I opened up the mailbox and peeked inside. I immediately recognized the handwriting on the small white envelope. Normally, I would have tore the envelope open right away and the names written in the shaky handwriting would have brought a smile to my face.
Not today. Today I brought it inside, set it on the counter. I walked past it, glancing it over throughout the day. I couldn’t bring myself to open it.
Until just now.
A single name, written at the bottom of the card.
And it hit me all over again like a fist to the gut.
And for the first time in a long time, I cried. And cried. And still cry even now.
I miss him so much.
I miss my Grandpa.
Today is the first holiday since my Grandpa’s death.
And today was the day that I would have picked up the phone, called him and thanked him for his service to our country.
Today is the day I would have told him how proud I am of him, like I did every Veterans Day.
But today, I couldn’t pick up the phone to make that call and it hurt like hell.
The initial wave of pain that I felt when he died has been replaced with a sadness I can’t quite explain.
A part of who I am died the day that he left this earth and today I felt the sting of that loss. I can no longer refer to my Grandpa in the present tense. That part of my life is history and a new phase has begun. The phase in which I refer to my Grandpa in the past tense.
I know there are happier days ahead and I look forward to the day I can think about Him and not feel an incredible emptiness in my heart. I look forward to the day I can speak of him in the past tense and feel joy for having had him in my life for as long as I did.
The day after my Grandpa died, my Grandma gave each of my boys something that belonged to their Opa. She gave The Teenager his pocket knife. She gave The Middle Child his favorite silver watch.
This morning when I woke Ethan up for school, I pulled his covers back just a bit. When I did, I saw the shiny, silver watch laying next to him.
“Why is Opa’s watch in your bed, Sweetie?” I asked.
“Because I miss him and I want to feel close to him.” He said.
Yesterday was the first good day that I’ve had since Grandpa died. The anger had somewhat subsided and even though I felt sad, I didn’t cry at all.
Everything changed when I tried to go to sleep. When I closed my eyes, I could see my Grandfather laying in his bed, blue from lack of oxygen, swollen beyond recognition, tongue hanging out of his mouth, double it’s normal size. I could see him flailing around in the hospital bed, eyes swollen shut, unable to talk. I could see his wrists strapped to the bed and the blood around the IV.
I try to think back to when he was happy, full of life and full of funny stories that would make anyone who heard them laugh. I try so hard to go to that place, but I always come back to the horrific images of him in his final hours.
Is this something that time will heal? Because I don’t want to remember that day, or the way that he died. I want to remember his sense of humor, the way that he loved his family and the honorable life he lived.
I’ve been scanning pictures of him all day– I want to make a slide show for the memorial service. As hard as it is, it is helping to remember the good times. I just hope that when I close my eyes to sleep tonight, I can see the images here before me now, and not the ones that tormented me last night.
I want you to know that the kind messages left here have been a great comfort to me. The last two days have been the most emotionally exhausting days of my life. The pain I feel from the death of Grandpa is overwhelming at times. Especially when I have to comfort my children whose hearts are broken by the loss. I am also dealing with anger about his final hours. I can’t erase the picture from my mind of my Grandpa laying in his bed, unresponsive, turning BLUE and my aunt saying “He’s fiiiiiiiiiiiiiiine! We don’t need to call 911. He’s just reeeeeeeaaaally sleepy from the pain medication!” (Translation: Let’s just let him die here in his bed due to lack of oxygen because I’m tired of taking care of him and hey! He wanted to die in his bed anyway!) My siblings wouldn’t stand for her Crazy, so we called 911 shortly after we arrived so that he could get the treatment he needed and die in peace and comfort.
I’m SO ANGRY about it. But mostly sad. Sad that he’s gone. Sad that it happened the way that it did. Sad that people could be so cruel. Sad that my last memory of him is so devastatingly horrific.
