My grandparents raised me. They gave me everything in life, took me in literally off the streets and gave me every opportunity at a decent life. A few months before her death Grandma asked me, look after my Grandpa if anything happened to her.
The first day after Grandpa sold all his possessions, berried his wife of 64 years and moved out of his home of 40 years I was with him at the new care home. It was time for me to leave at the end of the night and he said “I’ve lost everything, even you.”
The next day after work I went by his room again. I told him “now don’t expect me every day but I’ll come by as often as I can to make the change easier. But again when I get busy it can’t be everyday.” So naturally I wasn’t there every single ‘ day thereafter.
I started helping him pay bills. Going to the bank for him. Shopping. Redecorating the room every so often. I took over driving him to appointments. I learned his medical issues inside out and was answering all the doctors questions for him by his final emergency room visit. On his worst days I helped dress him, on his best days I took him out to eat. I viewed my job as not to save his life or replace his saintly wife but rather to help him die comfortable and with some his dignity still intact.
In complete honesty I should have and could have done more for my Grandma. Because she was in a care facility I came to neglect her assuming the facility would do better for her than her family. With Grandpa though I know to my core I did everything I could for him. He was in the hospital because I took him. I convinced him to stay. I called and visited every day this week.
Exactly a year ago when his heart first started having problems I took him to the ER where he was admitted. That night I got a call from the hospital at 1 AM. Grandpa was having problems with his lungs and they wanted me to know he might not make it through the night. I put my shoes on and went to spend the night at the hospital.
I walked into his room and he was awake. He loomed up at me from the bed and through is fluid filled lungs he gapsed and wheezed at me and said “they…. Say….. I’m dying….. bull.” That’s the kind of man he was. Stubborn to fault and he wouldn’t believe any one on anything no matter if they were an expert or not.
He survived that night. They assured me he’d die by the end of the weekend so I called all the relatives to come out and see him. He went home Monday. But they said he would be gone by 6 months. For weeks I babied him and insisted he be extra careful and forced him to follow the doctors advice to a t.
Finally he got sick of arguing with me be bought an oxygen meter and proved to everyone that his O2 levels were good enough to not need his oxygen tank. Within a week he was back to walking on his own (with a cain) and a week after that they took him off of hospice.
Grandpa faced the grim reaper and won many times in his life. This was the same man who years before even my father was born was berried alive in an accident and told he’d never walk again or regain use of both arms. He did. That’s the kind of man he was.
So I knew it was for sure his time when I walked into his hospital room on last Thursday and he looked at me and said, ” I’m waiting to die. I’m sick of sitting here being useless.” To him his personhood came from his independence. When I took him to the hospital last week he refused to use a wheelchair and hobbled along at a glacial pace to get to the doctor. That’s the kind of man he was.
So when he told me he was waiting to die I knew it was ending soon. He had proved his point by surviving a year longer to the day than they gave him and he had set his stubborn dial to the task of dying. Part of me also likes to think that he held on so long for my sake too. I never told him how bad my struggle got, even when it came to me living out of my car. I refused to put my burdens on him because that’s the kind of man I want to be. I hope he knows that having him in my life is the only reason I kept going for so long.
Sitting with him Thursday night he said the same thing to me three separate times about wanting to die because he’d become useless. I assured him over and over he was valuable to me for who he was not what he could do or his “usefulness”
I asked him if he had seen anyone. I thought he might see, his dad, his brother, or my Grandma. These spectral visits are a sure sign that someone is about to pass away. He hadn’t seen anyone at all yet. Then the most incredible thing that could have happened did.
He asked me “why won’t Jesus take me.” I knew clear as day what God was doing here. I teared up a little and said “well let me ask you this, Do you trust him? Do you trust that what he did on the cross was enough? You can’t be good enough, you know?” Followed a quick summation of the gospel message which Grandpa followed along with. I had been working on this for the better part of a year. For God to open up Grandpa’s very stubborn heart at the end is the greatest of all gifts in this situation.
I asked him if he wanted me to go or stay and he said a few minutes longer. We sat in silence for another hour. At the end I took his hand and told him I needed to go and then he said the words that broke me…
“OK goodbye.” We both knew.
I started sobbing. Put my head on his and said, “If you see Grandma soon will you tell her I love her and I miss her and its not the same without her?” I told him I loved him and to fight as long as he could. He told me not to cry.
I went home. Saturday morning he died in his sleep.
Thank you Jesus.