripped away from him: his ability to walk, to talk, to write. Those five simple words represented his power to survive, to go on.
After my grandmother passed almost eight years ago, my papa’s spirit was tested even more strongly than with his stroke. He loved my grandmother so completely, so devotedly, that life without her seemed impossible. Yet, once again, he persevered. My mother became his beacon of light, spending day and night with him, surrounding him with love, and showing him how much he had to live for. In the last eight years, he’s been able to see so many things – the college graduations of me and my brothers, mine and my brother Gary’s weddings, the engagement of my brother Brian (who without my grandfather’s constant prodding may have never popped the question), countless holidays, birthdays, summers, springs, and falls. Just days before he passed, I spent the afternoon with my papa on his hospital bed. During our entire visit, his hand was firmly planted on my growing stomach, as if reassuring my unborn son that he loves him. I look forward to the day where I can look into my son’s eyes and tell him how special his great-grandfather was.
Throughout these past eight years he never lost his sense of humor or ability to be larger than life. Although Aphasia, the disorder that stole away he ability to easily communicate, slowed down his speech, it never slowed down his wit. My grandfather ceaselessly flirted with waitresses and every pretty woman whose path he crossed, knew when to tell my brothers and father to get a hair cut, made sure my mother and I were always looking our best and always was able to order another glass of red wine.
As I try to find the right words to say good bye to this incredible man – I look down at this note he wrote me so many years ago and want to say the same words to him “Papa – have fun up there, Love, Megan”.