My Grandma has chosen to have him cremated. There will be a graveside, military funeral next Thursday. (He had a purple heart from WW2. His tank was struck by a missile, he was the last one to make it out before the tank was struck, but he was severely wounded by the shrapnel.) Having to wait a week to bury is tough, but I look forward to that day so we can lay him to rest and life can get back to normal around here.
I am so relieved to know you’re not suffering anymore. At the same time, I can’t believe you’re gone. I can’t believe I’ll never see you again, I’ll never talk to you again, I’ll never get to tell you that I love you again.
Thank you for giving me an amazing childhood, for always telling me how much you loved me and for always making me laugh. You always made me feel as though I was the most special person in the world. You saved my life when I was a teenager–without your understanding I don’t know that I would have survived. Thank you for standing up for me when I needed it the most.
I picked up the memory book you filled out for me for Christmas as soon as Dad told me you died. I can’t thank you enough for doing that for me. It will be invaluable as I learn to life my life without you in it, because your handwritten words will live on forever.
Yesterday as we were sitting around your bed, Grandma told everyone the story of how “I was the reason you quit drinking and started going to church.” She told us that one day when we were spending time together, I wrapped my arms around your neck and said “Grandpa, please don’t drink beer anymore. I want you to go to heaven so that when we die, we can be in heaven together.” She said you never took another drink after that day. Now that I’m an adult, I know you would have gone to heaven even if you drank beer, but the fact that you stopped out of your love for me is overwhelming. I can’t wait to thank you for that when we meet again in Heaven. You truly were the greatest man I’ve ever known.
I love you and I will miss you every day for the rest of my life.
I was going to attempt my first (and last) photoshop tutorial this morning.
Then, I got a phone call from my Dad.
“They can’t wake your Grandpa up.”
I immediately left to go be with him and the rest of my family. I wasn’t prepared for what I was about to see.
When I entered his bedroom, I saw my Grandpa laying on his side, shirtless. His tongue was swollen to the point that it was hanging out of his mouth. His face was swollen to the point that he was unrecognizable. He was taking short, labored breaths. His hands were purple. His face was turning purple.
911 was called.
Tension among family members erupted.
Angry words were exchanged.
Tears were shed.
So many tears.
“Pulse is low. Between 25-30. Oxygen levels are low. around 60%”
He was taken to the hospital. Pain medication and failing kidneys were the problem. His heart rate came back up, oxygen levels went back to normal and his color came back.
But his face was still swollen. He was still unable to talk or open his eyes.
He was kicking and flailing his arms when I went to see him in the hospital room. “What’s wrong with him?” I asked the nurse. “He probably doesn’t like the oxygen mask” she said.
I got close to him, put my mouth close to his ears as I struggled to keep it together. “I’m here, Grandpa.” I said. I began to rub his face. “I’m here and I love you, Grandpa.” His mouth began to move and he began to mumble.
I like to believe he was trying to tell me that he loved me too.
My cousin was in the room with me. We looked at each other. “This is horrible.” I said. “I can’t bear to see him like this.”
“I know.” He said.
And then he broke down.
And then I broke down.
I made it back home sometime this evening. My mom called just now to tell me he has a very contagious skin infection and that I should shower with hot water. She also said that they’re moving him to ICU. If he makes it through the night, they’ll release him to hospice tomorrow and let him come back home to finish the rest of his days.
Yesterday was my Grandfather’s 87th birthday. All of the family gathered at his home to celebrate with him. My Oma said it was the first birthday party he had ever had as an adult.
For years, I’ve been told that my Grandpa “didn’t have much time left” due to various and serious health problems. And every single time that I’ve been told that, I’ve become hysterical because, well, he’s has been the best grandfather that a child could ever ask for. The thought of him not being around to call on the phone and laugh with, or to watch him interact with my children was simply too painful to deal with. Every time, I felt like he still had too much to offer those who love him to leave this world. Despite his heart problems and diabetes, he was still able to live a functional life. And he was still 100% mentally sound.
The last few times I’ve visited him, that hasn’t been the case. He’s in obvious and constant pain. And every time, his speech is worse, his breathing is more labored.
