A Special Man

Paul Bailey Harrison breathed his last breath this morning after being unresponsive for nearly two days…a bittersweet moment for family and friends who will miss this special man known as Grandpa Paul.

After six weeks of recovering from brain surgery and doing remarkably well, Paul fell on Saturday morning while preparing his breakfast. Thankfully he managed to dial 911.

He was flown to St. George via helicopter with my sister Leslie, after being told that he may not make the flight. My other sister Vonna stayed behind to notify the rest of us, to make arrangement for Tater (Grandpa’s dog), and to gather a few things before driving over. It was a sobering moment when Sterling and I got the call from Vonna, telling us that if we wanted a chance to see Paul, we needed to drive to St. George as quickly as possible.

He did make the flight, but once examined, it was obvious that one of the cavernous malformations (the inoperable one on his brainstem) had grown, and there was nothing his wonderful neurosurgeon could do. The damage was done.

That evening and all day Sunday were spent with family members visiting around Grandpa Paul’s hospital bed, hugging him, holding his hand, rubbing his legs, and telling him over and over how much he was loved. He seemed to be aware when someone new joined the “party” and then would settle again into his pattern of breathing while we visited. As one of my nieces put it, “It was so nice having everyone there, to feel so much love in one room. We have a special family. And Paul is a special man. I personally feel so much more at peace knowing that he was able to feel all of our love.”

There was a period of maybe an hour or so on Sunday morning when he opened his eyes briefly off and on and responded to yes and no questions with a nod. Those of us who were in the room will never forget that tender mercy…to know he wasn’t in pain (even though his breathing was labored), to know he wasn’t anxious, to know he was excited to see his sweetheart, and to acknowledge that he'd "fought a good fight!"

As Sterling and I prepared to drive back home before the snowstorm grew worse, I tenderly kissed this sweet and special man’s forehead as I said my last goodbye. And since none of our girls and their families were able to travel to see him, I told Grandpa Paul my kiss was times 28 for all of our little ones and littlest ones (that’s what he called his grandchildren and great-grandchildren).

Although there are many from Stampin’ Up! who worked with Paul before he retired and who would like to join us, we’ll be honoring and celebrating Paul’s life this weekend as a family with no formal service or fuss…just as he requested, just like Paul!

I’m so glad and grateful we were able to spend a few precious hours with a special man who enthusiastically loved his family, who positively loved life with all its challenges, and who is now happily reunited with my Mom Heather!