Saturday, December 3, 2011

Legends Can't Fade

This has been an incredibly long week of waiting. Last Friday, Black Friday to be exact, my mom called me at around 9 in the morning. My grandfather had had a stroke and was taken to the hospital by ambulance. The doctors told the family that the stroke had destroyed his brainstem, that he was in a coma, and that they had put him on life support until the family could come say goodbye.

I slumped down in the middle of the shoe section at Penney’s, clutching a display size 10 Vans shoe to my chest. It may as well have been a cannon ball. An older man sat on a bench near mine, watching me out of the corner of his eye as tears streamed down my face.

On Monday, they took Grandpa off of the respirator, expecting him to fade away within minutes. But he’s stubborn. Against their expectations, he hung on for 4 more days, breathing in and out, just... being. The waiting has been horrendous. The back and forth calls everyday, the constant, “Is there any change?”, “No, no change”, repeated every few hours for 4 days straight. But in the end, he went out on his own terms. Quietly. Peacefully. With dignity.

Yesterday evening at 5 my mom called me again. As soon as I saw her caller ID, I knew. I never thought I could be so relieved and so heartbroken at the same time. As much as I was expecting it, as much as I wanted him to be at peace, the grief rocked me. Since yesterday, the pain has come and gone, little pockets of grief bubbling up without warning and without control.

You may have read about my grandpa before. If I could describe to you a man worth knowing, it’s him. He’s more or less a legend in our family. I couldn’t tell you all the stories about him. I don’t know them all. I couldn’t tell you his favorite song. I couldn’t even tell you what it was about him that made him such a legend to begin with. His voice, his eyes, his very personality drew you to him. He was a man of dignity, honor, integrity. I never saw him walk stooped until he got sick. He carried himself with confidence, spoke with gentleness. His humor was quick, and very, very dry. He always looked you in the eye when he spoke to you. His generosity knew no bounds. When I say that the world- my world- won’t be the same without him, it’s no exaggeration or platitude. It’s 100% true.

My grandpa may be gone for now... but there are little pieces of him that are still hanging on with us. Atleigh inherited his nose. My brother Nathan has his mouth, his smile. My beautiful niece Hannah has his piercing, ice blue eyes. My baby brother Isaac inherited his dry wit, not to mention his name. As for me, well... I don’t know if I inherited anything from him. But in my spirit, because of him, has been instilled a respect, a pride and love so fierce that it has changed and molded the contours of who I am. My life is better, more beautiful for having him in it. The true beauty is in knowing that I’m not the only one. Hal McIsaac will live on, in so many lives that he has touched and influenced.

There are just some legends that can never fade.


  1. Oh baby, I couldn't have said it better! Your grandpa was definitely a force to be reckoned with.

    I understand the raw grief and I haven't let myself experience it yet. I am afraid to cry because I'm not sure I could stop.

    As for not being sure what you inherited from your grandpa - you ALSO have the quick, dry wit; the love of family; possibly even the Irish temper on occasion - :80), just to name a few.

    And you are right: The Legend Will never fade - we will always carry grandpa in our hearts! I love you. <3


  2. Thanks, Princess,

    As usual, you found the words that I could not.
    I grieve as well but I rejoice to know that Hal had such an impact on my kids. You never knew my dad. Hal met him. Two very different and yet very alike men. I'm glad you got to know one of them.


  3. I'm sorry for your loss Mary! He sounds like he was a wonderful guy