My late grandpa has been on my mind a lot today. Some memories came up in my Facebook feed that have left me a little nostalgic and have allowed me to grieve. So life lesson #9:
You’re not always promised a goodbye.
On Tuesday, November 27th, 2018, I had gone to see my grandpa in the nursing home. There had been an Elvis impersonator putting on a Christmas concert and my grandpa had been begging me to come see one of these shows with him. Because work conflicts in the past, I never got to go. Fortunately, that Tuesday landed on my day off.
I went to the concert, and enjoyed watching my grandpa’s interaction more than I did the impersonator. Afterward, I wheeled him back to his room and we played cards for about an hour before I left. When I hugged him, his embrace was a little tighter than usual, like he knew it would be the last time he saw me. I told him I’d be back on Thursday before work, and I would bring him some more of his water packets he loved.
I ended up waking up late that Thursday and rushed to work without getting to see my grandpa. The next day was my birthday, and I had made plans to spend a few hours playing cards like we used when I was younger. Figuring I would see him then, I didn’t think nothing of it.
At 3:00am on the 30th, my 29th birthday, I got a call from the nursing home saying he was gone.
We knew that our time with grandpa was running out. Over the last year, he had started experiencing problems with his heart again. He had a 5-bypass surgery done in 2013, and they had warned us then the life expectancy was only 3-5 years. His diabetes had gotten bad off as well, setting up gangrene in his right foot. He had lost his left one to the same thing in 2014. While we were expecting that we would be celebrating our last Christmas with him, we didn’t expect him to go so quick.
My mom had gone and seen him 12 hours before on her way to work, and he was happy. She said he was joking with everybody, and he was looking forward to seeing me the next day to play cards. He had even said his leg was feeling better, and that it was starting to heal up. However, his heart had hit it’s limit on what it could take and he went peacefully in his sleep.
There’s a lot of what if’s that run through my mind. What if I had gotten up early that day and my alarm had gone off, would I have gotten my goodbye then? What if the nursing home had reached my mother first instead of me, how would my family had broke the news to me instead of the other way around? The hardest thing I’ve ever had to do is tell my own mother that her father was gone.
I always thought that the goodbye to my grandpa was something I could plan on. That I would be able to compose myself and control my grief. I thought I would be able to tell him how much I loved him and how thankful I was that I had him growing up. We can plan for all these things, but death is something that runs on its own clock. It comes when we least expect it to, and we’re not promised a last goodbye or I love you. The only thing we can do is make it count while we have the chance, and hope that in the afterlife (if you believe in it), you’ll get a chance to say all those things left unsaid.