Charles Eldon Lawrence.
Born May 9, 1927.
My mom’s dad.
Skeeter to everyone who knew him.
He grew up on the family farm in Lake Park, Iowa. He lived his entire life on that farm, growing corn and soybeans, raising cows and pigs. And my mom and aunt, too, of course.
He was a man of many interests. There wasn’t much he couldn’t figure out, from tinkering with electronics and farm equipment to mastering computers and the world wide web. He was a seeker of knowledge and life experience.
When he was in his forties, he became a pilot. No other reason than he wanted to.
As he got older, and his body began to break down, he developed something like Lou Gehrig’s disease. As a lifelong farmer, losing the use of his body was devastating. Confined to a wheelchair and increasingly being told what he couldn’t do, he longed for a final flight to heaven.
The summer of 2013, my mom and I scheduled a trip to Iowa. Her from Oklahoma; me from New York. She would arrive a full three weeks before I joined. The purpose was to spend time with my grandparents and to start going through their house, paring down their belongings. By this time, my grandfather was in a nursing home, and my grandmother was in an assisted living facility after having fallen and broken her hip. It was unlikely either of them would be able to live in the house on the farm again.
A couple days before I was scheduled to arrive, my grandfather had a heart attack. He was 86 years old and already a few years past his expiration date, by his own estimation. When given the option to medically intervene, he gave a hearty, “No, thank you!” This was his ticket out.
My grandpa’s condition was touch-and-go. He would seem low energy and uninterested in food one minute and be cracking jokes and asking for Sprite the next. Regardless of the particulars, the consensus was that this was his final descent.
Should I change my flight and come immediately? Or just let it play out as scheduled? I had never been in the room when someone died, and I wasn’t sure I wanted to be.
I decided to stick with my original flight, and over the next two days, I had this reoccurring vision. I was singing over my grandfather as he passed. I couldn’t make out the song, but the vision remained consistent.
When I arrived at the hospital, my grandfather was still lucid. He greeted me with a smile and asked me, “How do you make a Kleenex dance?” I didn’t know. “You put a little boogie in it.”
That’s my grandpa!
Within two hours of my arrival, he took a turn. My mom, aunt, and I were in the room with him. I hadn’t told my mom about the vision yet. I kept hoping I would get some clarity before sharing it. I also felt a little silly. What did it mean? What was the song? Was it really a vision or some manifestation of my fear and discomfort?
My grandpa had lost consciousness, and his body was shutting down. My aunt stepped into the bathroom to wet a cloth to dab on his forehead.
I took a deep breath and told my mom about the vision.
“I know what song it is,” was her response.
My grandfather loved the Frank Sinatra song “Fly Me to the Moon” and had requested it be sung as his body exited the church at his funeral, “on his way out”.
It had been my mother singing over him in my vision, not me.
As my grandfather slowly made his way over the rainbow, my mother sang:
Fly me to the moon
Let me play among the stars
And let me see what spring is like
On Jupiter and Mars
In other words, hold my hand
In other words, I love you
While she, my aunt, and I stood witnessing his long-awaited journey home, she sang it through three times. As she completed the final refrain, he breathed his final breath and was gone.