Posted by: thefitacademic | August 6, 2011

Dealing with a Death


I’ve always been very close with my Poppy, my maternal Grandfather. Growing up, my grandparents always lived within a few hours. From birth until when I was 10, we lived in Houston and my grandparents lived in Dallas (about 5 hours away). When I was 10 we moved to Austin and were closer (only about 3 hours away). Then, when they retired from their “day jobs” (Poppy kept working well into his 70s as a handyman even after he had retired from his day job), they moved to Austin only about 15 minutes away from my Mom’s house. So we lived in the same city from the time I was 12 years old right up until I left Texas to pursue my graduate schooling at age 22.

We’ve always been a very tight-knit family. Even when living in different cities, Poppy was always at any major event – be it a graduation celebration, birthday party, and of course, he was their for the birth of his first great-grandchild (my older brother’s first daughter, born in 2007).


Poppy wasn’t perfect. He was stubborn and hard-headed and it drove my Nana crazy. Sometimes his pride got in his way, particularly as he was aging he hated to admit when there was something he could no longer do and he absolutely detested asking for help. But he was also virtuous and caring, kind-hearted and thoughtful. He was hard-working to a fault, but he was fiercely loyal to his family and was always the head of the house – particularly when my parents got divorced (when I was 12) and I was left without a regular father-figure around. Poppy was always present.

He taught me how to horse-back ride (a passion of mine when I was younger), taught my brother to fish, and taught all 3 of us (brother, sister, and myself) how to drive our first car.  He provided an amazing example of what a caring father and loving husband (to my Nana) was supposed to be.


We’ve spent vacations together:  Renting a cabin in winter for the Thanksgiving holidays and roasting smores and playing games as a family

family in cabin

We’ve been on cruises together – going to the Bahamas (Poppy took my sister and I to Hell – in the Grand Caymans – for the first time!), Mexico, and the Keys.26

We’ve spent countless hours together telling stories and listening to all of Poppy’s crazy antics. He always had a knack for telling old “Indian Stories” about the Wild West Days (of which he had us CONVINCED that he was a central figure). And when it came time for me to get married, he was the man I asked to walk me down the aisle. It only felt fitting for him to be the one to “give me away.”

Ashley & Chris Jordan's Wedding

Photo courtesy of Magan at UrbanGrey Photography

But Poppy’s also had a lot of health problems over these past couple of years. It began with a serious and major heart valve-clog (that’s the “technical term” ; )) followed by 2 open-heart surgeries. During each of the surgeries he sustained a stroke (the first one was quite major and debilitating, leaving the right side of his body almost completely functionless and requiring endless hours of intensive physical therapy). He spent a good 6 months living in-and-out of hospitals and rehabilitation centers ans he learned to take care of himself again and regain use of his right side. It was a long hard battle, and one riddled with set-backs and hardships. I wish I could say he made a full recovery – and he did, in fact, come a looooong long way. However, he was never as strong as his old self, and his health was not great. There were always some sort of set-backs:  pneumonia, “mystery” pains,  infections, and there were more surgeries on the horizon.

Because it’s been such a long, hard few years, and also because Poppy’s 80th birthday is September 8th, my Nana had planned a big surprise birthday party this year. I’ve already gotten a plane ticket to go back for the party the first week in September. My  out-of-town family members were going to be doing the same. We were all so excited to celebrate this milestone with the patriarch of our family.Ashley & Chris Jordan's Wedding

Photo courtesy of Magan at UrbanGrey Photography

But life had other plans.

Nana called early this morning with the news. When she awoke at 6:00am to take her dog out on a walk, Poppy’s color was not good, she couldn’t find a pulse, and his body was loosing warmth. After having a trained EMT arrive, they confirmed that Poppy had died within the early morning hours sometime during his sleep.

It was as peaceful as it could be. Exactly how everyone says they want to go – he went to bed at night, tucked in tightly next to his love of almost 60 years. He was relaxed, at peace, and he went gracefully without pain.Ashley & Chris Jordan's Wedding

Photo courtesy of Magan at UrbanGrey Photography

So on this day, the day of his passing, I choose to celebrate rather than wallow in misery. Poppy had a long and happy life. He loved deeply, he lived fully, and he was a one-of-a-kind personality. He is truly special and touched the heart of everyone he came in contact with.

Loosing a family member is never easy. Perhaps it is even harder if you don’t live in the same area. There’s a certain amount of guilt I feel for not being there with the rest of the family, selfishly being able to only fly in for the funeral itself, rather than being directly involved with all of the arrangements so as to relieve my poor mother of the burden and responsibility. At the same time, perhaps living out of state is a blessing-in-disguise. While Poppy’s passing is most certainly halting life for my immediate family (brother, sister, and mother are all at Nana’s side right now and surely will be for the days and weeks to come), I am able to continue with some aspects of daily life. Tomorrow is Chris’ 29th birthday and we have a little celebration planned. I think Poppy would want us to continue living…not to put our lives on hold or have the day mired by grief and sadness.

I’ll be back in Texas on Wednesday, as the funeral is scheduled for this upcoming Friday (with a viewing on Thursday). My posts will probably be spotty over the next week or so. I’ll update as often as possible, but I wanted to let everyone know what was going on.

I leave you with this Native American Proverb – it seems only fitting given Poppy’s affinity for the Native American culture:

“When you were born, you cried and the world rejoiced. Live your life in a manner so that when you die the world cries and you rejoice.”

He surely did. He surely did.



  1. I’m so sorry to hear about your loss but glad to know it was peaceful. Go celebrate chris’ 29th and celebrate poppy! Prayers are with you right now and your family sweet friend.

  2. I am so sorry Ashley. I know how much he meant to you and your family. It is hard. My heart goes out to you and your family. I remember all of the fun stories you would tell me about your Poppy and the adventures you would have with him. I love you and miss you and I am thinking about you and your family constantly. Love you!!!

  3. Sorry to hear of your loss, sweetie. That was a beautiful tribute. *hugs*

    Look after yourself and your family, and take whatever time you need.

  4. I’m so sorry to hear about the passing of your Poppy. This is a well-written, respectful post in his memory. And he would be proud.

    Supportive thoughts to you & your family.

  5. Oh hon. I am so sorry to hear of your loss. You have such a wonderful attitude about it — celebrating his life and all the obvious closeness you two shared. Hang in there and stay close to family through this difficult time!

  6. I’m so sorry for your loss. Your poppy is smiling at your happy memories. That last quote that you posted gave me the chills. Beautiful.

  7. Just found your blog through Gina’s and I’m so sorry for your loss. You seem like a beautiful person inside & out. I will be praying for you ❤

  8. I’m so sorry to hear about your grandfather 😦 He sounds like he was a great guy and he obviously has a great family. I’m thinking of you!

  9. I am so sorry for you loss. I am really bad at grieving, but there is comfort in knowing that you will always be able to keep his memories alive. He sounds like such a wonderful man who lead a full life. My thoughts and prayers are with you!

  10. I’m sorry to hear about your grandfather. It sounds like you had very special relationship.

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