My grandpa Jack has been suffering from demetia and minor strokes the past few months. He’d wake up in the middle of the night and not know where he was or who my grandma was.
Heartbreak began when he started giving us “talks.” He knew his time was ending and he knew he had to start telling my brother and I how proud he is of us.
I’d taken him to the neurologist myself with grandma and they’d admitted multiple times that he had been on too much medication- his mind was foggy but seemed to be okay for him to drive and do normal things again.
This Wednesday, my mom called my brother and I saying,
"Your Grandpa flipped a switch. He shot Grandma June."
As you can imagine, Chris and I began sobbing our hearts out.
The man who’d helped raise us as children and, arguably, spent more time with us than our own dad had just shot our sweet, innocent, Christian, inspiring, beautiful Grandma. They’d been married 56 years, he’d never laid a finger on her.
What happened was: they’d gone to Bible study that morning, decided to go to the casino for lunch and gambling with friends, but Grandpa claimed he didn’t feel well. Grandma became annoyed and started “nagging” him and calling him names like, “baby.”
After they’d gotten home, he claims she’d kept nagging him for ten minutes.
He snapped and said he was grabbing a gun.
She said she didn’t believe him.
He said I have the gun in front of your face, she was almost entirely blind so she didn’t believe him.
He said shut up then shot her three inches away from her right cheek.
She died on the bed, the one I shared with her when I’d sleep over as a kid.
He tried to shoot himself three times but missed and grazed his head.
He went to the backyard and fell to his knees, sobbing.
He called the police and surrendered himself.
Our Grandpa Jack is not there. He died with Grandma June.
When we visit him in prison or the mental hospital, he will be a ghost.
He knows he will die in his cell, but he doesn’t know what’s happened.
He is gone and now we’re limited to thirty minute talks Saturdays and Sundays, scheduled well in advance.
When my dad visited, I told him to tell Grandpa that I know he was wrong, but I forgive him, and I still love him.
He replied, “that will look good in court.”
My time with my “grandpa” is now literally measured.
We’re coping. We’re angry. We’re sad. We’re confused.
My grandma’s funeral is Thursday and yes, we will lose it.
Her favorite holiday is Easter, and now she will be spending it with Jesus himself.
Selfishly, all I have of her is a silly Easter card she sent a week ago with her silly drawings of bunnies hopping and the Cross poorly drawn in the corner due to her eyes.
I’ll never throw it away, I’ll never think of murder when I think of my Grandpa, I’ll never think of my “poor” Grandma. That is not my family.
My brother went on the news to explain our family’s suffering, and hopefully, get people to stop calling our grandpa a “sexist, brainless murderer.”
I’ve never felt so much love and support from friends, family and strangers in my life. This nightmare has shed light on God’s love.
Jesus died for the sins of humanity. God will forgive my Grandpa.
The hardest line to pray is,
"forgive those who trespass against us," but I’ll always love my real Grandpa Jack Lang.
April 20th, 12:23AM update:
My dad just got home from Milwaukee and meeting my grandpa in jail.
His bail was set at $500,000 cash, meaning the judge did not want him out under any circumstance.
Everyone keeps saying it in Church and during this Easter weekend, obviously, and it terrifies me- thinking about my Grandpa being judged.
Anyways, to show how out of it he is, he forgot who his brother was during the visitation and he doesn’t remember most of the legal advice he’s being given. It makes it extremely hard to sort things out.
My dad returned home 20 years older- saying “okay let’s go to steak n shake like we promised,” but we made him go to bed.
Before he did, he told us grandpa signed power of attorney over to us so now we can work to get him in a mental institution instead of jail so we can visit and he can get help.
One of the most interesting things I’ve learned this weekend:
I was sitting in Good Friday service, balling my eyes out, watching our church be cloaked in black blankets, watching our congregation mourn the death of Christ.
All I could think about was my Grandma’s death. Her undeserving end to her selfless, gentle life.
