I can’t believe it’s been a year. All week, I’ve been breaking down as I remember the final days in the hospital. Arriving at my grandparents’ house at 1:30 a.m. on June 7, expecting to be a part of the “Welcome home” crew later that morning but instead woken up by my mom’s phone call at 6 a.m. Her urging me and my uncle to get down to the hospital immediately. Running out of the house so fast that I slipped and fell across the lawn as my uncle hurried me to get in the car. The ride there. Pleading with God to please not let this be it. The feeling of panic, dread, and hysteria because we didn’t know anything other than, “You need to get down here right now.” The scene as when we got there. Once things started to settle, asking my aunt to hurry up since she was coming from a further distance. Begging my dad to drive faster. Telling my sisters they should come down. The anger at the overnight doctor and nursing staff for how they poorly and incompetently treated him.
Then, the waiting.
We waited for four days, taking turns bedside and otherwise rarely leaving the ICU waiting room. The world was going on outside, but not for us. We prayed. We greeted visitors. We prayed some more. We barely ate. We were afraid to leave the hospital in case we missed something. We celebrated my grandma’s birthday. We played music for him through our iPhones. He squeezed her hands and puckered his lips in a kissing motion to tell us he heard. We prayed even more. Each day, we had to accept that the inevitable was coming.
The last time I really heard him speak was as my uncle, mom, and I were leaving the hospital on Sunday, June 9. I still remember exactly what he said to each of us. We all slept there, as a family, in the ICU waiting room on the night of June 10 into June 11.
On Tuesday, June 11, it was decision time. He was in so much pain for so long and we just wanted his pain to finally stop. Around 1:40 p.m., the doctor stopped treatment and removed everything but the machine that monitors your vitals. He briefly woke up. I think he realized what was going on and looked frightened. Grandma told him, “No more pain, Louie.”
We waited. And we waited. We prayed. He held strong. He wasn’t ready to leave us yet. He wasn’t ready to leave his family. Then, around 10 p.m., we had our last family dinner together. The Voice and America’s Got Talent was playing on the TV. We ate chicken and roasted red pepper sandwiches. We started to talk more and the mood lightened ever so slightly. Grandma told stories from when my aunt, uncle, and mom were younger. We laughed and for a moment, it was just like any other Sunday family dinner. Shortly after dinner, it started. Someone, I think maybe my mom, said, “He waited for us to finish eating. I said, “He got his last family dinner.”
I think that was the closure he needed to be ready.
We surrounded him, suddenly terrified because we knew that this was it. We all held onto him. We prayed again. We told him we loved him. We let Grandma talk to him. Uncle Lou told him it was okay to go. Mom and Auntie Anne quietly took turns speaking to him. I texted Jay, “It’s happening.” We stared silently at the vitals monitor, as though it held all of the answers. We watched him, knowing it was the last precious moments we would ever get with him.
Suddenly, it was midnight. I think it was Dad who said, “It’s after midnight.” It didn’t seem like that much time had passed, but it had. My mom, I think, looked up and said, “He gave us another day.”
He gave us another 34 minutes. At 12:34 a.m., the vitals read “zero” for the final time. The doctor came in, examined him, and said, “I’m sorry, but he has passed on.”
And just like that, that was it. We left the hospital, exhausted and broken. But there would be no more pain for Louie anymore. No matter how much it hurts now without him, at least he is finally out of pain himself.
I miss you, Grandpa. I wish you could meet my son. I wish we had a million more years together. I can’t wait to see you again one day. I love you more.