When I was instructed to write a paper on a personal death experience there was no hesitation about who it would include. I have only experienced death twice and both occurred within a few short years of each other. These lives were lost to the number one killing disease in this country, the disease of cancer. These lives lost shaped my families lives more than any other singular event that happened previously. When I think of these lost souls, I remember their smiles. I remember their sweet countenance. These lives were lived extraordinarily simple, and by this I mean they were not extravagant spenders or boastful vacationers; they lived life great every day! These lives were of Fred Camp and of Lucille Camp. Here is the excerpt from the Atlanta Journal Constitution(AJC) the day following my grandfather’s passing:
Fred Walter Camp, Jr., age 78, of Covington, died Sunday, January 30, 2005. Funeral services will be held on Tuesday, February 1, 2005, at Ward’s Rockdale Chapel at 2:00 PM, with Rev. Ed Brumlow officiating. Interment will follow at Fairview Memorial Gardens in Stockbridge. Mr. Camp was a native of Fulton County and a proud US Navy Veteran, having served during WWII and the Korean Conflict. He is survived by: daughter, Cindy Francis, Covington; son, Fred C. and Vivian Camp, of Decatur; Grandchildren, Tony Camp, Robbie Rummle, Chris Francis, David Francis, John Francis; great-grandchildren, Adam Francis, Michael Rummle, Breanna Rummle; brothers, Donald Humphries, FL, Gary Humphries, AL; sister, Martha DeMent, MO, and several nieces and nephews. He was preceded in death by his wife, Lucille Camp
My objective to adding this write up from the AJC is to implore the sobering feelings that I felt on the very day of their passing. I was only able to locate my grandfather’s obituary online, but not my grandmother’s. My memory serves me best in this situation because I remember more of my grandfather’s life than I do of his passing, and I remember more of my grandmother’s passing than I do of her life.(emphasis my own) How could it turn out this way that I could remember more of one than the other? They were a vital part of my childhood, so much so that some of my fondest memories were times spent at their house on the weekends. For example, I will wake on an occasional Saturday and have a quick memory flash and see images of Nanny, that’s what we called her, making her homemade pancakes, bacon and savory scrambled eggs with just the right amount of cheese mixed in. If I try hard enough I can close my eyes and remember what it felt like to wake up on their sixties style couch that I slept on while I was there and smell this delicious breakfast that she was making. I wasn’t hurried or rush to go and do anything because they enjoyed having all of us there. That’s right; I was rarely at their house alone. One of my older brothers always wanted to be there too! Their house was what every kid wanted their grandparent’s house to be, that place to get away from mom and dad. My grandparents knew this and didn’t seem to mind one bit.
My granddad lived a full life! You can tell this by the very short excerpt of the obituary from the AJC. Having fought in both World War II and the Korean conflict PawPaw, my granddads nickname, knew how to work with his hands. PawPaw had a small car graveyard full of old Mercury and Plymouth cars that would never drive again. It was a blast growing up around a man that wanted you around. It didn’t matter if he asked you go grab a wrench and when you brought it up to him you ended up dropping it into the engine compartment because your hands were covered in grease from trying to find the one. Ya know the wrench that had the right numbers on it that matched what he called out for you to get, but when you grabbed one you weren’t really sure if it was right, so you would go back and switch sizes. Yes, I was like any other kid who wanted to please their PawPaw by doing something right the first time only to end up dropping it into one of the hardest to reach places of the car. He chuckled and said “oh Son!”
When it happened to Nanny first, we were all devastated. It was the most tragic event our family had experienced to date. This is my mother’s mom we are talking about! My grandparents showed great relationship skills and a pure love that I wouldn’t see in anyone else if they were to leave. My grandparents never, and I mean that not once, argued in front of us kids. Their love for each other was the most genuine I had experienced. Remembering now how they loved each other then makes perfect sense why we all wanted to be over there, because they were able to effectively love us the same. The difference between my grandparents and my parents was that there always seemed to be a gap between my parents relationally. I describe them that way to show why when Nanny was diagnosed with cancer how close we all were to her. When Nanny started having to wear bonnets to hide from losing her hair it was the realest moment I think any of us had of the entire experience. Both my grandparents fought valiantly against the disease. They fought as best they could. Their fight against cancer was very much alike with minor differences. Nanny would relax more and take longer naps, whereas PawPaw would have to be told over and over to come inside and “quit worrying about them old cars” as my mom would say. My mom showed incredible strength during both of their fights against cancer.
My clearest memories of their experiences, outside of remembering them as people, are those moments spent in the hospice home. The moments of not knowing when or how anything else might happen while we were there, simply waiting it out. There is one pivotal moment for me out of all the moments we had as a family that is a direct result of my life today. This moment is having the opportunity to hold my grandmother’s hand when she took her last breath. There was an inward shift. This cancer of the lungs caused by smoking, that all of my family members were doing, is something that I would never, ever do! There was no public announcement that because of this disease and because of their fight against it that I have made this decision. It was personal to me! I didn’t have to talk myself into doing it, it just never seemed physically appealing to me from that moment on. There were multiple times where I had taken a smoke of a cigarette but it was never a habit. Today as it stands am the only one in my family that does not smoke(nieces and nephews are excluded for obvious reasons). This memory of their amazing lives and this inward shift have cultivated a life of continued freedom and pure example that God can and will rescue anyone. His presence was there in their passing and I am the example of that. It could very well be that Nanny’s will held on until I was able to get ahold of her hand and make that physical contact so that I could be this example to the other family members of God’s rescuing power. I believe that as the truth!