On the wall, the new banners made by the newly confirmed kids were hung, and one was 2 Timothy 1:7:
"For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.”
Before all of this, my Grandpa was one of the smartest men I’ve ever known.
He was a volunteer police officer who enjoyed wood working, going out for breakfast, and wearing tshirts with funny sayings on them.
This was his sound mind, and the devil consumed it. Dementia took hold, and manipulated his rationale and love.
I stared at that kid’s stupid banner for a few minutes, wanting to tear the felt letters off but it wouldn’t make a difference.
Update: April 20, 10:30pm
I found an interview I did of my Grandma June when I was about 12 or so. We had to write faith interviews for Confirmation over influential people in our life, and I picked her first.
There are probably 15 questions here, these are my two favorite answers she gave me (I would post them all if I could):
How do you implement faith in your daily life?
"I try to do things that God would want me to do. Go places he’d want me to go. But I fail sometimes. I hit the casino once in a while, and sometimes spend a litte more than I should. And God’s resources should go towards his kingdom. But we all sin when we’re young babies, or until we go to the grave. So we continue to repent. And try harder."
How would you describe your relationship with Jesus?
"Jesus saved my sins.
I’m an older lady now, but he was always in my heart. Even when I was a little child, I felt something happy inside. And I know that he is always there, and I’m going to see him, when I go through that final door I’m looking forward to seeing people that we loved, and first of all, seeing Jesus.
And He’ll bring forth the rest.”
The only picture of my Grandma I have on my computer:
she was always the one behind the camera even though she was half blind haha
Update: April 21, 10:26PM:
just did a live interview with Lauren Lake on the Dr. Drew On Call show. A National TV interview. wow. that is one thing i was not expecting, especially about this.
"Nagged to death."
…if there’s one thing i’ve learned about the world this week it’s that no news source will ever report the story.
everyone keeps telling me i did well, and i’ll admit- i really tried by best.
i don’t remember a word i said because it went so quickly but i remember thinking, “i’ll never feel relief.”
i called my brother who, frankly, was not pleased about the whole thing. his interview was two days ago and he warned me that it’s not satisfying and the only story they care about is that grandpa is “crazy.”
nothing about grandma, nothing about how our family really is/feels.
he was right.
all the world knows now is that my grandpa killed my grandma for “nagging” him, but they’ll never understand.
being back in bloomington, in a big city, where no one knows who i am, the only thing going through my mind daily is a quote I heard somewhere:
"When I’m driving through the streets and I see the common man staring at me,
I’m struck by how little I know of his life,
and how little he knows of mine.”
April 28, 5:37PM
I doubt anyone is still reading this. It’s probably more for myself than anyone, I guess.
I haven’t updated this in a week because, frankly, I’m trying to get rid of this. My family and myself have been through a lot, and being back at college makes everything feel somewhat normal, I guess. At least until things slow down and I sit down and think.
My Grandma’s funeral was Thursday and so many people came.
I sobbed at first, seeing her in the casket. The funeral service did an amazing job stitching her up and you could hardly see anything on her face.
My brother and I sat crying for a long time by her casket.
It was warm and loving like every Lutheran church I’ve been to.
And thank GOD my Grandparents had been preparing their funerals for years so Grandma June orchestrated the entire event. She had each hymn and Bible verse picked out a decade ago.
I can’t explain how comforting it was- it was like she was right there, holding my hand and telling me what to say to let go.
The Pastor recounted the horrible events and told us that he’d seen my Grandpa Jack a few times in jail and said that he is deeply sorry and regrets what he did.
I can’t explain how horrible it was thinking that my Grandpa should have been there, grieving with us. But he was a few miles away. Sitting in a cell.
The Pastor explained that we are not as upset about June’s passing as we are of the fear of death- that a beautiful couple could spend 55 years together, only to have it taken away in less than 10 minutes. But God is there, God is holding us, planning for us, and forgiving. He will forgive my Grandpa Jack.
