Monday, October 5, 2015

The Love of a Grandfather: A Tribute

by Bethany Conkel

The following article is a tribute to an incredible grandfather who loved his grandson unconditionally.

This afternoon (Oct 2, 2015) I lost my father very unexpectedly from what we believe to be a heart attack. He was young – only 56. He was an amazing man, an incredible father, and a wonderful grandfather.

He was one of the first people we called when we learned my son had anencephaly and would not live long after birth (March / 2012). He was one of the people who encouraged us to carry our son to term, and not just carry him to term, but to fully embrace our son during my pregnancy and celebrate the time we had with him while he was still inside me. I remember my father telling me that he wanted to be a grandfather to our son – even if it was only during the pregnancy! He was devastated that our son would not be staying on earth long, and he said he wanted memories of his grandbaby regardless of when he had to make them. I remember looking at him and thinking, “There’s no way I can do that. No way can I celebrate during a pregnancy that I know will end in the death of my baby. How? How am I supposed to do that? How can I make happy memories, let alone allow others to do the same?” As we continued to talk, the idea of embracing this life fully began to grown on me and I was able to see the importance of what he was encouraging me to do. The idea of creating a bucket list took form and became a reality.

My father took part in the bucket list in many ways. He would talk to our son through my belly every time he saw me. He would often would kiss my pregnant belly and tell our son how much he loved him and how glad he was to be his grandpa. My dad also took the time to read to my son – he had written a novel several years before my pregnancy and he wanted to make sure his grandson heard his book! It took hours… and my dad loved each one of them. I would sit next to him on the couch and he would read and read and read; he finished the book shortly before my delivery date. My dad came to a special 3D ultrasound and beamed with pride as he watched Amalya move on the screen. My father, a long-time pastor, also incorporated my son into many of his sermon. He was truly able to make memories with his grandson.

My father was at the hospital the entire time on the day we delivered Amalya. He prayed over us before I left for my scheduled C-section and was one of the first to greet us in the hall when I was finished. He made sure to be the first grandparent to hold Amalya and ohhhh, did he beam with pride! 

When we realized that it was time for Amalya to pass away, my father sat next to me, laid his hands on him and prayed over him as his heart slowly stopped beating. He was truly a proud, proud grandpa!

My father insisted on being the one to perform our son’s memorial service, even though he knew it would be difficult for him. He spoke about the amazing impact our son had on the lives of people all over the world. He spoke of the legacy our son had through his organ and whole body donations. He spoke of the way the Lord used him, even with a brief life. He also spoke of the love he had for his grandson.

Shortly after receiving our diagnosis, I remember my father telling me that our journey was going to be difficult. He said there would be days where I would question everything. Days where I would cry. Days where I would be angry. Days where I would want to share my son with the world, and others where I would want to hide away. There would be days of joy and excitement, but also days of sorrow. He told me no matter what type of day it was that he would be there for me every step of the way. And, he was! I could always be honest with my dad about how I was feeling in regards to my son. He was always there to listen, support, encourage, and love me – regardless of the day, feelings, or emotions.

After Amalya’s brief time here on earth, my dad continued to be an amazing grandfather to the memory of our son. He loved to hear about the lasting impact our son had through his organ and tissue donations. He was thrilled for me every time I was invited to a public speaking event to share about Amalya’s life. He would also brag to complete strangers about the things his grandson had accomplished in his short time here. My father and I frequently had conversations about Amalya and he would always say how thankful he was to be involved in his life.

This past year, on our son’s 3rd birthday and heaven day (September 10, 2015) my Father made sure I was not alone, rather that I was able to spend the day with him and my mom. The last picture we have of my father was taken that day. He was kneeling the ground next to my mother blowing bubbles in memory of Amalya.

He was truly an amazing grandpa all the way to the end. 

The day before my father passed, we had a conversation over lunch about a few of the ways Amalya’s legacy continues to grow and some of the upcoming events that I will be speaking at. He was so proud!

When I learned that my dad passed I couldn’t help but think how excited he would be not only to meet his Lord and Savior, but also to see his grandson again!

Sometimes I think it is easy to forget about the love grandparents have for a grandchild whose life was (or will be) brief. It is easy to focus on the mom and dad, but for some reason the grandparents get overlooked. I want to take this moment and thank all of the grandparents who have loved their grandchild during a brief life and continue to love them even after they have passed. I hope you were able to make some amazing memories with your grandbaby while they were here on earth. If your grandbaby is still here, I hope you are able to embrace the time you have and are able to create memories with your grandbaby, even if it only during the pregnancy. Your love and support is so very, very appreciated. It is felt and has a lasting impact.

~ ~ ~

Bethany Conkel lives in Ohio and is married to her wonderful husband, Eric. She is the mommy to two amazing children – one who is in heaven, the other here on earth. Bethany carried her precious son, Amalya Nathaniel (meaning: “work of the Lord”, “given by God”) to term after receiving the diagnosis of anencephaly when she was 11 weeks pregnant. Amalya lived for 1 hour and 20 minutes before taking hold of the Lord’s hand. After he passed, his liver, pancreas, and whole body were donated to scientific research. Bethany has since created a website about neonatal organ, tissue, and whole body donation called Purposeful Gift to help other families explore the option of donation. She is also a certified Birth and Bereavement Doula through and serves with Sufficient Grace Ministries.


Unknown said...

This is beautiful. Thank you so much for sharing.

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