The last several weeks have been a blur—traveling to incredible new places all over Australia while silently wishing I could be on the other side of the world attending my Grandpa Pontier’s funeral. And yet, I’ve felt so wonderfully full making new memories and meeting new friends that it’s hard to even process everything. My childhood dream of seeing a koala came true, and as I stood gazing up at the furry gray ball sleeping away in a gum tree I couldn’t help but smile at the richness of it all. Life- it’s but a moment. I tried several times to blog about my grandpa after hearing that Alzheimer’s had taken its toll on his life, but words eluded me. It didn’t quite seem real until I saw the pictures posted of my mom receiving the flag that had draped his coffin. When I saw my Grandpa last he seemed frustrated. Ready to go home as he put it. Lonely for his wife, whom he had loved so faithfully, and ready to meet his Savior. He’s home now. Knowing how much he longed for that I’ve found it hard to be sad. He was a strong man, principled and very much in love with his birthplace, Congo. Even when Alzheimer’s set in and he would tell the same stories over and over, I still loved to hear his stories. There was the story about when he shot an elephant with a single shot, stories of frog hunting with his best friend, stories about his time in the US army, and stories of how a tall Texas gal had captured his heart. During my time in Kenya I saw a classroom building and house that he had built years before I was born. I smiled when I saw his work knowing that his labor as an engineer and builder was still being enjoyed not just in Kenya but in other parts of the world as well. I’m thankful for his legacy and thankful that I inherited his red hair as well as his love for Africa. I’m grateful to call such an amazing man my grandpa with all of his accomplishments and even with his flaws I loved him dearly. He taught me about faithfulness, and about the beauty of holding your partner’s hand no matter how old you grow. He taught me about the art of telling a good story, and he taught me to appreciating a country that is different from the one your passport reflects. I’m thankful for the life that he lived and even from thousands of miles away I was there in my thoughts as he was laid to rest—happy and finally home.
Tag Archives: Death
I didn’t cry until I walked into the emergency room. The entire drive to Carbondale I kept thinking this had to be a mistake. But, as I got closer to the hospital, I knew I just did not want to face the truth. Alice was too young and too full of potential be gone. I wasn’t ready to give her up, but not wanting something to be true does not change what happened.
I had just been thinking about her on Sunday morning before we got the call that she had passed away. She was about to graduate in May with her doctorate degree in addiction and substance abuse counseling. I was thinking about how we would celebrate all those long hours and hard work. My mom had just talked to her on Thursday. Alice was going to come down for the weekend when my sister came home in March for spring break. Everything was so normal the way it should be. Just like in January when she came down and we spent the weekend making samosas and drinking chai.
Alice texted her neighbor and very good friend on Sunday morning asking her to pick up some bread and flu medicine while she was out saying she felt a little dizzy and thought she might be coming down with something. When her friend came to drop off the medicine, Alice was unresponsive. The ambulance came. They did everything they could, but she was already gone. An autopsy reveled the cause of death to be due to a cerebral hemorrhage.
It’s hard to say good bye to someone you’ve known since you were eleven. Alice was not only a good friend, she became a part of our family spending many holidays with us and countless memorable weekends. When we lived in Chicago, I remember driving into the city with my dad to pick Alice up for a dental appointment. On the way to take her to the dentist, I lost a tooth; and it was bleeding so bad we had to swing into Burger King to grab some napkins.
We met Alice soon after she came from Kenya to study in America and when she transferred to Southern Illinois University to work on a second Masters degree and then a PhD, the relationship continued to grow closer every year. Alice was my friend and an adopted aunt, but she was also so much more than that.
When I think of Alice it is so hard to describer her. She had so many good qualities. I don’t know a single person who didn’t like her. She was so sweet and easy going and made friends very easily. What breaks my heart is the thought of all her unfilled dreams of working with women in Kenya. She loved her country, but while she was here she brought a lot of joy to this country, and I’m grateful for that.
Her death is a shock I am still trying very hard to cope with. There aren’t enough words so say how much she meant not only to me but to all the other people whose lives she touched. I know she is in a better place, and it seems that she passed on peacefully but she left such a hole.
I’m going to miss watching random movies together on Sunday afternoons. I’m going to miss making chapatis together and talking about everything from her doctorate thesis to the quirks of American culture. Alice was always willing to try something new, and she looked eternally 32 although she would have turned 41 the Saturday before her funeral.
Words seem so flat right now especially compared to the life that Alice always brought with her. She was amazing. She had so many dreams. Ask anyone who knew her, and they will tell you the same thing. Alice was a jewel.