Dear Johnny,

2020 isn’t beginning as I hoped. I went and got the flu shot on Tuesday the 7th. On Wednesday, I came down with what I thought was the flu. I vomited for twenty four hours and nothing I did would stop it. Thursday, the ninth I called the doctor and he insisted I come in. He immediately ruled out the flu. He checked my stomach and sent me immediately to the hospital. Yup, Gramma went grumbling the whole way. I did briefly consider blowing the doctor off because he’s always such a worry wart.

Too make a long story short. I had acute pancreatitis and my duct was blocked with a gall stone. I got to spend quality time in the hospital, on a liquid IV diet until they operated on Monday. I got another battle scar about the size of the one you had on your leg.

Remember how impatient you were to open your tools that you had just gotten at Home Depot with your Dad. That box cutter was sharper than you expected, wasn’t it. I still remember how upset Jacob was that you passed out seeing your own blood. You didn’t like the hospital anymore than I do. Necessary evils, that you and I tried our dangest to avoid.

Jacob had his first wrestling match this weekend. He doesn’t have your grasp of the mat yet. He laid there while the boy was holding him down and didn’t resist. He seemed comfortable in the pictures, your Dad sent me. I am so proud of your Dad. He was coaching Jacob at the meet.

I’m not ready to go to wrestling matches yet. My stomach knotted right up just looking at Jacob. Wrestling was always your thing. You were really good on the mat, Johnny. I haven’t been able to look at all of your wrestling pictures yet.

Do you remember that match when you were young like Jacob against the girl and you lost the match? You were so mad you lost, especially since your opponent was a girl. You never let that happen again, did you?

You’re great grandfather died on January 10th while I was in the hospital. The memorial service is in May. It’s been along time since I’ve been back to Vermont.  He had breathing issues for a long time, his death wasn’t a shock like yours was. My father was 83. He would have been proud of your carpentry skills. My father loved working with wood like your Dad and you.

We love you and miss you so much, Johnny.


Background and 1st letter

On July 1, 2019, we were driving back from a visit with my mother-in-law when we received a phone call from my oldest son. That phone call changed our life drastically.  Our thirteen year old grandson was dead. He died in a fluke accident on his dirt bike.

Johnny wasn’t new to dirt-biking but he was new to this bike, he had gotten the bigger bike the day before and this was his first time riding it. The anguish in my son’s voice still haunts me today. We all went through the motions, the arrangements,  and the funeral.  The community turned out in droves. It was awesome seeing all the people that my grandson touched in his short life.

There was tribute football game for him as a fundraiser for the scholarship that’s been established in his name. His teammates played their hearts out on the field, and wept in the locker room as the realization finally hit home. Johnny wouldn’t ever be there again.

Over time, people go on with their lives. But it’s not as easy for the family to simply jump back into normal routines. Nothing is the same as it was.  As a grandparent, your role is definitely different because you have to be strong to help your child get through the horrendous loss of their child. As a mom, you want to make everything all right again. But this isn’t something you can fix or change. It’s every parents worse nightmare, seeing their child in so much pain that you forget you’re in pain too!  You lost someone precious too! But no one really asks how you are?  I’m blessed to have friends that do.

So many people have nudged me to write, to do something … anything. I’ve scribbled in my journal and blogged randomly but nothing has inspired me. I’ve crocheted a lot recently just to be busy. It helped me get through the holidays. But my wrist isn’t thrilled with the repetitious motion. A friend of mine on Writing. com offered a suggestion that hit a chord with me in a way I didn’t expect.  She suggested I write letters to my grandson, tell him all the things I feel and wished I had the opportunity to say.  Initially, I resisted but the seed was planted.

I decided to take her suggestion and write letters to my grandson for a year. Fifty-two letters to Johnny, all the things I wished we had time to say.

Dear Johnny,

It’s been five months since you died. We’ve cried a million tears since that day. Who knew the words in the song you loved would hit home so hard. “The sharp knife of a short life” from the song If I Die Young by The Band Perry. I found your liking of the song odd when you told me but now I’m wondering if you knew your time here would be short. “Funny, when your dead how people start listenin”

Did you think I didn’t listen enough? I’ve spent a lot of time wondering that. Did I listen to you? Did I listen enough to your Dad?  I wish I had more than I did…  I’m trying to now.

If I Die Young
The Band Perry  (the song was written by Kimberly Perry)
“If I die young bury me in satin
Lay me down on a bed of roses
Sink me in the river at dawn
Send me away with the words of a love song
Uh oh uh oh
Lord make me a rainbow, I’ll shine down on my mother
She’ll know I’m safe with you when
She stands under my colours, oh and
Life ain’t always what you think it oughta be, no
Ain’t even grey, but she buries her baby
The sharp knife of a short life,
Well, I’ve had just enough time
If I die young bury me in satin.
Lay me down on a bed of roses
Sink me in the river at dawn
Send me away with the words of a love song
The sharp knife of a short life,
Well I’ve had just enough time
And I’ll be wearing white when I come into your kingdom
I’m as green as the ring on my little cold finger
I’ve never known the lovin’ of a man
But it sure felt nice when he was holding my hand
There’s a boy here in town says he’ll love me forever
Who would have thought forever could be severed by
The sharp knife of a short life,
Well I’ve had just enough time
So put on your best boys and I’ll wear my pearls
What I never did is done
A penny for my thoughts, oh no I’ll sell them for a dollar
They’re worth so much more after I’m a goner
And maybe then you’ll hear the words I been singin’
Funny when you’re dead how people start listenin’
If I die young bury me in satin
Lay me down on a bed of roses
Sink me in the river at dawn
Send me away with the words of a love song
Uh oh (uh oh)
The ballad of a dove
Go with peace and love
Gather up your tears, keep ’em in your pocket
Save ’em for a time when your really gonna need ’em oh
The sharp knife of a short life,
Well I’ve had just enough time
So put on your best boys, and I’ll wear my pearls”
Love, Grammy