Friday, 24 May 2013

Saying Goodbye

When Grandpa first had his stroke, the message from the doctors was very serious.  It was massive.  If the bleeding stopped within six hours there might be a chance that he could survive.  Thankfully, the bleeding did stop.  We started talking about therapy and how things would be when he left the hospital.

A few days later, he had a seizure.  And when he awoke, he had even more use of his affected arm than before.  It seemed like a small miracle.  News spread to the small town that they lived about the seriousness of the situation, but also about the positive outlook that we shared.

Then, the seizures kept happening.  The doctors started doing more scans, only to find that his brain was not recovering, that the bruise was getting larger.  They told us that he wasn't going to recover.  They asked my Grandmother to decide if she wanted to keep the IV in his arm.  If they removed it, they said he would pass within 3-5 days in a less painful way.  If they kept it in, they thought he would live 2-3 weeks.

My Grandmother made the agonizing choice of what she thought he would want.  With her children, she decided to remove the IV.  When Grandpa heard the news, he decided to take matters into his own hands and take out the IV himself.

My Grandparents have often come across as rather un-emotional towards each other.  I've never seen them kiss or hug, or hold hands.   I mostly saw their love towards each other in the consideration that they gave to each other, and the time they spent with one another.

After everyone including Grandpa was aware of the situation the atmosphere in the hospital room started to change.  Grandpa started calling meetings with his children to say goodbye to them.

He spent hours with each of them telling them how he loved them.  They told him how they felt for him. They laughed and they shared some of their regrets.   Grandpa wished that he hadn't worked so many long hours and that he spent more time with them as children.

I know he had many of these moments with Grandma too.   I can only imagine the things they must have been saying to each other.  It makes me tear up just thinking of it.  I can't even imagine having to say goodbye to my D.

Grandpa's body was very strong.  Despite having his IV removed, he continued to live for two weeks.  We watched him grow thinner by the day, to the point where his dentures no longer fit.  Mere weeks before, he carried a muscular 200 lbs on his 6ft frame.  He was debating renewing his golf membership at his favourite club, opting instead for the first time in a long time, to play around at various courses instead.

For his last two weeks, he spent a lot of time worrying about the people he loved and his funeral.   He would speak to us in what came out as only a whisper.  He would tell us about the music he wanted played.  Sometimes, my Grandmother would lean in to better understand what he was saying.   She would lift her head up, teary and say "Yes, we'll play Amazing Grace" and kiss him on the lips.   She said that even at the end he never lost his pucker.  She stroked his arm, and they kissed all of the time in their final two weeks.

He wasn't a religious man, but in the end, to my surprise, we learned that he was a spiritual one. I think he found some comfort in quiet moments that he shared with a Pastor.

I like to think of his final weeks as a big love-in.  Where we just showered him with love and warm affection.   I know though, that his final weeks were partially filled with torment.    He had more to give, he wasn't ready to leave us.  And that breaks my heart.  I now know what I want to do for others I know who are dying.  To me, dying has been simplified a bit.  All you need to do for the person is to show up, and shower them with love in whatever way you can give it and they can receive it.

I had the chance to tell Grandpa that I loved him.  I watched him tell D to take care of me.  I wanted to thank him for every thing he did for me that I could remember.  Especially for that summer he hired me to live and work at his business.  I don't know why, but the moment never felt right for me to say these things.  Instead I gave him lots of kisses and rubbed his back when it was sore from laying.

My Grandmother says that she is grateful for small mercies.  She says she can't imagine how some people go through terminal illnesses for not months but years.  I think she's right and thinking of all of the pain that some people endure makes my heart so very heavy.

I think what I learned most from being by Grandma's and my mother's side was death close up.   I saw regrets laid out for all to see, and love freely given.  I saw a mother and a daughter clinging to each other on their deepest days.  I saw my Grandmother vowing to pick up and continue on.

My Grandmother's sister said it was like watching the end of a great love story.  I couldn't have put it better myself.

1 comment:

  1. Wow what an emotional story. Thank you for sharing this with us... I am so sorry for your loss, but it's nice to read about all the love. Sending you a huge hug! xo


I'm interested in what you have to say