My grandpa, my mother's father, passed away on June 17th at the age of 86. I went to see him on Sunday, June 12th with my son and he had a cough but, in true grandpa fashion, he was making it seem like a big joke and over-exaggerated every one. I held his coffee so he could take sips and he and Casey shared a banana and a donut. It was a surreal moment, me feeding both my grandfather and his great-grandson, but it was comforting and wonderful at the same time. On Thursday, June 16th, my mother called me after visiting grandpa and she sounded sad. She said he wasn't eating or drinking and she was going to try and find him a CD player so he could be soothed. I had a feeling in my gut that I should bee-line over there to see him.
I immediately left work at around 2:30 in the afternoon and headed to the Shoreline Care Center nursing home where Grandpa has been for months. His eyes were wide and scared, his cough was worse and his eyes and mouth were a bit crusted. I tried to help him drink his milkshake. He couldn't suck through the straw. I tried to pour it in his mouth. He coughed afterward and turned his head. He never said a word to me the whole time I was there but I sat with him, held his hand, rubbed his chest and smoothed his hair. I told him I loved him and how he was the best Grandpa I ever had and how lucky Casey was to have met him. I told him we'd take care of grandma if he didn't want to hang on. As I was leaving, several nurses stopped to tell me how he was refusing to eat and drink, how his oxygen intake was low. The hospice person told me they would administer liquid morphine to make him more comfortable.
The next morning, grandpa died. The man that was always quick with a joke or a crude song. The one who would practically insult you with his teasing although he always said those things with love. The man who would take me to play "alley" when I was a little girl when "alley" was nothing more than playing next to the 31 Flavors in the old Carriage Square shopping center. The man who loved Christmas more than anyone I have ever known and lived to spoil his children and grandchildren. The big, strong man I watched go from a golfer and poker player, to someone who walked with a cane, then a walker. The man I watched my husband lift into and out of his car for every family gathering we brought him to. The man who eventually needed to be put in a nursing home, away from his wife of 64 years who also shared his birthday.
Even though we saw this coming, it's still sad. You're never really prepared to lose someone so close to you. I'm comforted in knowing he is no longer alone. No longer being fed yucky hospital food. No longer having to sleep in an uncomfortable hospital bed. No longer having to be around "the crazies." I'm comforted in knowing I got a chance to tell him I loved him before he left us.
MORAL OF THAT STORY: As cliche as it sounds, life is short. Let your loved ones know you love them. Take the time to make that phone call or send that email or drop by.