I was visiting my family in South Georgia a couple weeks ago, playing with my brilliant and beautiful great-granddaughter, Reaghan, when she noticed the pin I wear every day.
“What’s this?” she asked tapping on its face.
“It’s an angel,” I said. “I wear it all the time.”
I knew there would come a day when I would tell her about Uncle Mike. I wasn’t sure where to start. She’s almost 4, so she understands that people die. I wasn’t sure how to tell her why he died, though.
“Well, did you know Pop-Pop had a brother? His name was Mike.”
I told her he got sick and no one would take care of him.
She looked shocked.
“Because he wasn’t rich enough to pay them,” I said. “To some people, money is more important than anything else. Uncle Mike didn’t have much.”
I wanted to focus more on who he was, though, so I told her he was the silliest person any of us had ever known — a real goofball.
She wasn’t sure she believed that.
“Oh no, Grandma’s right,” my son said. “Uncle Mike was a goofball.”
I brought out my phone, where I have a bunch of photos stored. There was one of him in a flower petal bathing cap, another of him making a goofy face, one of him and me making faces …
“He was a goofball,” she said, giggling.
I told her I’d had another angel pin, but it fell off and I never found it, so a man I know who makes jewelry made this one for me.
Reaghan dubbed the pin, The Angel Mike. He watches over all of us, she said, now that he’s a real angel.
That’s when my granddaughter, Meghan, told me she’ll have a memorial table at her wedding next month, and on it will be her favorite photo of her and Mike. It was taken a few days before his wedding, on the day I gave him the handmade quilt that I had just given her as a wedding gift.
When Mike died, Janet gave the quilt back to me because she wanted it to be handed down to another generation, and they had no children.
When I asked Meghan if she would like to have Mike’s quilt instead of me making her one, she cried.
“You’d give that to me?” she choked.
“You’re the first one to get married,” I said. “This is meant to be handed on.”
If only Mike had lived long enough to meet Reaghan. If only he had been here to see Meghan get married. If only … if only …
Nine years ago today, James and Janet went to Goodwill and bought a wheelchair, which they dubbed the Mike-around.
Mike was too weak to walk very far, so they thought the wheelchair was just the thing to get him out onto the deck and into the fresh spring air.
Nine years ago today it was a Thursday. We had 12 days left with him.