I haven’t talked about it on-air much, but this past week has been one of the toughest. My father-in-law passed away after being diagnosed just a few short months ago with stage IV lung cancer. We’ve been devastated to say the least.

He had an amazing bond with his first grandchild, our 3-year-old Atticus. Atti as we call him for short was diagnosed a year ago with autism. His grandfather never treated Atti differently and had nothing but love and faith in him. You’ve never seen a kid light up like a Christmas tree more than when PopPop and Noni came over.

Atti was missing his grandfather for the last few months. He used to see him two or three times a week but with the illness and hospitalization he wasn’t allowed to see him much at all.

When the end came unexpectedly on Memorial Day we struggled with many things. Among them, how to tell a mostly nonverbal boy with autism that he’d never see his PopPop again. The moment came while I was out of the house and she was home blowing bubbles for Atticus. Whenever she does this she’ll tell him to pop the bubbles as it’s one of the words he’ll sometimes say. Without thinking, she said that word two times close together.

Atticus heard it as, “PopPop” and suddenly was beaming and went charging to the front door thinking his PopPop was finally back to play with him.

My wife knew she had to do it then. She sat Atti down on the couch and talked to him gently. She reminded him of how I’d already told him several times that his PopPop had been sick. She explained in the gentlest way she could that PopPop had gotten so sick that he couldn’t get better no matter how hard he tried. And that he wouldn’t be able to see PopPop anymore because he had to go to a place where sick people go when they can’t get better. That his PopPop didn’t want it this way and that PopPop still loved him very much, but that he wasn’t going to see him anymore.

Atticus got very quiet and sad and laid at his mother’s side. He remained perfectly still for five minutes while a single tear escaped his eye and followed his cheek. Finally he quietly got up, walked to the gate at the bottom of the stairs, and said sadly, “Night night now.”

Atticus understood.

Our hearts are as broken as his, but it’s that our boys won’t see their grandfather that hurts the most.

A few days later my wife wrote something that’s very personal. She wrote a goodbye to his grandfather for Atticus since he cannot yet. My wife said she’d be happy to have me share what she wrote.

“If Atti could say goodbye"

Oh how I miss you PopPop
Now that you’re gone
I miss the way you’d pick me up
The way you were so strong

I miss you being silly
I miss the games we played
I just miss you oh so much PopPop
And I wish you could have stayed

I wish you could have seen how much I’m doing now
How much I’m trying to talk
I remember how excited you got
When I first started to walk

I thank you for all the times you were there
Even if you didn’t have to be
When my mommy was worried and my daddy busy
There you would always be

I was your first grand baby
What an honor I must say
To be related to such a wonderful man
In any single way

I will never forget your cuddles
Or the way you held my hand
The silly voices that you made
Or how you called me your little man

I still have a lot of work to do
To get to where I need
But I know you’ll be there right next me
Pushing me to succeed

I promise to give Noni lots of hugs
Since you no longer can
I promise as much as you were proud of me as a boy
You’ll be even prouder of me as a man

I know I wasn’t your typical grandchild
And that I’ll never be
But you never cared for ordinary
And you loved me just for me

I couldn’t have asked for a better PopPop
For you were the best
I’m glad you’re no longer in pain PopPop
Now try to get some rest

There’s so much I will miss about you
So much I’ll eventually want to say
But mommy and daddy are here to remind me
Of your legacy every day

More From New Jersey 101.5 FM