12/07/2015

My grandpa died tonight, although we'd been slowly losing him for years.

I'd received a text message from my mother in the early afternoon letting me know of his failing health. "The doctor says it could be any time now," she'd written.

I volunteer at a hospice every Sunday. I was in the middle of making cookies when I got my mom's text. Earlier, I'd brought out a tray of snacks and coffee for a family who'd just lost a loved one. Later, as I sat next to my grandfather's bed, holding his hand and stroking his forehead, one of the nurses came in with a tray of snacks. I smiled at her, and laughed quietly to myself at the reversal of roles.

"Do you want a few minutes alone with your grandfather?" my mother asked me. "Is there anything you want to say?"

"No," I told her. "He knows. I've already told him." A few years ago, back before he had gotten sick. When he was more himself. It was his birthday. I wrote him a card and sat with him as he read it.

"Thank you," it said. "Thank you for teaching me how to drive a car. Thank you for teaching me how to make my own rope. Thank you for showing me how to cast a fishing line. Thank you for letting me shoot a pellet gun. Thank you for teaching me the names of all the trees in the forest. Thank you for making my childhood exciting. Thank you for being my grandfather. I love you."

I've not yet cried over my grandfather's death, but not because it doesn't sadden me. I will miss my grandfather. I will mourn his loss for the rest of my life, but we can't keep the things we love with us simply because we don't want to be without them.

My eyes teared up as I said goodbye to him for what turned out to be the last time. I kissed his forehead and rubbed his hands. He looked so small laying there in his bed. His breathing was laboured, but he looked peaceful.

I don't know where we go when we die. I don't know what happens. But I'd like to think that my grandfather is out there, somewhere, free from the tethers of the frail body he left behind. I hope that my dog is there with him too.  

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