Tough times

I’ve been getting quite a few messages from readers over the last couple of weeks, but I haven’t had much time or energy to respond.  Please know I am reading them.  There has just been a lot going on in my life.  Last week my grandfather fell off the back porch and broke his shoulder.  This was unusual for him because despite being 90 yrs old, he was rather steady on his feet.  Still, we wrote it off as his age catching up to him.  I helped get him to the hospital and assisted my father with taking care of him after we got him home.  Looking back now, we should have known it was a precursor to something much worse.

Last Friday, I came over for our usual Friday night dinner we always had together.  I found him collapsed on the ground with my father kneeling next to him and on the phone with 911.  The way my grandfather looked…I knew it was bad.  He was breathing erratically and not responding when we tried talking to him.  When the paramedics arrived, he did manage to mumble a few words.  That gave me a little hope, but it was completely dashed once he arrived at the hospital.  He was comatose by that point. A nurse asked me if he normally looked that way.  I understood why she asked, considering his age, but his mind was as clear as could be until then.  Just the night before I’d sat by his bed, keeping him company since his broken shoulder had taken a lot out of him.  We talked about all sorts of things–life, politics, the weather.  I’m glad I had that time with him because I’d had no idea it would be our last conversation.

At the hospital, they ran a ct scan on him and discovered he’d had a massive stroke.  They showed the scan to us and said there was almost no chance he could come back from it.  I stared at the screen.  You didn’t have to be an expert to see it looked bad.  We had to make the tough decision everyone with loved ones fears and tell the doctors not to put him on life support.  He’d specifically told us he didn’t want that and he’d signed a DNR.  All we could do was make him comfortable and sit by him.

I knew he’d lived a long and good life, but seeing him like that was tough.  He was such a strong man and he’d always been a part of my life.  Staring at him lying in that bed, struggling for every breath, I cried.  Then I tried to pull myself together because other relatives were there.  Someone suggested we should talk to him.  I leaned over next to him and whispered that it was okay.  That I loved him.  He didn’t have to stay and he could go whenever he was ready.  Not that I wanted him to go, but I didn’t want him to suffer, either.  Everyone stood around in a sort of death watch.  The doctors said it would likely be hours, a few days at most.  My family played that game of trying to stay strong and not cry so as to not set anyone else off.  I gave up and went to the corner of the room and slumped against the wall.  I couldn’t help it.  I broke down and let myself cry for a few minutes before pulling myself back together.  He was there on that bed and his body was still fighting to live, but I knew I’d already lost him.

I can’t decide whether it was the longest or shortest night of my life, but somewhere near one in the morning he took his last breath and passed away peacefully.  The nurses came and checked his pulse and called his time of death.  They were so quiet and professional about it.  God bless them both.  They gave us time after that.  I asked everyone to leave the room so I could say my goodbyes.  It was hard.  What do you say to a man who has been such a huge part of your life?  He’d always been there for me.  I’d always shared everything with my grandfather.  Even when I was far away in the military I’d called him at least once a week to check in with him.  For the past few years, I’d been over at his place for dinner every Friday night and for brunch every Sunday afternoon, in addition to other random times I stopped by.  I’d spent as much time with him as I could and he’d always been happy to see me.  His degree had been in journalism (though he never worked in that career) and he’d been so pleased with my decision to become a writer.

And I’d lost him.  His body lay there in the hospital bed, cold and unmoving, but I had to talk to him one last time.  I told him I loved him, hoping his spirit was lingering somewhere nearby and that he could hear me.  There was more, but I can’t remember everything I said.  Part of the time, I just cried.  Then I let me father have the room so he could say his goodbyes.

Since then, we’ve been working on putting a memorial together for this weekend.  I’ve gone through hundreds of pictures, sorting certain ones to use for a video I’m putting together.  Something to commemorate his life.  Once in a while, I have to stop and take a breath.  I’m happy he lived his life so fully, but it’s hard to think about how he’s gone now.  How can someone who seemed larger than life just disappear so quickly?  I’ve gone in his bedroom a few times, sat in his chair, and just took in the last rays of his presence.  His cat continues to lie on his bed.  He doted on her so much and I have no idea if she realizes he’s gone.  I give her as much attention as I can.  She looks so sad, as if she is waiting for him to come back.

I have to put a program together for the memorial.  I found a template and got special paper, but filling it in is harder than I imagined.  There’s a part where you can put details about the person and their accomplishments.  It shouldn’t be that difficult, but despite being a writer I have no idea what to say.  It took me this long just to put together this blog post.  I’m only doing this much so you all know what is going on with me and why I may not respond to your messages right away.  I must get this program finished by tonight so it can be printed tomorrow.  My father and I have managed to get almost everything else arranged.  There are just a few final details left.  I don’t know what else to say other than I’m feeling numb at the moment.  Hopefully, things will get back on track with me and my writing soon.  I know my grandfather wouldn’t want me to put off working on my books because of him.  He often bothered me more than anyone about how I was going with them.  I do think I’ll dedicate Darkness Wanes to him.  He would like that.

28 Replies to “Tough times”

  1. I’m so sorry for your loss. I went through a very similar experience with my mother. My father found her barely breathing by the time they got her to the hospital she was gone but her body was still trying to live. We knew as well that she didn’t want to live on machines. 3 days later she passed. Her sudden death shocked us all. My prayers are with you and your family.

  2. Susan, I am so, so sorry that you have lost him. I can only imagine the pain you and yours are going through. He sounded like a very caring man. You were so blessed to have him in your life as well as he was with you being in his. Take care and much xoxooxxo.

  3. Susan I am so sorry for your loss. I know things are very bleak right now.sending prayers for you and your family.I know how you are feeling in the past 5 years I lost my mom and two little brothers and I still miss them every day.with my deepest condolences love and support

  4. I am very sorry for your loss, it seems like you are having a hard time of it at the moment. Don’t put pressure on yourself about writing, family is first and your faithful readers will be here patiently waiting and hoping life gets a whole nicer to you! X

  5. I am so sorry for your loss. I lost my Granny last Feb and it was very sudden too. There are no words, just hugs and prayers. I made a memorial fairy garden for her (she loved plants.)

  6. So sorry to hear this.

    It is scant comfort now, but over time, I believe you’ll look back and take strength from the fact he seems to have lived well and gone quickly, and that’s what we would all want for ourselves.

    • Thanks, Mark. I am definitely glad his suffering was not dragged out. My mother battled brain cancer for eleven months before it took her. She went through so much that I wouldn’t wish on anyone. At the same time, quick deaths have their drawbacks. There’s this part of me that wishes I could have gotten one last chance to talk to him (while he was conscious) and say goodbye.

  7. Hi Susan, I only know you through reading your books and the occasional blog post, but just wanted to say I’m sorry. I’m a doctor working in palliative care at the moment, and whether you’re close or distant, the lost of loved ones is never easy. Studies show that even in a coma, people can recognise the voices of those they love- so all those things you said to him, the love you shared – I’m sure he heard.
    Look after yourself.

  8. So sorry for the loss of someone that was such an important part of your life. My condolences and prayers to you and your family.

  9. I’m very sorry to hear of your loss. I know what it’s like to be in a hospital room watching someone and waiting for the inevitable. Take care.

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