The Loss of a Loved One
For the longest time I looked at death as something that was just supposed to eventually happen to all of us. Why think about it, why torture myself with the undeniable truth, in other words why scare myself with the reality that one day we will no longer exist. The fact of the matter is, not existing is absolutely terrifying to me. I had never been faced with the feeling of grief, for that matter never put much thought into what tragedy and what affliction would do to me. In all honesty it was something I overlooked purposely. In hopes of comfort, instead death was simply part of the cycle of life, or at least that’s what I told myself. I was ignorant! In so many ways I was oblivious and naive to how death would change the person I once was. I suppose I felt that worrying about the inevitable brought more fear than anything and unnecessary anxiety. When my grandpa died a great part of me died along with him, he took the best part of me when I was compelled to say goodbye. I didn’t have the mentality to understand or bear, even the thought of death. I wasn’t equipped for the changes and challenges I was defied with, and I wasn’t emotionally capable of handling the pain I was striving to overcome after my grandpa’s passing.
At that period in my life, time was limitless, it had no significant meaning to me, and I unfortunately carried on like time was dispensable. I seen death as either sickness or old age and most times a combination of both. I had this ridiculous idea of what life was supposed to be like and how death was supposed to go as if there was a specific guideline to follow. Never did I consider the fact that death comes unexpectedly and has a timeframe of its own. I didn’t expect the death of my grandpa to hit me out of nowhere, I was completely blindsided by it and I think that’s what hurt me the most.
Gone forever was unmanageable, my heart was shattered, and I felt the weight of a thousand pounds lying on my chest with just the idea of never touching, smelling, or hearing his voice again. I wasn’t ready to say goodbye and it’s not that I didn’t want to, it’s that I honestly felt like I couldn’t let go. I had to face the fact that such an important person in my life would no longer be here. Grandpa was literally here one day, the next just gone. When you look at the people that mean the most to you, you don’t think about how their presence will affect you when they’re no longer here. You may see someone completely healthy on the outside and believe they have years to spend with you, but don’t think about the moment they won’t be. For that matter you don’t think a person who appears to be healthy will just die abruptly.
The night before grandpa’s passing, I was supposed to go see him but decided I would go the next morning, “No big deal,” I thought. The next morning, he was rushed to the hospital by ambulance and I never stood a chance. I had promised him I would help him around the house, I would clean his fridge out and do some chores. For over a year he cared for my bedridden grandma and took care of essentially every aspect of their lives. He was a 74-year-old man who worked most of his life and at his age and state of being I looked upon him as fragile and too old to be doing all he did. He was the rock of the family, he was the foundation, someone who led by example, the most honest influential person in my life, no longer around to hold things together.
That morning I received a call and the for the next thirty seconds following, everything around me suddenly chimed out, my heart felt like it sunk to my stomach and I felt like I had a baseball stuck in my throat. I didn’t move, I didn’t hear the tv that was playing in the background, my three-month-old Jaxson was crying, and I was clueless. Adrenaline kicked in like a second wind, and for that moment I was no longer tired, my mind was racing, heart was pounding, and I felt my entire body trembling in fear like my world was coming down. That was it, I was going into full blown panic attack. “What on earth was going on,” I thought. I had just seen him two days ago, he was healthier than my parents who were in their fifties. It was nauseating, I wanted to puke, every bone in my body ached.
“Grandpa had a fall and EMT crew believes he suffered head trauma,” were the next words that would change the course of my life. I couldn’t believe the words my mom was saying I didn’t want her to speak another word, I just wanted it all to stop. We car pulled to the hospital and the ride felt like an eternity, tears rolled down my cheeks and I sat quietly listening to her as she tried to explain what happened. “I got a call from your grandma on my way back from Ludington,” she said. She proceeded to tell me about how grandma was concerned with grandpa, he wasn’t responding to her as she called out his name. 15 minutes passed and no response, no movements made, absolutely no sounds. “It was concerning to me,” she admitted. She explained that grandpa took a cup to the kitchen to fill a glass of water, but he hadn’t come back. Grandma didn’t call for help because she wasn’t sure if it was another one of those scare’s he would give her from time to time, she didn’t want to alert anyone if there was no need.
“The doors were locked and we couldn’t get in, we broke a window in the bedroom” mom said. From the corner of the kitchen she could see my grandpa’s boots, he was stretched out on the tile floor stuck between the stove and the counter that was no more than a foot in width, his legs bent under the sink cabinet, and his arm was severely bruised and had lost circulation. “I myself was scared to what I might find,” she cried. She was weeping as she told me they could barely feel a pulse, he was barely breathing. “We went from one side to the next and didn’t realize we had walked right passed him twice before noticing his boots, how could your brother, sister and I not see him,” she began to shout. Between the three of them, they managed to pull him out and started to perform CPR while first responders walked them through the steps.