The funeral ended after my dad, Phil, read a note my Grandma had hand written which I kept.
"TO BE READ BY PASTOR OR A FAMILY MEMBER:
To my family and friends:
Thank you for your love. As I leave this world, my vision is bad. I look forward to seeing you, with perfect vision in heaven. All your medical problems will no longer be an issue. Stay close to God. I’ll see you again!”
Love, Mom and Grandma June.”
After the funeral, we went to the house.
It looked absolutely normal except that all of the pictures and things hanging on the walls were taken down. Our family and friends went through, looking for things to keep.
But my brother and I just stared at the bedroom ceiling.
Three bullet holes
in the corner above the bed.
That’s all I’m going to say about that.
The only things I kept from the house were: one of my Grandma’s sweaters that still smelled like her, some jewelry, an antique Deutsch Biblical painting, and a congratulations certificate they’d received from the governor of Wisoconsin on their 50th wedding anniversary.
May 2 8:24PM
I mean, there are no more “news” updates.
It’s all stagnant and vexing and moving on at this point. This is just updates on my mental health, I guess.
I probably won’t update this for a few weeks unless something happens, but I’d like to think that the worst is over.
I just got off the phone with my Aunt who lost her dad when she was 16. She’s my my mom’s step-sister so her biological dad died, that’s why I can’t talk to my mom as closely; only my Aunts fully comprehend. And she helped so much, she knew everything I’m going through and told me what to expect.
Her and my mom bring up a good point that I feel is worth sharing about my grandparents:
They were not great parents, according to my dad and my other aunt. They were fairly distant and my mom says she had a hard time connecting with them.
After I was born, they said that both my Grandma and Grandpa changed. They worked to be in our lives, to see Chris and I everyday. To play with us, take us to the park, give us sugary food, old clothes, toys, and love and teach us.
They were meant to be Grandparents. We were all meant to be in eachother’s lives.
My parents said that after I was born, my Grandpa became a new man who loved spending time with the family and even became the janitor at my preschool so he’d spend more time with me. He retired from Delco and he and my Grandma devoted the rest of their lives to God, Chris and I (and eventually my cousin Raney), and family. My parents say they felt a new respect and love for them.
I do too.
I’m not alone. I’m not the first person to go through a tough loss, I never thought I was. At least I know I have people and therapists and opportunities.
It’s day by day. It’s people I lean on. It’s God’s love.
That’s the cure and I have it.
I don’t know when I’ll visit Grandpa in jail. I don’t know what I’ll write him. I don’t know what he’s thinking. I don’t know if he’s even thinking. I don’t know if he’s even sleeping at night.
But that’s okay. And I’m learning that.
I think about it daily, I don’t cry daily, but I think about it daily. There are slow, sad days and there are easier, good days.
My Aunt told me that’s going to happen, grief is natural.
But eventually, I won’t grieve. I won’t immediately tear up thinking about death, I won’t think about my Grandpa in prison every time I go to sleep.
God will let this pass through me, God will scar me.
But God will not abandon me.
This will not define me, this will not define my family.
I’m excited to see where I go from here.
June 18, 1:03pm
Things are getting easier for my family and I, but not for my grandpa.
We’ve gotten his entire house cleared out and up for sale on the market.
We’ve asked and hired neighbors to keep the house maintained so it looks nice and since my grandma used to a real estate agent, we have some friends helping sell the house as well.
I still think about my grandparents every day and night. I still have dreams about them.
The other night, I dreamt she hugged me and said,
"lamb, I’m going to rest."
And I started to cry but then she skipped away, up the road from me and said, “don’t be sad now, I’m still here! let’s enjoy what we have!”
I know her well enough to believe that’s exactly what she’s telling me from heaven.
When I dream about grandpa though, he’s usually totally gone. He forgets who or where he is and sometimes blames killing my grandma on me.
In reality, grandpa jack is almost gone.
