Death and Geography

Well, it has been a crappy, crappy week to say the least. I got a call from my mom last Thursday night saying that my Grandpa was in the hospital again and not expected to live through the weekend. He has been in and out of the hospital for last 6 weeks with some regularity. I booked my flight immediately and left less than 24 hours later. I arrived in the small town hospital at about 4am with my 9 month old baby in tow. Grandpa was finally sleeping comfortably so I didn’t wake him. I was back at the hospital the next afternoon and he was sleeping again. I waited with my entire family for him to wake up. He did, sort of. He knew who I was and who Justus was but it was really difficult for him to stay awake. He fought really hard to stay awake and visit and play with Justus. Finally, I hugged him and told him I loved him and said I would be back the next day. That was the last time I saw him alive. He died the next day, peacefully, surrounded with family and his best friend of 80 years. I arrived a couple of minutes after he passed. He finally looked peaceful. For him, I am glad that his struggle is over but for the rest of us, this sucks. I am so thankful that I was there for my mom and got to see him one more time. My last memory of him will be of him playing with Justus, making his silly faces at him, holding his hand, and making those funny noises he made when he played with babies. Right up until the end he was being a jokester. The day before he died he was sleeping intermittently and was kept company with a long line of loved ones. At one point he woke up to see several of the men in the family in the room along with my cousin Stacey. This group of people is particularly squeamish about anything medical. (Actually my cousin Chais said that just being in the room with that catheter was freaking him out.) Anyway, sensing his audience, he leans over to Yvonne (the wonderful lady who loved him and took care of him for years, never leaving his side) and says “I have to go to the bathroom.” That apparently resulted in a stampede toward the door. I can just envision them all elbowing each other in an effort to get out the door as quickly as possible. Then Grandpa says “can’t you tell when I am bullshitting you?” The last practical joke and it couldn’t have been more perfect.

The funeral is tomorrow, Friday the 13th. I came home yesterday. I am really, really disappointed that I can’t be there both for me and for my mom. I feel like I live a world away at times like this. My family will say goodbye and the grieving and adjustments to the huge vacant spot in our family will begin. But for me it feels sort of surreal. I am so separated and so busy with my life, grieving is different. After my Grandma died 9 years ago I felt this way. I thought about her a lot but she wasn’t a part of my daily activities so it didn’t feel real. Then the next time I went home and there was a big family gathering it finally sunk in. She wasn’t there. I spent the entire day choking back tears. My family had already done this. It wasn’t their first time. For me it was like she had just died. I expect it will be the same again. So tomorrow my family will gather to say goodbye, my cousin Jodi will give the amazing eulogy she wrote and I will be here, a world away.

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5 thoughts on “Death and Geography

  1. That’s a nice entry.For whatever it’s worth, this has helped me in times of grief, and I give it to my patients at those times.It’s from “Psalm of Life” by Longfellow.TELL me not, in mournful numbers,Life is but an empty dream ! —For the soul is dead that slumbers,And things are not what they seem.Life is real ! Life is earnest!And the grave is not its goal ;Dust thou art, to dust returnest,Was not spoken of the soul.Not enjoyment, and not sorrow,Is our destined end or way ;But to act, that each to-morrowFind us farther than to-day.In the world’s broad field of battle,In the bivouac of Life,Be not like dumb, driven cattle !Be a hero in the strife !Lives of great men all remind usWe can make our lives sublime,And, departing, leave behind usFootprints on the sands of time ;

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  2. Thanks Dr. Grumpy. That is nice. I appreciate you taking the time to write it out for me, especially on your vacation! Did you have this memorized?

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  3. No, I have it on my laptop.The whole poem is longer, I’m sure you could find it by googling the title. I just use a “condensed” version with the more meaningful portions.

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