“He looked to the sky one last time, back at me, and then he let out a sigh almost like relieved,” she quivered barely able to speak anymore. Her voice crackly she finished to say, “as soon as he made it outside and laid on the dirt, he completely lost consciousness within seconds and his eyes rolled to the back of his head.” I was a wreck, I could furthermore bear such tribulation. The devastation not only broke my heart but, in her voice, I could hear the agony and could see the look on her face of disbelief, and sorrow. It was all too much, every thought of what he went through, and how he was alone, made me sob like a baby. I didn’t know what to think, feel, how to act, or what to say. I wanted to console my mom, but I couldn’t put the pieces together to make sense of it myself. I tried to focus my thoughts on his contagious smile than the brutal images that were now stuck in my head.
As soon as we approached the front desk my mom shaking in fear, asked to be directed to grandpa’s room. We were told to take a seat and a doctor would be with us shorty. No more than ten minutes passed and there was a doctor approaching us. I think at that moment I didn’t want to move, I felt a tightening in my body, I was imprecisely holding my breath and dreading the news we might receive. They asked only my mom go in first and from the hall I could see her pacing back and forth. She was on the phone and looked hysterical. I concluded she must be calling family out of state with bad news. I waited impatiently when without warning, another doctor approached me from behind and led me to his room. I stood up and slowly walked down the hall. The doctor told me not to be alarmed and to take caution. “Caution?” I thought. What is that supposed to even mean in a moment like this? I didn’t comprehend what she meant when she said that, but she pulled back the curtain without hesitation.
“Take a few moments to say goodbye, we give you forty-five minutes that’s standard procedure with a situation like this,” the doctor blurted in a passive and apathetic voice. As she showed me his charts, she told me to look at the scan of his brain, he was no longer considered to be living because he had no brain function at all due to suffering of a stroke. “He was hypertensive which most likely triggered the attack,” she continued, and there was nothing they could or would do for him. She then had the audacity to say they needed the room as the hospital was extremely busy that day. In spite of that, it didn’t stop her at the least, she went on to say he would need to be removed from the ventilation system as soon as we said goodbye.
As she spoke, I watched her every gesture and move, half of what she said went in one ear and out the other. She was no one to me, she was inadequate, emotionless, unappealing, incompetent if you will. Disgruntled would have been an understatement, I was repulsed with the way she handled the circumstances and the way she carried herself in general. Her presence alone was offensive and revolting. Despite all that, she insisted that she bring someone from hospice or a chapel to speak and pray with. That was about the only human thing she had to say in my opinion. I was livid, I was hurt, irritated, frustrated, I was every emotion in one.
I had no words for this woman, for all I knew she had no soul, she was insensitive, her negativity, lack of aptitude and capacity to handle vulnerability needed to go at once. I shook my head in distrust and walked over to my mom. In shock, we held each other as we cried. I felt like I had already lost grandpa, like I had already begun to mourn his loss, but technically speaking he was still alive, his heart was still pumping, and in my mind, he was going to wake. After a few minutes we asked that we get another doctor. The rest of my family started showing up one by one and one of my aunts refused to take him off ventilation. She threw a scene and started filling complaints. Everyone was upset with how the situation was handled and demanded that he be moved to the intensive care unit. After hours of mistreatment within the emergency care they decided to move him from their floor. There I found the ICU staff to be so much more rational and understanding. Family from out of state showed up by day two and we were told we had to come to a decision now that everyone had arrived. Regret was sinking in at its finest. I was spiraling out of control with my emotions, I was losing my mind.
I wasn’t ready to let go of hope, to give up on god! We are a religious group of people and grandpa by far was the most faithful of us all. He lived modestly and carried himself in such a humble manor. There was no way I could give up on him or on the faith he would preach to me day in and day out. He instilled the good that he would see in others, in me, if not us who would be his voice. Though there was much opposition and refusal, the family decided to wait seven days minimum to get more testing and results before making a final decision. Day three was approaching and I took a stance. I agreed we should have more testing done to see if there was even the slightest of changes.
“If only he would wake up and yell at us for dragging him to the hospital, hear him throwing a fit, demanding the tubes and monitors be removed, and telling us all to find ourselves out the door,” even his disapproval would mean everything to me at that time. I was in a denial and was resisting the inevitable and never left his side not even to eat. Who can even eat through moments like these, there grandpa lay three days with no food or fluids and all I could imagine and perceive was his suffering. Although doctors said he couldn’t feel anything because he didn’t have neurological responses, I felt wrong for putting him through more poking and prodding, invading his space like he was so strongly against. Food wasn’t on my mind for a split second, and for his health and healing we decided to fast. Seeing him lay what looked lifeless to me, made me wonder if what we were doing was the right decision. I knew if he could speak, he wouldn’t want this. He hated public places, was a complete germ freak, and for almost ten years never left his house let alone his bedroom because he was diagnosed with agoraphobia.
