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Death & Dying ~ PART 2 of 2 ~ Lessons Learned

Posted Oct 04 2010 2:02pm
So I last left off with the devastating loss of my much-loved Grandmother... After she died all I could think of was "please God, don't take my Grandpa too".  However, after she died I saw how much he missed her and how hard it was for him to go on living without her.  They were true soul mates.  My heart broke every time I thought about him - living without her - feeling so empty and so lost.

My Grandpa...

After Grandma died I tried to help ease his loneliness by visiting often.  He's not much of a talker - Grandma was the social butterfly in their relationship.  Many times I would just sit there silently while he stared at the TV... but when he did talk, it was always about memories of my Grandma.  He would pull out old pictures from the past that I had seen numerous times before - but I always acted like it was the first time I had seen it.  Spending time in their house was hard... I tried not to let him see me cry when I looked around the house and at every little thing that reminded me of her... I knew I was being selfish by wanting my Grandpa to live, but at the same time I could see that the life had gone out of his eyes the day she died.

In the end I'm surprised at how long he went on living - years actually...  but then all it took to take him down was not getting the proper treatment he needed on his foot he ended up in the hospital due to an infection.  His insurance only allowed for so much time at the hospital, so as soon as he was "good enough" he was sent over to a rehabilitation center near the hospital until he was well enough to go home.  However, my Grandpa didn't see it that way.  I don't blame him, I mean the place looked just like a nursing home.  To top it off, the man he shared his room with was dying.  I don't blame my Grandpa for being angry and depressed.  He felt betrayed that his own children had put him in this awful place even if he didn't fully understand why.  He was so upset with them that he ignored them, refusing to even make eye contact when they tried talking to him.  The only person he actually would look at and listen to was me.  I cried when I tried to convince him that it was only temporary - and that when he feeling better he would be able to go back home, but I couldn't get that through to him.  His mind was made up.  He was never getting out and therefore he would make his stay there as short as possible by refusing to eat.   

I remember going to visit him there - I could see him through the window as we walked past the building on our way in - sitting in the dinning area all by himself with his head down staring at his untouched plate of food.  I hated seeing him in there.  If I could have I would have helped him escape - but that obviously wasn't a choice.

One night our family went to visit him (not knowing this would be the last time we would see him alive).  It was Good Friday (a Catholic Holy Day- the Friday before Easter Sunday) - and we had stopped by after church and going out for fish.  When we walked into his room I was absolutely taken aback when I saw the way he looked - laying there in the bed.  It was if he had changed over night.  He had withered away to nothing.  The feeding tubes the nurses inserted were obviously useless.

I immediately knew that it was his time.  I clearly remember rushing to his bedside, crying like a baby, and kneeling down on the floor next to him while holding his fragile hand.  He couldn't speak because he was too weak... so I did all the talking.  I told him that "It was okay to go.  Grandma is waiting for you."  Then I proceeded to tell him how blessed I was to have such a wonderful Grandpa and that I would never forget him.  I told him how much he meant to me and how much I loved him.  Although he didn't say a word I actually saw tears stream down his face (which I rarely ever saw) - and then he squeezed my hand with as much strength as he could.  I gave him a kiss on the forehead and then went out to the hallway.  I couldn't see him like that anymore.  The rest of the family soon followed.

I wasn't surprised when I got the call the next morning that he had passed away in the middle of the night.  My only regret is that he was by himself - that we weren't there with him in his final hours.  Despite this, I couldn't help but think that God and my Grandpa knew deep inside that I needed him until I was ready to let go of him (and I know that sounds truly selfish - but I had lost so many people already that I just couldn't bear to lose my Grandpa too).   I truly believe he was waiting for my approval for him to leave us.  I was ready to let him go even though it was hard.   I miss him and think about him and Grandma every single day.  But I'm so grateful to have had them in my life.  I'm grateful for the close relationship we had and the memories that will stay with me forever.

My Other Grandma...

I never met my Mom's Dad, as he had passed away before I was even born, but I at least got to know her Mom.  I hate to say it, but we weren't nearly as close as I was with my other grandparents.  I loved her and all, but we just didn't have a close relationship.  She had been living in a nursing home for years and had wanted to die so badly.  She would always get upset when anyone would tell her of someone she had known had passed away.  She felt like God had forgotten about her and it ticked her off.  I've never seen anyone so willing to die.  I can only say that I'm hope I'm that prepared when it's my time!  Of course she was upset to hear when my Grandpa had passed away... again feeling like God had neglected her.  However, only five months had past since my Grandpa's death when my Grandma passed away.  God had finally listened to her prayers and took her home with him.  He death wasn't as hard because she wanted to go for such a long time.  I knew she was happy and it made it easier to deal with.

My Godparents...

I had never actually witnessed anyone die before - that is - until I was there the moment when both of my Godparents passed away.  For those of you who have witnessed the same thing - you know how intense that is.

My Godparents were special to me - they were like another set of Grandparents.  When my Godfather fell ill and they had to move him to a Hospice facility and I knew then it was only a matter of time.  I'm grateful I was able to be there, standing by his bedside as he took his last breath - as hard as it was to watch.  When I got there I was told that he had been out of it all day and that he hadn't been aware of anything that was going on.  I was encouraged by one of his friends to speak to him anyway - saying that he could hear me.  You can imagine my surprise when I softy spoke his name and his eyes opened and he slowly turned his head towards me.  I couldn't believe it!  I was able to tell him how much he meant to me and how much I loved him... He was such a kind and gentle soul.

