These last few days have been tough. Tougher than any of us would know about two weeks ago.
Recently, my maternal grandfather (who I called “Papa”), George Wesley Nelson, had a few medical procedures, and his 87-year-old body just didn’t recover properly and developed pneumonia that would be the final blow he could possibly take.
He was slowly getting worse and it wasn’t looking good, so we decided to head up to South Dakota last weekend to see him one final time.
My maternal grandmother (who I called “Nanny”), Lena Mae Nelson, had been tending to Papa and at her age of 83, it was hard for her to deal with on her own.
My whole mother’s side of our family is spread across the United States, so Nanny didn’t really have many in close proximity to come around and help her at this time.
Nanny was emotional, as we all were, as we conversed with Papa while he had his CPAP on and he was fighting for his last bit of life he had left.
I got to talk to Papa about golf, school, and just about life one final time. It was a pretty surreal moment for me. I had done this previously with my Uncle Steve when I was younger, but this was much more vivid. I had spent so much time with Papa in my childhood once they moved to Kansas City for a few years.
This one hit hard.
As we exchanged some quiet “I love you” remarks, we left South Dakota assuming that was our final time with Papa.
Unfortunately, it was our final time with Nanny and Papa, both.
On Friday afternoon, we hadn’t heard from Nanny in a while, and once we had received the call from the Sargeant in Sioux Falls after we had the assisted living facility check on her, we assumed the worst.
Lena unexpectedly passed away on Friday in her home.
This was a huge shock to our family, as although Nanny had constantly struggled with nagging health issues, she seemed completely okay physically when we were there just a few days earlier to visit Papa.
This soon became a really cruddy situation.
Nanny had shockingly passed and Papa was soon to be gone as well.
Way too many emotions to handle.
On Sunday evening, Papa was on his last leg and we knew it was time.
Papa passed away on Sunday evening after his fight with the pneumonia.
It’s really brutal for family and friends that they both left this Earth within a few days of each other, but at this time, I am going to reflect on the awesome people they were and the good times we had together, because that is what I want to remember and I know that is what they would want us to do.
Nanny and Papa Nelson were both such loving people who wanted the best for everyone around them and welcomed with open arms.
I will now dive into my personal experiences of them both:
Papa Nelson- What a guy. One of the most stubborn, strong-willed men I’ve ever met. He could tear his ACL fighting a grizzly bear on Monday and be cleaning the gutters on Tuesday because “it’s his job”.
Papa was the man who introduced me to the game of golf, and for those who know me, know how much golf has meant to me. At the age of 5, papa slid a couple golf clubs into my hands when I was visiting South Dakota and I immediately fell in love. Every time I went to South Dakota to see Nanny and Papa, he would take me to play the Burke 9 hole course. He got to see me hit my first shots on the golf course and he saw each smile the game brought to my face. Once they moved to Kansas City, we would play golf quite a bit during the summer. Bent Oak, Country Creek, Drumm Farm, you name it. We would play golf, laugh, talk, think, and just live during the hours we spent together on the links. Papa was a very wise man who not only taught me how to play the game of golf but more importantly, used the time we had golfing to provide knowledge and wisdom on how to play the game of life. His lessons, his words, his wisdom, and his time he spent with me on the golf course will be things that I will forever cherish.
Papa also was an absolute hoot. He was usually fairly soft-spoken, but whenever words came out, they were almost always words that would make you slap your knee and make your ribs sore. It would come at the most random of times as well. Whether we were playing the dictionary game, eating a ham sandwich on an onion bun, looking for a golf ball in the trees, or cleaning the house, he always had something to say that would bring a laugh to all and a chuckle to himself.
I could go on and on, but I am just so thankful for the man that Papa was. He was a family man who wanted to make sure everyone around him was taken care of emotionally, physically, mentally, socially, etc. He was a man of his word and his word always went.
Papa was quite the man… A good man who had the right mixture in his soul in every situation. Papa was a special man in my life and I’m sure many others can say the same.
Nanny Nelson: What a crazy kind lady. Nanny, from my earliest of memories, was just the most organized woman of all time. She had every nook and cranny accounted for, whether it was in the back of the storage room of her home or in the hearts of her family.
She knew where everything was, planned where everything was supposed to go, and knew when something was out of place.
Her holiday parties were physical evidence of this, as the nameplates, the decorative materials, the “Tommy Wright” story activities, and the uber amounts of food showed the attention to detail, planning, and organization.
I think what I valued even more than the work she put into our get-togethers was her attention to detail when it came to the heart.
Nanny had the perfect image of everyone’s heart and what it was supposed to look like. She knew what kind of love everyone needed to function, and when something was out of whack, she stepped in with the words, the hugs, the gifts, and the pure love needed to put it back together.
Whether Nanny was dressed like a witch on Halloween, running around the house making last-minute adjustments to her holiday setup, or trying to figure out her Netzero email account for the 189th time, she always had the kindness and the love in her to look out for you. Nanny was full of love, compassion, and was absolutely committed to bettering the lives of those around her. I will forever be thankful for every effort she made to help me and love me. Nanny was quite the woman and I’m so glad I got to experience her life that was full of care and love.
Nanny and Papa Nelson are two people that were integral in my childhood in so many ways.
I am blessed to be one of many people who has been positively affected by their lives in the forms of love, compassion, wisdom, care, their love for the Lord, and just straight up awesomeness.
I hate that we have to lose them both at the same time, but it can be looked at in a few positive ways that I hope we can all see:
- Although this will be our first Christmas together without them, we can smile knowing that Nanny and Papa are celebrating the holiday together in Heaven with Jesus, which I’m sure will be quite the party.
- Nanny and Papa didn’t have to spend much time away from each other on Earth. They get to spend eternity together and I’m sure they are looking over me right now with care and love as I write this message.
All that is left to say is I love you.
Nanny and Papa, thank you so much for letting me be a part of both of your wonderful lives. I will be forever thankful for you both. I can’t wait to see you again someday. XOXO
Rest in Peace. We love you.
Psalm 48:14 – “For this God is our God for ever and ever; he will be our guide even to the end.”