On Sunday, my wife Joey got to see her daddy for the first time in five years. On her side of heaven, I'll bet there was a lot of rejoicing going on. On our side, there were lots of tears, but not many of them happy ones.
Two days ago, on an airplane headed to Vegas for a much-needed getaway with his wife, Jack Martin—my father-in-law for the last twenty years, had a heart attack. Beth was taking Dad to see the Grand Canyon and some other heavenly places he'd been wanting to see for a long time. Instead, he got to see heaven itself. In mid-flight, the plane had to divert and do an emergency landing in Kansas City. Paramedics tried for forty minutes to revive him, but it was no use.
Indy and I were in Alabama visiting Heidi when I got the call from Joey's oldest sister Jody. She was almost inconsolable as she explained what had happened. It was Jody who five years ago, had taken off work for five months to help care for Joey as she passed. And now this. Sometimes it feels unfair, like too much for one family to bear.
Indy had spent the afternoon on a picnic blanket in the yard with her big sister. And I was in a recording studio nearby with Dillon and some other musicians. A friend had asked me to come to Muscle Shoals to record a tribute song to the late Tony Rice, a guitar legend who recently passed away. I had chosen "Bury Me 'Neath The Willow Tree" and after a few takes, we were leaving the studio, walking to my truck when the phone rang. Through Jody's sobs, I heard, "he's gone Rory... Dad's really gone."
We will be heading north in a few days, to remember Jack and be with all the family as they lay him beneath a willow tree, or at least next to his only son Justin, who tragically died from a car accident in 1994 at only seventeen. And there will be more tears and more sadness, along with some wonderful stories and memories shared I'm sure. I haven't told Indiana yet. I will, when we get up there and she can see and better understand what's happening, but right now it would probably be confusing for her. Too much for a seven-year-old who 'can't understand why her Mama can't face-time her on her birthday' to take in at once.
Thankfully, her grandpa Jack was just here a month or so ago, spending the weekend with us. And we all had a great time together. I shared a blog post about it. But now, he's not here at all. I feel so sad for Jody and Jessie and Julie, who have had a tough time losing their sister just a few years ago, and their brother Justin before that. And now, have lost their father. I know it's inevitable, but there never seems to be enough time with the ones we love.
It's a strange thing to think about waking up to what would feel like any other day, doing what you do... making coffee, showering, dressing, getting your day started like every other day. Only on that day, it wasn't going to be like the others. It was gonna be the last day. Dad was 73 years old. Doing some quick math, that's approximately 27,000 days of opening your eyes and waking and living and doing what you do. And then one day you don't.
I can't help but wonder when my last day might be. And if I'm prepared. If my children are. Are any of us really ready when it's our time?
The other night, Indy was getting ready for bed and we were listening to a special song that I'll share another time. I was smiling as we listened together, yet tears were streaming down my face. Indy wiped my cheek with her little fingers and said, "are you sad happy Papa?"
Today, Jack is with his son Justin, and also with Joey. My beautiful wife gets to see her Daddy again. But that means that his other girls don't get to see or talk to him anymore. Neither does his brother Rick, and sister, Wanda. And Indy doesn't have a grandpa anymore.
I thought about what Indy said for a moment, and said, "...yes, darlin', Papa's sad happy."