I remember it well- it was September 2, 2003. I drove to Tampa International Airport to pick up my wife, Loiana, and my two-year-old (then) daughter, Virginia. They were returning to Florida from a mission trip to Brazil.
When I picked Loiana and Virginia up, they were both tired for the long trip. I was tired from rising early to pick them up and from driving to the airport. I desperately wanted time with my wife and daughter.
As we left the airport, we decided that we would visit my Grandfather the next day. My Grandfather was in Hospice care at his house because he was dying.
However, somehow I took the exit that led to his house. To this day I do not know how I ended up making that turn. If I would have kept on to a later exit we would have headed home. I drove down State Road 52 and past US 41. If I would have made a right on US 41 we would have headed home. If I would have made a right on Shady Hills Road we would have headed home. Still I headed right toward Grandpa and Grandma's house.
When we arrived he was in his bed and only drifting in-and-out of consciousness. I looked upon my Grandpa- the man who had made me laugh so many times with his quick wit and "Red Skelton-esque" humor. He was now so frail. The man who ran a laundry business and was very active in the local union in New York was now just barely who I remembered. I spoke to him and he barely acknowledged. My wife spoke to him and he barely acknowledged.
My grandpa, a nominal "Catholic," was given "Last Rites" by a minister from his church. I witnessed it and prayed for my grandfather to receive salvation from hearing the pieces of Scripture that were used in this ceremony. The minister left. Only our family and a Hospice nurse remained.
We spent time with Grandpa and Grandma that morning. Eventually we had to leave. We went to say good-bye to my Grandpa. When we whispered to him that we were leaving and loved him- with gentle kisses to his forehead- he did not respond. Not right away. As we straightened to leave, he said, "I love you Virginia," in a voice that had what strength he could muster at that point.
I tried not to cry. And to this day I can hardly contain my tears when I tell this story. For my Grandpa to tell my daughter that he loved her- the final words we would ever hear him say- meant more than if he said something to me.
That afternoon we received a call from my Dad that my Grandpa had passed on. Our final memory of him was a wonderful one despite his condition. I will never forget his words or his tone- he said, "I love you Virginia."