Picking up the pieces

Friday, October 24, 2014

On Sunday, October 12th, I watched my grandfather take his last breath. We were all there with him. Talking to him, holding his hands, trying to hold back the tears, joking and laughing and storytelling like he would've wanted us to, then letting the tears fall anyway when we finally realized he was truly gone.

He was diagnosed with colon cancer back in January and despite agressive chemo treatments over the last few months, the cancer spread and quickly took over his body. When we got the call Sunday morning from my Aunt Jeanie and my Grandmom, we all scrambled to get up to the hospital in Pittsburgh to be with him as he passed.

He had always said that if things ever got so bad with his health, and his body was failing him, that he didn't want to die in the hospital. Instead, he wanted to buy a giant tub of butter pecan ice cream and climb to the top of the mountain near his home and pass on. While we couldn't give him the mountain in his final hours, we made sure he got his ice cream.

It's difficult for me to try to describe the kind of man my Grandad was because he had lived such an incredibly full life that a single post would simply not do him justice.

He was one of the first to hold me when I was born and from that day on, I adored him just as much as he loved me. He taught me so much in the years I knew him. He showed me so many new places, helped me to appreciate history, and develop a strong love for learning. He was a brilliant storyteller, full of knowledge and life experiences, and I never got tired of listening to him. When Mike first met him, he told me the same thing - that he could sit and talk with him for hours just absorbing everything he had to share.

While some describe him to be sort of gruff and stubborn (which he probably was from the stories I've heard of his youth) I have only known him to be kind and gentle. To me, he was the man with the big warm belly who gave the best hugs. The one who spoke with a slight back country drawl and would do anything for his family. He loved peanut butter and chocolate and books about war and airplanes. He loved to sit and watch the history channel adding in personal anecdotes from time to time if they were running a program about something he had experienced. His second favorite channel was the weather channel - something I still laugh about to this day. He could fall asleep anywhere at the drop of a hat, but the minute you said his name, he would answer like he had never dozed off in the first place. He had a strong love for his tiny hometown in the valleys of the Allegheny mountains and even though he had lived many places around the world, he always came back to his roots.

Everyone who knew him would say that he was a man of strength and grit. He was a survivor who weathered many storms both literal and metaphorical. He had quite literally traveled the world, seen more places, and had more adventures than anyone I've ever known. And through it all, he never lost his passion for life. He was a man who knew exactly what he wanted and made darn sure he got it.

What I loved most about him was his wisdom. He was a teacher who loved to share his knowledge. And, boy, did he have a lot to share. Aside from all of his travels and experiences, he was a man who loved to work with his hands and had many skills. He love to build things like cars and motorcycles and even planes. I remember when I was younger, he and I spent some time together when my parents were away and he took me out to watch him fly. He showed me all the different parts of his plane, how it all worked, and explained how he had built ones like it.

That was Mike's favorite part about our last visit to PA - checking out his shop where he was building his plane.

He was a very special man to many people and we all miss him so much. The holidays this year will be especially tough without him. There's a big hole in our family now and it's going to take time to heal from this loss.

While I'm still greiving every day and I will be for a long time, I am glad he's no longer suffering. He's finally at peace and I take comfort in knowing he's never far away either... after all, he'll always be up there in the sky, flying his planes and blasting good old Hank Snow, watching over us all.

Love and miss you Grandad.

In loving memory of Robert Dale Lane
April 17, 1938 - October 12, 2014


  1. I'm seriously crying after reading this post. What an amazing tribute. I lost my grandpa last Christmas eve and my boyfriend lost his last week so there has been some loss in our lives this year only grandpas could fill. Grandparents are such special people and there's most definitely a void in our lives when they're gone.

    Your grandpa sounded like an amazing man and I'm glad he's no longer suffering. I hope comfort for you as you continue through the grieving process. You'll see signs of him all over and it'll help remind you he's always with you. :)

    1. You are so incredibly sweet. Thank you so much for your kind words! And you are so right, I see little things everywhere, sometimes multiple times in a day, that remind me that he will always be right by my side. I'm so sorry about your loss as well as your boyfriend's. It really is tough, but good to know that we have a good support system and so many wonderful people to lean on.

  2. This was a beautiful post and beautifully written! I lost my grandfather to stomach cancer 10 years ago, I was only 12 and I felt like I hardly even got to know him. It's so hard to say goodbye, but it looks like you have some incredible memories of your grandfather! I hope you find peace in his passing and happiness in the memories you have of him!

    1. Thank you so much! I'm so sorry for your loss as well. I can't imagine losing a grandparent at that young age, it must have been tough for you and your family. Thank you so much again for the kind words!

  3. O, Laura.. I'm so very sorry to hear about your grandfather.. As someone who lost both of hers I know just how terrible it is. Keep your memories close and dear- you'll see he is never really gone. Praying for you and your family at this time. I'm sure he is proud of you, and thank you fro writing something so beautiful - and for allowing us to see what a great man he was.

    1. Thank you so much, I really appreciate it. I miss him terribly but it's just going to take time to heal from this one. I'm so glad that I was able to get to know him so well and had so much time with him. I really was lucky to know such an incredible guy.

  4. lovely post Laura, i'm sorry for your loss, but it's good that y'all got to be there with him!

    (Catching up with previous posts)