My dad visited him a few weeks ago to ask why he hadn’t been calling and grandpa said, “Oh i think i fell in my cell…I think I went to the infirmary for a few days.”
Then he said, “Phil, keep my car in good condition in case the guards let me out for an afternoon, I’d like to drive a bit.”
About two weeks ago, my uncle visited him and asked why he hadn’t been calling, this time grandpa said, “Oh, well Hillary has been driving me to Madison a lot lately, she’s a good driver.”
I don’t know how I feel about it. On the one hand, I’m glad he doesn’t seem so miserable. On the other, I hate watching someone I love lose everything, even his mind.
And sometimes, I forget he’s still alive.
August 19, 11:37PM
I’m going to keep this short so I don’t start crying again.
Grandpa has started to call me because my parents told him that I’m very sick.
I’ve had lesions on my liver for about 6 weeks now and doctors haven’t been able to identify what caused them/how to treat them. I’ve had two biopsies, a dozen blood tests, and probably 2-4 CT scans. Just waiting on results any day now, I guess.
After grandpa heard this, he’s been calling me 1-2 times a week.
It’s a curse.
I’ve missed talking to him so much, I’ve missed him so much. I tell him and he says the same thing. He says he loves me and he’s praying for me and he wishes he could take all of the pain from me and carry it himself.
He also tells me how poor his health is getting which stresses me out like crazy.
Needless to say, when we hang up our monitored phone calls after the regulated 15 minutes, I cry my eyes out thinking about how much I love him and how sad it makes me when I think about not being able to see him or hear how bad his memory is or learn how much medical care he needs.
With the amount of stress between my health and dean leaving in two weeks, the amount of worry his phone calls add put me into a new world of sad and frustration.
But I will always pick up the phone because I love my grandpa.
Lord, please help me.
September 14, 1:08am
I’m okay to stop updating this.
My grandpa’s trial is soon. You can google the verdict whenever it shows up.
I’ll never be perfect with everything that has happened. But I’m at a time in my life where I’m okay. I’m still sick, my grandpa still stays in touch. It’s still hard to talk to him. But that’s all.
The rest will be history someday. My grandpa will probably stay in prison for the remaining years of his life, I’ll move to Australia soon and may never be able to speak to him again, but that’s something that I’ve had time to digest. These last few months, as I’ve established before, do not define the relationship and life of my grandparents. These do not salt the memories I have of them growing up. It is bitter, but it’s over now. God has graced me with so much, this will not devastate me for the rest of my life.
So I’d like to keep the last few encounters with my grandpa special. I don’t want to feel obligated to journal them anymore.
These posts have been partially for friends and family to stay in touch but mostly for myself to vent in a place with an audience. As ridiculous as it sounds, I believe we all want attention and platform for our misery. We want people to know what we’re going through. Sometimes, it helps to know a piece of someone’s life story.
You want to hear something remarkable?
A few weeks ago, I realized deleted voicemails on my phone go into a folder and I was able to find some from as far back as last summer.The only message, for some unknown reason, that saved from my grandparents was just a simple 14 second recording of my grandma saying,
"Hi, Hillary, it’s Grandma. We’re just checking to be sure you’re feeling better. I said a prayer for you today and I’m sure Grandpa did too, We love you. God bless! Bye."
After the last 10 weeks of having unidentified lesions on my liver, coping with all of the symptoms, fear, and stress, it was easily the most encouraging and unexpected message I’d ever heard. As if God gave her a few moments with me. Her voice is different that it sounds in my memory.
I miss it very much.
She didn’t deserve any of what happened to her in the last few months, neither does my grandpa.
But it’s a fair reminder, isn’t it? To love while you can, give what you can, and be all you can while you’re able.
Him reading to her everyday because her vision was poor. Her cooking for him everyday. Them holding hands during his hospital visits to remind each other that the other was there.
It’s unconditional love. That’s who they were.
Thank you, Lord, for giving me the gift of my grandma and grandpa.