Death and All His Friends

It’s so easy for us to ignore death.

I mean, there it is, looming ahead all of us. No one really knows how or when it will happen, just that it’s a guarantee. None of us can outlive or outlast it. One day, we all wind up there.

Yet it’s so easy and so desirable to forget about it. Nobody wants to sit around thinking about his or her inevitable demise. Even in church, when they talk about it, the main focus is on survival after death and how you can get there.

But it’s hard to overlook it when it’s staring us in the face.

Last weekend, my grandpa had to be taken to the hospital. He has stage-four lung cancer and had issues breathing. The past few months have been riddled with visits to doctors’ offices and a stay or two in a hospital/convalescent home, but recently he had gotten better and was able to go back home. He had finally set everything in order and things were starting to look up when everything started over again. Couldn’t breathe. 911 called. ER, Critical Care Unit, and now here, in the Direct Observation Unit.

That was Sunday. Since then, my (very large, and usually rambunctious) family has been in and out of here. It’s amazing, really: everyone’s pulled together with this, taking shifts with him and my grandma, staying awhile, spending the night. There’s always someone in the chair by his bed, holding his hand or rubbing his arm. It’s to be expected, I suppose, but that doesn’t mean it can’t amaze me.

As to his physical condition, it’s been a roller coaster. Started out okay, but quickly slid downhill. He needs to wear a breathing mask to get enough oxygen to survive, since his lungs are operating at a fraction of normal capacity. He was talking okay for the first couple days, then became unconscious. It seemed like a miracle when he (sort of) woke up and could talk again, but he’s been asleep for the past two days. His breathing’s slowed, and he’s on morphine. My grandma won’t leave his side.

I have so many thoughts surrounding this. Thoughts about love, about life and death, about how fragile everything really is. About how I’m starting my life but his is close to ending.

I sit here now in the dark. I’ve volunteered to help, to “Papa-sit” as we’ve affectionately dubbed it. My mom’s watching a movie on her portable DVD player, sitting next to her dad. My grandma’s trying to get some rest in the corner of the room. I hear the murmur of nurses talking, the beeping of machines, the rhythmic sound of oxygen pumping in and out of his lungs.

It’s so easy to escape the thought of death when I’m at home, or anywhere else for that matter, because I’m not surrounded by it. But put me feet from my dying grandfather, and it’s positively terrifying. Terrifying that it’s happening to him, that I might not get to see him again after a few more days, that he and my family will soon never be the same. But also terrifying to think that one day, it will be me in my mom’s chair and her in the bed, and that I have a 50/50 shot of being the one to go first when it’s Davis’ and my turn. And honestly, I’m not looking forward to either prospect.

I usually try to end my posts in a happy, uplifting sort of way, because let’s face it: generally, I’m a happy, uplifting person. But I’m not sure if it can be done like that today. So here I sit, in the dark, praying my grandpa doesn’t die tonight. I’d really appreciate it if you all can do the same.

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