Monday, March 16, 2009


The phone rang twice this morning. Once at 5:01 and another time at 5:23 and I picked it up, finally. The fire alarm in our bedroom went off at 12:51. There was no fire in our bedroom (at least the smoking sort). While the reasons for the alarm were murky, I knew exactly who was calling me, and why. At 2:32 PM yesterday, my phone rang, and I picked it up. It was my father, calling to tell me that that hospice nurse said that grandpa E's hands were blue, and that he only had a few hours to live, and if I wanted to see him I should go visit him soon.

All my relatives who have died during my life have passed away in Southern California. So this was the first time in my life I had the honor to be near a dying person. I was dubious at first. Grandpa had been near death's door for the past four years. Quite a few times my mother urged me to visit. To hear it from my father, that was sobering. At 2:33, Dutch and I left the museum and started walking to the car. He didn't need any convincing.

We sat in my grandparent's small room, with my aunt, mother, sister, grandmother. It was one of the best family times I can remember. No one was stuck in the kitchen cooking, no one was jockeying for attention, no one was stressed. We all just sat on my grandmother's bed, taking turns holding grandpa's hand, or stroking his head. Everyone was relaxed, and more themselves than I had seen in a long time. I realized I actually liked my family. Pa looked terrible, his breathing was loud and labored, his eyes were glassy. It was clear his breathing was very painful. At first we fretted, is he comfortable enough, warm enough? At some point we realized his comfort was completely, utterly out of our control. We talked about silly things, recipes, memories (I had forgotten (ha!) what a good memory my sister has). I held my grandmother's hand.

I am so glad I went. It was so cathartic, just sitting there for a couple hours, doing nothing but holding hands.

6 comments:

M. L. Benedict said...

I am imagining that it was a tremendous comfort to him, just having you all there, conversing among yourselves.

H said...

My thoughts are with you and your family. It's wonderful that you were all there for him, and to comfort your grandmother.

Kay said...

Here you remind us that death is in the middle of life. Thank you.

Poulet said...

You're in our thoughts and prayers, too. My grandfather died in SoCal in 1989, and I was too young to understand what a last visit would mean. Thank you for sharing your experience.

The Nikkster said...

Last visits can be tough. I'm glad this one was well-spent. I know I've had a mix of difficult and pleasant final good-byes.

Peace and comfort to you and your family.

Camille said...

thank you. everyone's prayers are appreciated

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