Yet, every time, I secretly hold on to a little bit of hope that he’ll pull through this.
Not yesterday. Yesterday, the reality that my grandfather is dying truly sank in. For the first time, I truly understood that he’s suffering beyond measure.
I don’t want him to suffer.
Every night when I pray, I ask God to let my Grandpa live a little longer. After my visit with him yesterday, I don’t think I can pray that way anymore. It’s a completely selfish prayer. I want him around longer because I am not ready to let him go, not because it’s in his best interest to live longer.
Tonight, I will ask God to not allow him to suffer any longer. I will ask him to give my grandfather peace and to take away all of his pain and suffering. He doesn’t deserve to live this way– especially not when he’s lived such a selfless, honorable life.
My Grandpa is in the hospital again.
I went to see him and wasn’t allowed to get close to him due to a staph infection. That’s not the reason for his hospitalization, retention of fluid and difficulty breathing are.
It was painful to see him so swollen, barely able to talk. It was more painful to have to stand at the foot of his bed and not be able to hug him or hold his hand.
No matter how sick he gets, he never loses his sense of humor. He could barely talk, barely catch his breath, barely keep his eyes open and yet he managed to still make me laugh with his wicked, kind of perverted sense of humor.
That’s probably what I love about him the most. He’s always been funny. Always. And he continues to be funny even though his body is failing him ever so slowly.
As much as he made me laugh when I went to visit, he also broke my heart in a way that I’ve never experience before.
I had brought my children with me so that they could see him, but when we got to the Veterans Hospital, they told me that he had just been put in the isolation unit due to the staph infection and that the children would not be allowed to see him. Each one of them was upset because they love him and wanted to see him. Tony went to see him first. I waited downstairs with the kids. As we waited, Gabbers took out her spiral notebook and began to draw. When she was finished, she handed it to me and said “Give this to Opa from me, ok?” I folded it up, put it in my pocket and promised to give it to him.
I had every intention on giving him the picture as soon as I walked into his room, but when I saw him for the first time, I was stunned by his size (he’s gained over almost 30 pounds recently due to fluid retention) and forgot about the picture. However, as soon as he asked about the kids, I remembered and pulled it out of my pocket.
“They’re doing really good, Grandpa. They love you very much and are really sad that they couldn’t come up to see you. Gabby wanted me to give you this picture so you know she’s thinking of you!”
I handed it to my Grandma so that she could give it to him.
“He won’t be able to see it, Y.” She said. “He can’t see things anymore.”
I know he’s been losing his eyesight gradually, but this is the first time that it was presented to me in such a real way. This is the first time that I’ve given my grandparents a picture of (or from) one of my children and my grandmother didn’t pass the picture to him and say “look, Ray!”
I can’t put into words how deeply this affected me.
My Grandpa can no longer see.
I saw a sadness come over his face. I thought of how awful he must have felt in that moment. To know that his great granddaughter had made a picture for him and he couldn’t see it. I thought of the pictures that I send in the mail of the kids and how he can’t see them anymore. I thought of how much he loved to play cards and how he can’t play anymore because he can’t see.
Every time I think back to that moment, I want to cry.
And sometimes? I do cry.
But then… then I think of the way he laughed while I was there with him. How, in spite of how sick he is, he was still smiling. Still trying to make me laugh. I take comfort in that because even though his physical body is failing him, at the core of his being he’s still happy. Happy because he’s had a good life
And I’ve been blessed beyond measure to have been a part of that life.
I just received a comment that is so beautiful and expresses exactly how I feel so wonderfully, that I wanted to put it here with my post so that no one who reads this misses it. Thank you, Bridge
My great grandmother has lost her sight…and she’s a little forgetful.
But there is something so reassuring and inspiring about a well-lived life,
even housed in an imperfect and aging body. I want to be like her when I’m
a hundred…to have a soul so wise and beautiful that falling apart on the
outside is just secondary to who I am.