Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Waiting and Dying

Last Tuesday I was having lunch with my Dad. His phone rang and I don't know why or how, but I just knew that it would be my Uncle saying that my Grandfather was dying or dead. For almost a week now we have been waiting for the inevitable.

Yesterday it happened again. I had a missed call while I was on the phone to someone else. I heard the familiar beep beep of the other line and then again for the voice message. I didn't even have to listen to it to know. It was time. The family was being summoned to the hospital to say their final goodbyes to my Grandfather. The wait was almost over.

I run to the bathroom and furiously rub away my makeup. Bright red lips are too perky for ICU. Tricky and I jump in the car and make our way to the hospital. Partly to say goodbye, but mostly to support my Dad.

Since having his operation last week, my Grandfather never regained consciousness. He would show some signs of improvement but with each step forward he would take two back. His body was failing, even with so much intervention. The decision was made to remove life support.

We gather around his bed. His wife, his five children, two of their partners (one is my Mum), three of his grandchildren and one sweet little Tricky boy who senses that something is up. He is unusually calm and happy to be held. All these people, most of whom Tricky hasn't met before, smile at him with sad eyes and he smiles back. He never smiles at strangers. Maybe he knows they are family?

It has been years since all the children were in the same room and we are all aware that this morose family reunion should not have happened this way. Not like this. There should be food and wine not ventilators and catheters.

We hug and we cry. And we wait for it all to happen. For the show to begin. For the show to end. For death to come.

My Dad holds his father's hand. They have the same hands and it's difficult to tell which is which. I look around and notice that they all have the same hands.

The Priest arrives. All the identical hands join in a circle around the bed and the Last Rites are read. Tricky decides now would be a good time to giggle. I cringe and apologize and everyone else just smiles at him... he is a welcome distraction. A bundle of life in stark contrast to the shell of a man who lays upon the bed.

The nurse, an absolute angel, stops the medication. One by one we go to him and say a few words. When it is my turn I walk to his side with Tricky on my hip. I hold my Pop's hand and lean in to kiss his forehead, mumbling some last words in his ear. I call him mate and then immediately wonder why I said it. It's sounds stupid and foreign and I hope that no one else has heard me.

I stand back up and without any prompting Tricky looks at his Great Grandfather and waves bye bye. He knows. My Dad crumples and his body is racked with heaving sobs. My Mum holds him and weeps, memories of a much earlier time haunting her.

We wait. We share memories of happy times, practical jokes and a warped sense of humour. I have forgotten that he was once funny, it seems so long ago. I mention the Easter, when I was only young, that he handed me a large, heavy, gift wrapped box that had me so excited... only to find a tiny egg and a brick inside.

The sobs of "what a great man" and "I'll miss him so much" anger me. These are the people who complained loudly when it was their turn to finally help out when my Dad couldn't do it any more. The people who hated helping so much they rang my Dad five short days after his open heart surgery, when he was still in hospital, to ask when he could drive again so desperate were they to be rid of the old man. Who after only six months of helping him have forgotten who it was that took care of it all for years. But now is not the time for bitterness... that will come, I just know it.

After almost an hour he is ready to go, he is ashen. The nurse asks if we'd like the breathing tube removed for the final few minutes. Everyone solemnly nods. Take it away, let him have his last few minutes on earth with as few tubes as possible.

The wait is almost over. The final drabs of life drain from his face and he is gone. A doctor quietly comes in to confirm it. She warms her hands before feeling for a pulse and apologizes to him, by name, for their iciness. If it wasn't so sad I would laugh. Warming your hands to touch a corpse has to be the height of compassion.

The formalities of death are over and the time is noted. 1:20pm. I stroke his tattooed arm and kiss his forehead. Still warm. I wonder how long it takes for a body to go cold and panic that I might have asked out loud.

My fear from last week has eventuated. I have watched someone die. Witnessed their soul leave their body. I am overwhelmed and it is hard to process. I am the first to leave the room, making my excuses that Tricky needs to go and I head straight for the bathrooms where I scrub at my hands as if the stench of death is on them.

