R.I.P. John E. Devine

John E. DevineMy grandfather passed away today. His health had been failing of late but until a couple of weeks ago, the worst problem he ever had was being a bit overweight and his kidneys having some problems. He lived over 91 years which was quite a marvel given his family history. The rest of his brothers mostly did not live beyond 65 years and his mother and father were not long lived. I joked of late that he was like the Energizer Bunny, “Still Going…”

He had just come home from the hospital yesterday and was looking forward to being home. He told my mom, “I don’t want to go back to the hospital.” I can’t blame him. He had been hospitalized a few times over the last weeks for blood clots in his lungs, renal failure and some other issues. He was looking forward to seeing the great-grandkids for Easter.

My mom went to work today and my dad met a friend for breakfast. Both of them checked on him before leaving and he was sleeping peacefully. Upon dad’s return home he didn’t see my grandfather in the kitchen so he went to look for him in his bedroom and then in his bathroom. He wasn’t there. Dad found him in his car in the garage and the engine was running. He was slumped over and non-responsive — not breathing and no pulse. The way that sounds is as though it was intentional but I don’t think that was the case. I think he was having a problem and got scared. His first instinct was to get in the car and head to the hospital. My generation would simply call 911. That wasn’t my grandfather. My dad called 911 and began CPR. Fortunately his friend was there with him so he was able to help with the CPR. He was pronounced dead upon arrival at the hospital. Due to the circumstances of his death, there coroner is involved. I hope whatever it was that killed him was quick and relatively painless.

He was fortunate to have lived a very full life with all of his mental faculties and in relative good health. In recent years, I felt very sorry for my grandfather. Everyone who was his peer had long since died. I can only imagine how lonely this made him feel. He loved his family and especially his great-grandsons. But the most important member of his family besides my mother was his wife Naomi (my grandmother) and she passed away over 10 years ago. I got the sense that he was ready to go whenever the time came.

I have the fondest memories as a child visiting my grandparents. For as long as I knew my grandfather, he had a head full of white hair. As a kid, that made him always seem old to me. He was always very well dressed. Not in a pretentious way, but rather like it was his duty to present himself well. He was an avid reader with a particular focus on the Civil War and was very knowledgeable on an amazing variety of subjects. One of the most humorous memories I have as a child is how we would walk whenever we went out. His hand was always on my neck like a leash. I didn’t mind at the time and when I asked him about it later in life, he’s not sure why he did it. Regardless, it brings a smile to my face to think about it. My sister and I also share a very fond memory of him making us wonderful buttermilk pancakes in the morning. I can still taste them.

My mom and dad are doing well all things considered. They have been living with my grandfather and taking care of him for over 10 years. The arrangement has had it’s share of problems but my parents and grandfather did an amazing job of getting along under what were a sometimes difficult circumstances. My dad is taking it very hard, feeling that he wasn’t there or there soon enough. That, of course, is not at all true. I feel for him and wish I could help him deal with what he’s feeling but I’m at a loss for how to comfort him yet. I hope it will come.

He will be cremated and his ashes will be spread with his wife’s at Lover’s Point in Pacific Grove, CA. She wanted to have her ashes spread in Carmel, CA but there are restrictions over Carmel’s airspace (of course, typical Carmel!) A memorial service will be held in a few weeks.

Goodbye, Grandfather. You were greatly loved and you will be missed even more so.


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