I just copied this from a note I had written on Facebook December 16, 2009. I don’t think there’s anything I need to change, so I’m just going to leave it as is.
As some may know, my grandfather fell ill a couple of weeks ago and passed away Sunday evening. While his illness initially seemed not-so-serious, it quickly escalated into a critical condition and one that the doctors deemed ‘untreatable’. After a couple of days of fighting with him in the hospital he didn’t want to be in, the family decided to bring him home for his last days… however many they may have been.
The vigil started then, at my grandparents house. Twenty four hours a day there was family there to comfort each other and take care of my grandfather. I was fortunate to be able to spend Friday evening with him while he was still conscious and somewhat lucid. I was able to say goodbye, tell him I loved him, and make that peace for myself. I was there to witness one of the last real physical efforts he was able to make, and that was to lean over his bed and hug my niece and nephew. From that evening on, his reactions were minimal and limited to just the occasional hand or mouth movements.
But what I witnessed and experienced that evening and in the following days is something I will never forget, and something I think I am a better person for having been involved in.
We should all be so lucky as my Papaw. We should all be so lucky to have a family that comes together without question or hesitation to perform emotionally and physically trying tasks. We should all be so lucky to have so many people care so very much about us. We should all be so lucky to have a family that makes some of the most difficult decisions of their lives without bickering (too much 😉 ) and who held my papaw’s desires first and foremost, even if those desires conflicted with what they may have wanted themselves. We should all be so lucky to live our last days in the presence of so much love. Spouses, siblings, children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, nieces and nephews all joining together.
As the patriarch of my father’s family lived out his final days and hours, it wasn’t grief, sorrow, and sadness that he heard and felt around him. It was joy, laughter, love, and togetherness. Don’t get me wrong, our hearts were heavy with what was imminent, but instead of sitting around crying about it constantly, the family stayed strong and resolute. We forged new connections with one another and strengthened old ones… some family members hadn’t seen each other for years and some had never even met. But you wouldn’t have known that if you were in that house. You would have thought we’d ALL talked daily and had done so for years. (and some of us did, of course!) We spent so much of the time catching up, reminiscing, laughing, joking, playing, and planning.
While there were periods of emotional sadness and difficulty for all of us, what I remember most about my hours there over the last few days is not sadness or remorse. But generosity of spirit and overwhelming love and respect. In my grandfather’s last moments, we were nearby laughing at something that was said just a few hours previous. I’d like to think that’s the last thing he heard… the laughter of his family, the joy in his household, the love that crept around every corner and filled every nook and cranny.
I cannot imagine a more beautiful way to leave this earthly realm than in the presence of your loved ones, hearing their laughter, and knowing that they would be okay because they had each other. And then drifting off peacefully into an eternal slumber.
We will all of us miss Papaw, and we all mourn our loss in our own ways. But I’d like to think that we have all come away from this experience closer together and better people for it.
We should all be so lucky as he was. I can only hope that I am when the time comes.