And now we wait again. We all know it won't be long before we are back here, going through the same motions, with the wife he has left behind.

Four Generations: My Grandparents, my Dad and I with a two day old Tricky

57 comments:

  1. Sending love. It's just like that.
    Such a beautifully written post.

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  2. Oh Glow. I am so sorry. xxx Beautiful post.

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  3. Sending love honey. Beautifully written xx

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  4. much love sweet pea. beautifully written xx

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  5. Beautiful post, it's just like that.  :( xxx

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  6. You are amazing with words. Love to you darling xxxx

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  7. Oh Glow I am so sorry. I don't know what else to say.
    All the love in the world to you and your family xx

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  8. Gemma @ My Big NutshellAugust 16, 2011 at 9:09 AM

    Thanks for sharing you feelings. To be present at a death changes you forever but also gives you a deeper understanding about life (in my opinion) and that is a good thing.

    I know what you mean about the commentary after someone dies. You're left to wonder if they know what they are saying and how honest they are being, or is it to hide their own shame or feelings? I questioned the same thing as you did when my Pop died.

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  9. Much love to you gorgeous and your family xx

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  10. Tricky waving bye bye has me with tears rolling down my cheeks.

    Sending you many hugs XO

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  11. Much love to you and your family. xxx

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  12. Death and I are unfortunately old friends, so I truly know how you feel. Thinking of you and your family xxx

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  13. Lovely post. I am sorry for your loss. Hugs  Jo xxx

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  14. What a touching post. I admire your courage in witnessing all that & your honesty in voicing out the "people complaining"/"bitterness" part. It often is the case. I had tears while reading your account. 

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  15. Ah dear Glow - I know, Tricky knows & now you know as well. The passing of this life is really quite something to behold. In time you will be able to process this. I am so proud of you & Tricky. Hugs & loe to you my dear (X)

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  16. Sending our love.

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  17. I am in tears Glowless. Beautiful post about something far from beautiful. May your grandfather rest in peace xxx

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  18. Becky from Becky and JamesAugust 16, 2011 at 10:02 AM

    Love to you x

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  19. what an emotionally draining day for you - thank goodness for Tricky and his beautiful nature. him waving bye bye had me all choked up. that is just precious. hugs to you and your family xx

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  20. I'm very sorry for your loss. I hope that your family can remember the good times with your Grandfather.

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  21. So tenderly written. So sorry for your loss.

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  22. sending you love. 

    what is it they say about family reunions?  Only for weddings and funerals.... :(

    And the nurse?  Lovely...  With my son, all the nurses spoke to him and warmed their hands and cooed at him when they did anything to him.  It didn't matter he had died long before.  It was comforting the respect and compassion.. 

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  23. oh jeez lady, way to make me cry. lucky it's been one of those days and i have barely managed to clean my teeth let alone put on mascara that would now be running down my face! take care lady xx

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  24. This was a beautifully written post that has touched my heart. My sympathies to you and your family at this sad time. xo

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  25. Ah, Glow...just sending you hugs and love, hun xxx

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  26. My father just said goodbye to his older brother last week. My dad is now the eldest. He is all of a sudden very much feeling his mortality.

    Beautiful post Glowless.

    Love & stuff
    Mrs M

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  27. such beautiful but difficult words.... sending love and support.

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  28. I'm so sorry lovely...

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  29. I am so sorry. If I lived closer I would bake you something spectacular.