The doctors told me he was put on several medications just to stabilize him. I could see the machines doing all the breathing for him, it was a hard thing to witness, everything about the situation he was in was hard to absorb and consume. The disagreements among the family started to cause conflict. Everyone was at each other’s throats over his bedside. Hateful words were thrown around and people’s actions just took me completely for surprise. Family who had been absent for so long, would literally come and go not concerned about what could happen during such a delicate time. Some thought it was okay to say that it was 5 o’clock somewhere insinuating they were in need of drinks. The lack of respect was intolerable, unacceptable, and inconsolable. If I was feeling distraught before, they only inflicted more stress and depression on me, I felt like I had no one to turn to now that grandpa lay helpless in the cold, empty, somber hospital. I began to resent much of the people involved in my life along with the hospital. Grandpa’s body was giving up and his heart was under a lot of stress and yet there was still a lot of controversy as to what they wanted to do and how much longer they’d keep him on life support. Nevertheless, we feared letting go for our own sanity and I recognized it was wrong.
Grandpa stayed on breathing machines for six days. His heart gave out on its own on day seven and put the arguments to rest. I watched him take his last breath as I held on to his foot. There was so many people in the room, I just wanted to be close to him. I gave him one last hug and brushed his hair to the side. It finally dawned on me, that time was everything and it was the one thing we couldn’t get back no matter how badly we wanted it to. Wishing, praying, rethinking a situation wasn’t going to change the fact that someone who I held so close to me was no longer going to guide me through my own life trials, and hardships.
The next morning, we were all to gather at grandpa’s house to be with grandma who needed us the most. We were going to do a prayer session followed along with arrangements for his service and burial. Instead I arrived to complete chaos. My family, who would’ve thought, acting like complete savages. Things were being tossed in piles, a fire was going, and grandma was sitting alone in her room. They didn’t give it a second, they were already clearing out my grandpa’s belongings like he didn’t matter, family from out of state were taking over like his death was no surprise like he never mattered to them in the first place. Things he held so dear were thrown in the fire like they were worthless, his house was being stripped and torn apart, his clothes and bibles he cherished were being burned in the fire with trash. He had items with worth, collectable items, vintage, and sentimental possessions that were being fought over, and ravished. I heard my aunts arguing over the property and who would take over the house and when, cousins in the next room fighting over what they’d build on the property, uncles arguing over who would pay for the funeral expenses and how they were going to divide up the payments, and grandma in silence alone with not one person to grieve with. He had passed away hours ago and everyone’s lives just picked up where they left off.
The conflict that had emerged caused a continued family feud to this day. My uncle kept the house and the property because it was obvious those were his only intentions upon arriving. To save herself the headache, put an end to the fighting, and in hopes to give her son who she hadn’t seen in nearly twenty years, a reason to stay, grandma agreed to move out of her own home and into the basement of my aunt’s house. She left him everything to do as he pleases and only took a few pictures along with her. It was a complete shame that grandpa’s legacy was being burned to the ground. Before his passing, he left a will in place so that his kids could carry a part of him always. In that will among other things, it stated his only son would get the house and the property beyond the garage that consisted of several acres, was to be divided among his daughters. Grandma wasn’t dead yet though, she was sitting in the mists of it all and nowhere in the will did it say to ravish the home and scrap it out while she was still very much living, she still had a voice and opinion of her own but they treated her like she had no right to anything anymore. She was no longer her own person.
I failed to acknowledge how I took many things for granted even my own life. His death took me through a dark stage in my life, through depression, and at times even questioning my faith. I went through different phases as I mourned my loss, I shut people out, I resented family for so long, and I lost interest in living all together. I had no ambition to do anything, I let myself go, and the things that I found joy in no longer held meaning to me. The experience haunted me for so long and I just wanted an out. I replayed his last words and the things he would say to me because those things stuck, and through it all eventually I figured out that I was looking at things from the wrong perspective.
It was like a light bulb turned on in my head, so many thoughts and feelings came up and made me really reflect on my past. I started to think about all the things grandpa would preach to me and I realized how I wanted to move forward and live life entirely different. I learned to accept things for what they are, and it turn it helped me change the way I carry myself as a person. Grief is a powerful thing, and I didn’t want to live in fear, I didn’t want to regret anything, what I should have done or could have, and I didn’t want to waste another minute of my own life replaying the incident in my head as if I could change what happened. What finally registered in my head, however, is that I could in fact change how I carried out my future.
I take in life, I appreciate the little things and don’t put things off for tomorrow, for tomorrow is not promised and God has a plan of his own. I like to think that because of grandpa I’ve become the person I am today. He may have stolen a chunk of my happiness, of my heart when he died, but his death influenced me to make the changes I did. I am a different version of me who has experienced a loss, facing challenges that have molded my character. Through such a hard time in my life I was able to find myself and figure out in what direction I wanted to go. If anything, grandpa’s death has given me courage. I made the choice that the pain I felt wasn’t going to completely destroy or define me, but rather make me stronger instead!