Every year on November 18th, I pause and remember my favorite person and childhood hero– my papa. Papa was taken by the cruelest illness 16 years ago that also stole my Grams’ life four years later. I used to think it was unfair that he died when I only had nine good years with him, and I still feel sorry for myself and my family in his absence. I often wonder why some people are allowed to live while others leave before their time; why some children spend over half their lives with their grandparents, but I’ll keep aging without mine to see me and my cousins grow up. I hate that each year, and especially 16 years later, I’m slowly forgetting the way his voice sounded and how he smelled. I have memories of Papa teaching me how to fix cars, staying up all night with me and Conor while we made Lego towers, and watching him and Grams dance to their favorite disco songs in the living room. But the smaller details– the way his sleep apnea machine kept me up till morning, how he always wanted to eat ice cream, and the mixture of his sweat and Old Spice deodorant spread throughout the house– those are slipping away. I think that’s the worst part of grief: knowing that there are parts of my grandparents that I’ll never remember or that I’ll eventually forget. I guess losing both Papa and Grams took some part of my innocence away as I learned about death and loss when I was too young to comprehend their immensity. On the other hand, I was still fortunate enough to spend parts of my life growing up in their house with my favorite cousins, making memories I still remember and cherish today. Some children live in war zones, losing entire families before they can speak of their devastation. Some children aren’t allowed to even grow up. I’m not one of those, so I have to remember that I am incredibly lucky to have loved my Papa and Grams and know that even in their last days, they loved me too.