Sam drew a breath, long and deep. Jackie held his hand and looked across the bed to their teenage Granddaughter holding his other hand. Softly they whispered words of comfort, letting him know they were there and that it would be okay. One more breath and his life would be over, finished, complete. But then, he sneezed, not once but twice.
Jackie and her Granddaughter looked at each other through their tears and someone in the
room said,” Pop Pop just said goodbye”.
Sam’s seven year battle with cancer had come to an end. He had fought long and hard. On more than one occasion the doctors had said the end was near. His family had spent the past forty- eight hours trying to keep him comfortable and bracing for his passing. No words needed to be spoken. Tonight would be the night.
Two weeks shy of their 44th wedding anniversary, Jackie knew she would honor the
occasion alone. She had met him at fourteen. It was the era of Elvis and James Dean.
At nineteen, in his black leather jacket, jeans and sideburns, he took her breath away.
Jackie had been the new girl in town. Pretty, yet shy, looking older than her years, the
boys lined up to ask her out. Too young to date, Sam persisted until in a moment of
weakness, her parents agreed to let her go to the movies. A month before she turned
fifteen they were married.
Now in their living room turned hospital room she watched him sleep. She could
taste the salt in her tears as the memories of their life played like a movie inside her head.
She remembered when their first baby was born and Sam taught her how to change a
diaper. She had never changed a baby before changing her own. Sam on the hand
considered himself an expert. He was after all the favorite uncle to seven nieces and
After four children and twelve grandchildren they had changed a mountain of diapers
together. Sam took the lead with the babies. Ever so gently he would rock each addition
to the family in his powerful arms. Jackie took over when they were older.
He was the protector, teaching caution. She taught them independence, encouraging them to fly.
Between the two there was a perfect balance.
When the young couples first child was diagnosed with leukemia at eight, they supported each other. Instead of growing apart, they grew closer after her passingLife is better traveled with someone you love. There were children to raise. School,scouts, birthday parties, swimming lessons, 4-H, baseball, volunteering, college,
weddings, funerals, vacations, illness. Together they faced life.
Until now. Now, Jackie would continue the journey alone or maybe not. Throughthe years Sam was known for his sneezing “fits”, as he would call them. For no apparent reason he would start sneezing and continue sneezing, five, ten minutes or more. Each episode would leave him out of breath and exhausted.
The night before Sam’s memorial service the family gathered in their youngest son’s home. As the family was reminiscing someone in the room sneezed. A grandchild whispered, “Pop Pop is here”, and the room grew quiet, yet peaceful.
The next day as the minister approached the pulpit, he sneezed, not once but twice.Side glances were passed among the family. To them it was a sign from Sam, lettingthem know he was there, still watching over and protecting his family.
As time passed there would always be two sneezes; over looking the SmokeyMountains, when their daughter expressed sadness that her father wasn’t there, a hiker walked by and sneezed twice. At Jackie’s job interview, her soon to be new boss reached out to shake her hand, only to withdraw it quickly to cover her mouth,
as she sneezed twice. Walking into a restaurant to celebrate granddaughter Samantha’s thirteen birthday, the woman holding the door sneezed twice. And at the birth of the first great grandchild, as the doctor walked into the waiting room, he had to stop and sneeze twice, before informing the family, the baby was a girl.
Sam had found a way to show his love and support for his family even from beyond the grave.