My Godmother could hardly stand the grief and it wasn't long before she passed way herself - it was only a matter of months.  Again I had been at her bedside when she took her last breath.  I'm telling you, that is a pretty damn intense thing to experience... to see the end of one's life... to know that the person you knew and loved was laying right there and then all of a sudden they're gone and it's just their shell left because their soul was gone.

Other Loved Ones Gone Too Soon...

Without going into as much detail, I have lost way too many people - children even - who died way too soon (in my opinion at least  -  but I do because I believe there's a plan for us all even if I don't want to accept it sometimes).  A dear family friend (my Dad's best friend in fact) passed away, leaving behind two small boys and a wife.  I helped out as much as I could to help her with her two boys - picking them up from school - taking them to practices and making sure they had dinner and their homework done before she came home from work.  It's been a few years since his death but there's still a lot of pain there - and I'm sure there always will be.  My heart breaks for them and makes me wonder why God does the things he does sometimes.

A friend that I used to work with at my very first job (the job were I worked with the friend that died in the car accident) lost her husband.  He had worked there too... but it was years later that he died.  He was on his way home from an out-of-town job when another car crossed into his lane and killed him.  Why did she have to lose the love of her life so soon?  

I recently went to the funeral of an old boss of mine.  He was only in his 50's.  I can honestly say he was the best boss I ever had - kind, caring, funny, and laid back.  And it's not like this wasn't just any job either - it was a real family-oriented type place - people really looked out for one another and cared for one another there - that's what made his death so hard.  It didn't seem right or fair that he had to die so young. 

Lastly - but most importantly - are the young ones who never ever got the chance to live.  My best friend lost her daughter a month after she gave birth to her.  Right when she was born the doctors knew something was wrong and she was air lifted to a Children's Hospital 2 hours away.  My friend stayed by her daughter's side every single day but sadly she didn't make it.

I recently suffered a miscarriage - and I know it's completely different than going through birth only to have your child die a month later - but it was still (and still is) very painful to deal with.  People tried to comfort me by saying "it happens all the time" - but that didn't make me feel any better.  I was about four months pregnant and when the doctor tried finding the heartbeat and could hear one it crushed me and my husband.  I had already started to buy stuff for the baby and others had given me gifts.  I even had a highchair that my Mom bought and I had already assembled it (even though I knew that the baby wouldn't be able to use it for a while)... I was just so thrilled to be a Mommy - I still have those reminders lurking around the house - the books, the outfits, the toys, the highchair... and it hurts so much every time I come across them...


I wish I knew for sure why - but I have to believe that there is some reason why I'm constantly being torn apart by loss.  I fear every single day for all of my loved ones.  I wonder - who's next?  How will I even handle it?  Has God or the Universe been trying to prepare me for something that will REALLY test my strength?  I hope certainly hope not...

I wish I could stop thinking about death - it's ALWAYS on my mind - 24/7 - and I know it's certainly not a healthy way to think.   Yet somehow I need to come to terms with the fact that death is just an inevitable part of life.  We all want the same thing - to leave this world a little bit better than before we entered it - no matter how big or small of a difference.  We need to feel that our life mattered - and that everyone we lost along the way - that their life mattered too.   I certainly know that the loved ones I lost mattered a LOT to me.  Really - when you think about it - the only way to sum it up is...


The most important thing we do on this Earth is when we make connections with other people.  Each connection we make with another human being is an important one.  We have no idea how long that person will be in our lives, therefore we should treasure each moment we are given with them.  Although it is not easy to lose someone you love, would it have been better to not have known them at all?  I know I'm a better person for knowing each and every person that I've loved and lost.

For those that I briefly knew or knew through someone else - I believe that no matter how tragic the loss, I learned an important lesson.  For example - I learned that committing suicide only hurts those that you leave behind.  There were times in my life when I entertained the idea of suicide myself, but perhaps the constant suicides I had dealt with (subconsciously) prevented me from following through with my own plans of suicide?

I truly believe we all serve a purpose while we are here.  We all have a lesson to learn, and once that lesson is learned it'll be our time to move on.

No one ever said life was going to be easy and that that we would never suffer any pain... Perhaps my journey is in coming to terms with death and realizing that although I can't prevent it from happening, I can certainly hold on close to the ones I love and never let them forget how much they mean to me.  After all, you never know when you might not see them again.  Don't hold grudges or say things you'll regret later because you might not have an opportunity to make things right again.

I certainly know that I'm guilty of holding a grudge and being stubborn - waiting for the other person to apologize for something they did to hurt me... but instead -  what if we worked on forgiveness and compassion?  I know we're not perfect individuals - we all have our faults - but we can at least make an effort.  Because life is so short (and certainly not predictable) wouldn't it be better if we left each person we came in contact with a little bit better than before we met them?  It definitely couldn't hurt to try.

When I first started typing about all the lost loved ones in my life I had no idea that I would come to any sort of conclusion.  Heck - it might not even be the right one - but it certainly makes a lot of sense to me and for the meantime it seems like a pretty reasonable answer.   I can't stop death from happening, but I can love the ones that are here with me now and never let them forget how much they mean to me. 

At first I regretted sharing all this personal information (in two posts nonetheless) but as it turns out, I think it actually helped open my eyes a bit.  I need to stop living like everyone around me is about to die and instead enjoy and cherish each moment I have with them.  Could it all really be just as simple as that?  Who knows?  But I actually think I'm going to stop dwelling on death so much and focus more of my attention on the LIVING.

What an absolutely perfect quote to end this post with

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