Last night, I drove my family to my in-laws’ house in Pennsylvania, where we planned to spend the next two days before continuing on to Delaware for our much-anticipated annual vacation in Bethany Beach. It was to be our fourth consecutive summer spending a week in a beautiful beach-side house with my wife’s family; the previous three vacations there had easily been my favorite one-week period in each of the respective years during which they took place.

My in-laws were sound asleep when we arrived at around 1:30 this morning, and we were all sound asleep when my father-in-law headed to the gym at around 5:30, before going to work. Shortly after 7 o’clock, my mother-in-law brought the children into the room where I was sleeping, woke me, and asked that I watch them while she and my wife tried to find out what was going on with my father-in-law, who, according to the phone call my wife received, apparently had collapsed while at the gym. My wife and mother-in-law left the house a short while later and headed to the hospital to which my father-in-law had been taken.

“Is Popop going to die, Daddy?” my children asked me.

“No, guys, I don’t think so,” I answered, and I meant it. I was sure everything was going to be fine. “Everybody dies eventually, but I don’t think that’s what’s going to happen, OK? We’ll just wait to hear from Mommy.”

I love my father-in-law. He has been such a huge influence on me (and countless other people), a true mentor, and one of the things I’ve been most looking forward to about moving to Pennsylvania is getting to spend more time with him on a regular basis.

My wife texted me from the emergency room at 9:15 a.m. The first sentence said, “He’s gone, Jon.”

After sobbing uncontrollably in a back room of the house, then vomiting, I pulled myself together, gathered my children in my arms, and told them I had some sad news that I had to share with them.

“Did Popop die, Daddy?” asked my 5-year-old daughter.

“He did, guys,” I choked out, hugging them both tightly as all three of us burst into tears. “I’m so sorry.”

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