This blog post has been one I've been porcastinating and if you're wondering why, it's because my grandfather passed away exactly a month ago after battling cancer for 5 years. You're probably also wondering why am I being public with my grief (at least if you know me). To be honest, I don't know. I've always wanted this blog to help others and reflect on my life. Sometimes I go back and reread these old blog posts and I'm just surprised by how much I've grown and sometimes I can see where I need improvement.
How has grief impacted my life? Like I said it's made my grow, but also realize areas of improvement. It's hard to recount the events without honestly tearing up. I'll try and keep it as short for both you and I (or maybe not, be warned). Not just because it's hard to recount, but also because I'm sure it's a tough read. No one wants read about someone grieving. We all want rainbows and happy endings, believe me I do too. However, I acknowledge that Jesus didn't call me for rainbows and happy endings. That is far too comfortable. I'm not saying he called me to suffer, but he called me to experience the hurricane and the rainbow at the end in his presence.
December 19, 2016 my grandfather was emitted to the hospital into the ICU. This is pretty common for the past 5 years. He was a stage IV lung cancer patient. My grandfather would always end up in the hospital around winter. Something in my gut had told me however, this time was different. I felt it. I used to have a sense of optimism (or at least as much easiness as one could have when finding their loved one in the hospital). My grandfather was always strong. I would consider him a warrior. He had a strong will to live and he always wanted to combat his cancer. Which is something that at his age is rather hard. In the months prior he stopped taking his chemo pills. It had a negative side effect on his standard of living. My grandfather wasn't doing too much to be honest. His farthest walk was from his bed to the couch and sometimes the bathroom. Which you're talking about a man who survived a heart attack and two days later began to work again. It was hard seeing him weak. It was hard seeing him struggling to breathe. It was all too hard. At this point on December 19 I knew logically I needed to let him go. At this point wanting him to continue to live was basically out of selfishness.
Anyways, on the 19th we sat around the emergency room and looked into his tired eyes. He hadn't gotten much sleep and he was no longer on his nasal breathing mask but much rather his full on breathing mask. As usual he lied to me and told me when he was doing OK. When in reality he was far worse. He had this tendency of masking his pain and at least trying to smile or crack a joke when I was around. He had a sense of humor at times, and at times he knew his time was coming. None of us wanted to hear him talking about it. He instructed the nurse to let him go if his heart should stop. As you can imagine my mother and I were bawling our eyes out at this point. My mother needed to step out of the room. It was perhaps one of the hardest days we've experienced.
On the 20th it was my mothers birthday. I wished her a happy birthday and off to the hospital we were. I was less than complacent of staying with my grandfather. I was fearful. I didn't want to be in the room with him. I couldn't bare seeing him as he was. I eventually agreed because I knew in my heart that I needed to be by his side. It's what Jesus would have done. Jesus didn't live his life in fear. I walked in that room to find my grandfather out of consciousness. He would wake up momentarily to snag all his cables off his body. His heart was working at 20% and his heart rate was way too high. Soon it got to the point the nurses crowded around the room and told us to say goodbye. It was me and my uncle and we began to say goodbye. We told him we loved him. We were trying to let him go. I snatched the rosary over my neck and held it to his arm. I called my mother and we argued out of panic. She soon arrived on time and we all bid our goodbye's. We had the priest and chaplin come in and that was it. He had a 5% chance of making it through the night. The one thing about my grandfather is he never fails to surprise us all. We stayed there all night and the next morning I found he was alive. He was still with us. He was stable. All he wanted was to go home.
I didn't want much to do with the world. I didn't want to talk to anyone. I didn't want to listen to music . I didn't want to go on social media. I didn't want to watch TV. I was at a complete stand still. I began grieving and he was still with us. I felt like I was screaming for help in an empty pit to find that my screams weren't heard. I felt trapped in sorrow. I couldn't pray. I couldn't open a bible. I felt a wave of anxiety overcoming me.
