My paternal grandfather has had heart failure for over ten years. He’s a strong man. For most of my life, he was emotionally reserved, almost keeping us at a distance. We all know he loves his wife and children and grandchildren, he just wasn’t very vocal about it until about five or six years ago. I still remember the first time he told me he loved me after a long phone call…I was in my mid-twenties. I was overjoyed by those three little words.
And now here he is, nearly 84 years old, and he’s dying…slowly, painfully at home. It’s one of those moments when I wish people had the right to die with dignity, that we could choose the right time to pass into the next life when our earthly bodies fail us. My grandmother is constantly at his side…unable to leave him. He doesn’t eat, he doesn’t get out of bed. He won’t let most of the family see him. I’m trying to decide if I want to or if I can see him…to say that goodbye that’s already gripping my heart. I know it’s time. I know what’s left of this life is coming to a close for him and I find myself wishing I’d spent more afternoons sitting under the large trees in his backyard having conversations.
And now every time my mom calls, I wonder if it’s to tell me he’s dead. It’s a horrible feeling. Almost as horrible as the phone calls you get where someone tells you someone else you love has died. There’s no way to be truly prepared for it. There’s not way to escape that chasm that forms in your chest. Even now, my heart hurts just thinking about it. My dad has nightmares about it and cries when he tries to tell me…because he knows the time is near. I feel like we’re holding our breath…waiting.
I’ve stopped praying for God to heal my Papa. Now I simply pray for God to ease Papa’s pain, grant him dignity…and please be merciful as he passes from this life into the next.