I’m still having a rough time with my grandfather’s passing. I needed some therapy this week.
Describe an image that is embedded in your brain in detail and why it remains there.
We were all in the hospital room, waiting. Surrounding the bed. We knew this was the end, but we didn’t know when. Around 10 p.m., my uncle’s friend Lisa arrives with food that she and her mother have cooked for us. We haven’t eaten in days. She and my cousin’s longtime girlfriend Jenette prepare us plates in the visitors’ room and bring them in. Sandwiches. Chicken with roasted red peppers, I think.
For the first time in a very long time, we do more than sit around and tensely grieve the inevitable. We eat together; we laugh together. Grandma tells us stories from when my mom, aunt, and uncle were children. For a moment, it’s as relaxed as it’s going to get. It’s the most relaxed it’s been all week. We are a family again, carrying on conversation over food as we did every Sunday.
Shortly after we clean up, the end begins. I’ll never forget a moment of what happened. From the sudden decrease in vitals and the shallower breathing. Grandma talking to him one last time. The sudden fear that struck us upon realizing that this wasn’t “going” to happen anymore; it was happening and we needed to face the reality that we lost the fight. Someone said, “He waited for us to finish eating!” I said, “He got his last family dinner.” Family dinners were our favorite part of the week and he got to have one last family dinner with every single member of his core family there.
Everyone took a hand or foot or arm or leg. We all surrounded him in that bed; Grandma, Uncle Lou, Auntie Anne, Matt, Jenette, Germania, Lisa, Christie, Katelyn, Mom, Dad, and myself. We surrounded him and we held onto him. We told him we loved him. But mostly we watched. We watched the vitals monitor. We watched him. We didn’t want to miss a moment of anything that was happening. It was silent.
The first time everything stopped, we immediately started to say a Hail Mary. That’s what Catholics do; they pray to the Blessed Mother in times of trouble. We said a lot of Hail Marys that week. Mid-way through the Hail Mary, everything started again. Everyone started breathing again at the same time. “You got us real good, Daddy,” said Uncle Lou. Relief only lasted minutes before everything went to “zero” again.
The doctor on call came in. “I’m sorry guys, but he has passed on.”
And that was that. I don’t know what anyone else did in that moment. All I know is that I let out a sob. I went outside to the elevators to call Jay, sink to the floor, and sob, “He’s gone, he’s gone.”
The image of our last family dinner and the events that followed it will always be embedded in my brain. It’s easy to be angry at God for everything he went through; it’s hard to be angry at God when you realize that we got to spend one last family dinner with Grandpa. That is one gift that I will never forget.