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  30. Oh lovely thing. Thinking of you xxx

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  31. Oh hun, I'm sorry. What a beautiful post xx

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  32. A beautiful post.
    I am sorry for your loss, and hope that Tricky grows up hearing lots of wonderful stories about Great Grandfather
    xxx

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  33. This is a beautiful tribute, I have tears reading it and remembering what it was like saying goodbye to my own Pop (worst moment of my life).  Although you werent close, I am sure it meant the world to your Dad to be there and Tricky will surely keep brightening these dark days for him x

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  34. I've been thinking of you over the last week and every time I try to write something in response, it just doesn't sound right.  So I will simply say that I'm sorry, and that I am blown away by your ability to put an experience such as this into such beautiful, heart-felt words.
    Sending much love xx

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  35. I'm so sorry for your loss. We just went through the same thing - even down to the giggling great-grandchild. *hug*

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  36. Love your honesty and pragmatism. Sorry it wasn't brief, like I hoped for you, but painless at least. xx

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  37. I'm sorry, Glowless.  What an ordeal to go through.  It's funny how death tends to put things in perspective, while life just brings out the pettiness and bitterness.

    Look after yourself, Tricky and Map Guy.  You three are the most important people in your family.  I know it's hard to stay out of extended family dramas, it can also be very draining.  Do what you can, but keep the best of you for you three....

    Hugs...

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  38. Kirsty@ Mummy To FiveAugust 16, 2011 at 9:18 PM

    Sending you hugs and strength xx

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  39. Love how raw you write about things. Both my Pop's have passed and both I was too late to see as I lived away and didn't make it in time. I am kind of glad I missed it but then I am sad we didn't get our final good-bye. Lots of Love xxxxx

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  40. We messages yesterday - you said it wad expected. That doesn't take away the sadness. Xxx

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  41. (((Hugs))) to you, your Dad especially, and Tricky... Oh Glow, you have seen a lot this year, and far too often, in hospitals with someone related to you, male, undergoing an operation, recovering from one, and now this:
    you have touched, and faced death. The ultimate.
    Have I ever told you how eloquent and insightful you are, which comes forth in posts such as these...the markers of life, and the people concerned? No..well you are. Yes...sorry, I am getting forgetful.
    P.S. WAITING. not good.
    P.P.S. Please pass on my thoughts of love and care to Dad. He has been to hell and back too. And I want him to stay around for loads of years yet, remembering how unwell he was in early 201.
    Denyse XXX

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  42. Your words have permanently etched an image in my head forever. God Bless your you & your family!

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  43. Just sending you lots of love and cuddles.
    It doesn't matter if you were close or not. You still need them. xx

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  44. Love to you all G, your Dad sounds like a top bloke x

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  45. I'm so sorry for your loss. My grandmother died last week as well. It's always so hard. xoxo

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  46. Veronica @ Mixed GemsAugust 19, 2011 at 9:28 AM

    So sorry for your loss. Expected may take away the shock but doesn't remove the sadness and pain. I know what you mean by the family issues because my mum, the eldest child has gone through similar being the primary carer for my nan five years ago and then being primary carer for my aunt, her younger sister, who died only two months ago. I'm sure your dad really appreciates your support. I know my mum did mine. And that's what means so much at these difficult times.

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  47. Wow. What an unbelievable gift to put this into words as beautifully as you have. I once got a phone call from my dad at 9 in the morning, and I knew. It was a sad, sad day.

    Much love to you and yours, girlfriend x

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  48. Oh darling one, am just catching up and am so sorry about the loss of your Grandpa. Your words are a gorgeous tribute to him and your Dad too. Big hugs. Xxxxx

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  49. This is a heart wrenching post but be grateful you were there, when my grans life was cut short too soon by cancer, the whole family waited all weekend, my sister flew from Adelaide and we even told her it was ok to go. On the Monday, I made the decision, which I know regret to go to work, I was emotionally drained and needed a distraction, being a teacher is a big distraction. I missed her by 2hrs, my now husband lied and said she was still here, I went straight to the hospital and mum greeted me outside, I knew straight away! I cried and cried, I got to see her, she had that waxy look but she had a smile on her face. I know I said my goodbyes and I promised her if we have a daughter she will have her middle name, which is mIne also. But it still gets me that I wasn't there and it's been 4 years. So although it was hard, have faith in the choice you made. My love and thoughts are with you in this hard time, but he will live on in your memories and heart. Xxx

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