The overwhelming truth about cancer is, you know it's going to happen and if by it you think I'm referring to death. I absolutely am. Were those words hard to type? They were. I never thought 5 years ago I would be picking up the scrapbook frame of our family at my grandfathers house that I once made when I was 15. I would never have thought I would be given the watch he always used to wear on his wrist or his lucky 2 dollar bill much less his collection of prized polaroids. Never in a million years did I ever think I would never be able to hear his voice again. I knew it was going to happen, but as all people on earth do; I took time for granted. I only called once every 2 weeks or sometimes once every month.
I lived my life consumed by other things to not focus on his next chemo treatment or how much longer a doctor said he had to live.. and I acknowledge that it was selfish yet it felt as if it was the only thing I could do.
He spent 4 days in the hospital. Every morning we would hear from a doctor. They recommended hospice care which is something they do for terminal patients who have less than 6 months. I held onto 6 months a little too much. I wanted 6 months. In those 6 months he would've seen my cousin turn 7 and my other cousin turn 6 and he would've celebrated his birthday. In those 6 months I could've had 6 months of phone calls, even if he could hardly breathe on the phone.
I spent those 4 days caring for him, feeding him, giving him water with a jelly like substance because he couldn't swallow, and we watched TV together. In those 4 days I spent more time with my family together than I had in months. Those 4 days became everything to me. We laughed together, cried together, spoke to one another, but most of all we were together. My grandpa looked tired and this time around it wasn't just from the cancer it was from living... We all knew it. We all denied it. He couldn't push on and even he knew it.
Finally on the 24th he was released. We were relieved, but he was placed on hospice. We spent Christmas gathered around his bed and we shared a meal. He couldn't bare the thought of eating. He didn't want to eat, much less sleep. My grandfather was restless. I spent that night watching him sing tango. I spent that night cracking jokes with him. I absorbed every single moment. My uncle asked me to encourage him. My grandpa isn't the easiest person in the world to speak to. I tried to ask him to eat. I promised that even though I would be leaving the next day, I'd be his personal nurse. I'd check in and for the most part I did.
My mother and I had to go to Miami to visit some family. We went. We were physically there, but emotionally elsewhere. I had come down with a major cold from ICU. I was sick to the point of having chills and had to spend the day in bed. In those hours I pondered if I should call, if he would be breathless, and would he be even able to talk? Was he on morphine? Was in he in pain? I pondered so much. I needed my mom to call him.
The 27th was brutal. We finally got to speak to him and not his wife. He couldn't talk so she would tell us how he was doing. He spoke to me told me to enjoy my life. I spent a lot of those 5 years after his diagnosis wanting to know how I could honor him and his strength in my life. I had no idea it was that simple. He just wanted me to enjoy. He told me he loved me and that was it. I knew it. He didn't tell me to take care like he usually would (which was his own way of saying "I love you"). He said those words and that point I knew this was it. It was over. I was consumed in sadness having to cover it with a bright smile to make those around me feel comfortable. I was no longer myself.
We celebrated New Years and the next day we left Miami only to find my uncle call us and give us the bad news. He had passed away. He held his wife's hand and just like that, he let go. He spent the day prior opening his arms for his brother to take him into heaven.
I felt a sense of relief. No more chemo treatments. No more doctors appointments where they found other ways to make him live a life he didn't want to. No more oxygen tanks. No more gasping for air in the middle of the night, but most of all no more cancer.
The 12 hour car ride was beyond brutal. I cried at first, then relaxed, then I cried again. Wow. I didn't know who I was. I listened to music at a blasting volume and sought out a distraction from all the pain. Making it home was difficult. My grandmother was someone I needed to video chat with since she lives far away.
I soon chatted with her and one of the first things she said was, "He enjoyed his life." This baffled me. I was so lost. She had no idea what I spoke of with him on his final days.
You're probably wondering why this is called "Totally and completely loved," when all of this is about loss. It's because there's another part to this. I promise you. The story doesn't end here. If it did this would be an awfully sad blog.