11/01/2010

Death Blows

My grandfather has brain cancer.

I can't decide how I feel about this.

That's not entirely true; I know that I am sad about this, but I keep telling myself that it is not such a big deal. My grandfather is an old man. He is 87 years old after all. He has lived a full life.

But he is my grandfather. And no matter how old he is - no matter how old I am - I will always want him in my life. I have never known a world without my grandfather in it, and it breaks my heart to think that not only is this a reality, but it is a reality that is right there, waving at me and jumping up and down from a stone's throw away.

And I am scared for him.

What will his decline be like? I think most everyone hopes for a peaceful death, ideally in their sleep. Does this mean my grandfather has no hope for this?

I am intimately familiar with death. I deal with death on a daily basis. It is my work. I try to give voice to the dying and their families. I try to ensure that the resources are there so that everyone has the opportunity to die with the same dignity they had in life.

It's not the same though. No matter how much I may come to care for the people I see during the day, they are not my family. And having born witness to the decline involved with death, if only from a distance, in the final months, weeks and days, I do not know that I am strong enough to provide my grandfather, or even the rest of my family, with the support that they will need and deserve.

I like to live my life in a bubble, ignoring the negative until it is no longer avoidable. Knowing that the end is in sight.... Knowing that I should not waste the time that I have now with my grandfather because it is so very obviously finite.... I am scared that I will take the cowards way out and not say the things that I want to say or do the things that I need to do so that I know, without a doubt, that, when taking his final breath, my grandfather knows exactly what he has meant, means and will always mean to me - that he will know I love him whole heartedly and will always be proud to be his progeny.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

I'm sorry about your grandfather. My grandmother died some years ago while suffering from a brain tumor, lung cancer, and cancer of the esophagus. She did not pass away in her sleep. We were all at her home for our last Christmas and new year together. It was a couple days after Christmas and she was sitting in her rocker and she told my grandfather that it was time. He asked if he should get her oxygen tank and she said no, that she was ready to go. She said goodbye to all of us, hugged and kissed my grandpa, held his hand, and was gone. She went peacefully, though she was not in her sleep. I hope that your grandfather's passing can be as gentle.

Again, I am really sorry. I hope you find the courage to say all that you want and need to say to him.

Anonymous said...

Hi,
my grandfather was diagnosed with brain cancer in August 2008. He died in December. The four months of his decline were very painful, not only because of his rapidly worsening state but also because of very serious conflicts within the family - sadly, the worst sides of some family members emerged in the situation.
My grandfather wasn't himself during the last weeks of his life, and he died while in coma.
I wish your grandfather passes in a comfortable state, with his family cooperating with each other by his side.
D.