Sunday morning, we sat at my grandpa’s bedside and we sang happy birthday to him. We sang softly. There was no cake, no ice cream. There was no joyful exuberance, except (oh bless her) The Princess when we finished singing, who added some lightness by starting in with the, “Are ya one? Are ya two? Are ya three?”
We didn’t let her get to 87, but it made us smile.
We’d been preparing ourselves since last Wednesday when hospice said they didn’t think he would make it until his birthday – and then the morning of his birthday we were told, “This is it. Gather around. Say your goodbyes.”
There were so many tears that day.
We’d had a lot of negativity over the weekend, bickering, family fighting – he said, she said. I guess that’s normal in times of stress. I hadn’t expected it. I thought we’d all pull together, stay together and not resort to pettiness. Except, that’s just what people do.
Sunday, though, we cried together. We wrapped each other in tight hugs. We came into and out of his room as we needed – sadness gets overwhelming, as does the need for air and sunlight to remind you that yes, it’s a circle and there’s a world that is going on, even when it feels like your life is on pause.
I said goodbye, kissed him, knowing it would be the last time I saw him.
And it broke my heart to walk out that door.
And then he hung on and it was Monday. I should be there, I thought. But I knew I couldn’t bear saying goodbye again. And what if he lived through another day? I’d say goodbye again? And again? I felt I should, but I also didn’t know if I could.
He died Monday evening. My mom, my aunts and uncles had gone home. It was just my grandmother and some nurses.
He died like he lived – he dug his heels in and got stubborn, refusing to give up. And his strong heart held on as long as it could.
I am glad that he’s no longer suffering and that he’s not in pain. I guess it was far too easy to believe for too long that he was invincible, that he wouldn’t be here forever. It hasn’t even been 48 hours and there’s a hole in the world where he belongs. I’m doing my best to fill it with memories, but I’d rather he were still here.
He was such a loving man and I am comforted by the knowledge that he loved me, he loved my children. I don’t wonder at all how he felt because he told me every time he saw me. I don’t have to wonder if he was proud of my kids because complete strangers would walk into his room last week, and they’d know me by my daughters (he often described my kids as “the gymnast” and “the funny one”). And every time I’d leave he’d tell me, “That’s a beautiful family you have there, Sarah.”
Grief is a strange thing – because it seems like you anticipate it, you know you’re going to be sad, you know you’re going to miss someone, but you don’t really expect that you’ll start crying driving down the highway because a line in a song – a song you never heard with the person who’s gone, a song that’s not even in any way associated with that person – hits you in just the “right” way and sets you off.
Life will go on because he’d have wanted it to.
I find that even though I don’t really know what my beliefs are, it brings me great comfort to imagine him sitting somewhere, watching over me. I imagine he’ll soon exert some pull and fix the things that need fixing (some heavenly duct tape on the parts of my life that need patching). And maybe it’s ridiculous to think so, but it brings a smile to my face, so I’ll take it.
He will be missed. He will be so missed. He already is.