Friday, January 31, 2014

My grandfather is dying.

He's 87. Survived a heart attack. Smoked a lot. His eyesight has been failing for years. He's losing his memory. His ability to control his bowels. His balance. His mind.

He is, from all I have experienced and heard, one of the most stubborn and independent men alive.

And he's dying.

And I'm conflicted.

Death sucks.

This is nothing new.

It has always sucked. It always will.

But does it suck more than seeing someone become a shell of who they were? To see them suffer the indignity of not being able to live the life they want, to see them do little more than wait for death to arrive?

How do you grieve when someone says they are ready to die? Should I grieve when this seems to be what he wants? He seems ready. Ready to pass on into whatever comes next.

He talks of friends long passed. Of people I've never met who have preceded him into this unknown. He can't always remember the people around him. Not even my dad or my aunt, who have of late been splitting shifts each day to be there with him, helping and caring and waiting.

He remembered me the last time I saw him. At Christmas, I had a chance to see him. He lay there in bed, fragile, bruised from a fall. Cold. Always cold.

It was 80 degrees in the house, and he was in bed under a blanket.

We talked for a while. He sleeps a lot now, and he would drift occasionally. Moving from conversation to sleep to a resurfacing memory and back to sleep. We laughed. He said he was ready to go, that he'd had a good life.

I hugged him and told him I loved him. He said the same.

A few months ago, after some bad days healthwise precipitated this downturn, he and I sat outside on his back porch, facing my old high school, looking out over his back yard. It started to rain, and we sat listening to the rain hit the tin roof of the porch. I've always loved that sound. We sat there, talking a little. Neither of us have ever been great talkers. But it's a great memory.

And now that it may be the last memory I have of him truly resembling the person I knew, I think I'll love that sound even more.

Maybe some day, someone will be the last person to grieve. But not today.