Tuesday, February 5, 2013

On The Death of My Grandfather

It's been a year since my grandfather passed away.  It's been over 365 days since he died and I still find it hard to think about. I was going to post something about it on the actual anniversary (January 26th), but was just too much for me. But it's now February, and I'm feeling up to the challenge.

My grandfather's death was hard on the whole family. But it wasn't his death that was the hardest part-- it was watching him die. It was taking the school shuttle to Kaiser and sitting next to him, knowing that there was nothing more the doctors could do. It was looking at him, watching machines breathe for him. It was sitting in class, constantly checking my phone, waiting for that call. It was frantically doing schoolwork and thinking, "I'm trying to write about operationalization and instruments of measurement while my grandpa is dying."  It was sitting on the bus home and crying uncontrollably.

But the worst part?  The absolute worst part was wanting him to live and hoping for his death simultaneously. Because no one wanted him to die-- I think all of us were praying on some level for a miracle, for him to magically get well and come home and wear his hats and ties call sleep on our couch after eating a big meal. But we also knew there was no going back, he was definitely dying, it was just a matter of when. And if death is inevitable, you want it to happen sooner than later. Not only because you just can't stand watching your loved one suffer, but also because watching them on the brink of death chips away at your soul. There were times I thought, "Grandpa! I need you to die so I can finally mourn you!" And then I would feel like the worst person in the world for wishing death on someone I love.  That was probably the worst part of the whole ordeal.

Not that the events after his death weren't difficult. Literally hours after his death my manager called me (on my day off, no less), and after I informed her that my grandfather had passed, that I was just leaving the hospital after having seen him for the last time and that I now was really not the time to talk, she responded with, "Oh, I'm sorry your grandpa died. But I've got a few work things to talk to you about, okay?" Her complete ignorance in regards to my personal situation baffled me. I wanted to yell, "Don't you understand?! I just saw my grandfather's lifeless body! I'm in no condition to talk shop!"

Now it's a year later, and thinking about the whole ordeal still brings tears to my eyes. It's very strange to talk about him and know that he's not here.  I'm also angry about his death. He was only 67 years old. I mean, his own mother, who also died in 2012, was like 92. How is that fair? And although he had been unwell for awhile, for me it was like one day he was walking and talking (sick but functional) one day and the next he was on life support. Watching him in the hospital as he died, it felt like he was scared. And angry. And that's no way to die. There was no peace, like you hear people speak about death normally. "Oh, he died very peacefully." "She died a gentle, painless death." No, I think that my grandfather died a pretty painful, confusing and scary death. He died not really knowing what was going on, and he was probably angry as hell. And I think that for all the good and bad that he did in life, he at least deserved a peaceful death.

These are the things I've thought about in the past year. His absence is still painfully obvious-- the winter holidays were especially strange. And the upcoming events will also be very strange with him not in attendance (like my graduation from college-- I was so sure he was gonna be there, and it's still so weird to think that he won't be). But time moves on.  He has his own space on the altar. I can only hope that he's watching us from a place I can't see. I hope he's at peace. I hope that even if dying was scary and confusing, that the afterlife has brought him peace and contentment.

I love you, Grandpa.


  1. It's Allison, Ndeya, and I have to post anonymously because I'm too dumb to figure out another way to do it. My father died a year ago on December 27th. I fully understand the range of emotions and thoughts you describe. My Dad went from well and fit and strong to dying very quickly. The one very good thing for me was being able to help care for him as he died at home. A year later, and it is still hard, though there is more peace. I know he is OK. I miss him. And I hope I will see him again. Thank you for sharing something so tender.

    1. Thank you for your comment, Allison. I really appreciate people who understand! It's taken awhile for me to get to a place where I can really articulate how I feel about my grandfather's death, and it's a relief to know that people out there feel the same way.