Monday, December 29, 2014

A Day for Reflection

Today, I'm not going to be sharing my usual content but instead a part of myself. It only felt right to share this with my readers, as I never know which one of you may be going through a similar experience with a loved one. Six years ago, my grandpa passed away after a long and hard 3 month battle at the hospital.

My mom and I lived with her parents from the time I was born until the time I left for college. My grandma and grandpa, or papa as I referred to him as, were the most amazing couple in the world. They not only loved each other very deeply, but our little family as well. I was so lucky to be exposed to that love as the years went by. They were best friends. My grandpa was fiesty and my grandma was calm, the perfect ying and yang. They shared everything together. When my grandpa broke his ankle, my grandma broke hers in the same place a few years later. When I was in college, my grandma needed a CABG, in simpler terms, a heart bypass. Her recovery was long and very hard, but somehow my grandpa nursed her back to health. I lived with them that summer and have many memories of him cooking breakfast for us every morning (always oatmeal and fruit!) and arguing with my grandma about how she needed to eat more, to which she would always reply "Oh, Bob!!" and shake her head.

I wish I could say the copying stopped there, but shortly after I had started my dietetic internship, my grandpa had a cardiac arrest at home on September 29th.  His heart stopped beating while he was writing checks.  My grandma called 911 in record time and they were able to revive him.  He was transferred to the hospital and we didn't know if he would make it through the night.  I remember all of those emotions, confusion, pain, grief - hadn't he just helped me move into the house I was sharing with two of my friends two weeks before that?  This would be the first of many lessons I would learn - life can change in an instant.  He made it through the night and we were grateful.  We would later learn that the copying would continue, as my grandpa also needed a CABG.  As ironic as it was, he needed the exact same CABG that my grandma had required.

I remember telling my aunt in the hospital after his surgery that I knew he would have a strong recovery and be back to himself in no time.  How couldn't he?  He was active and own the go and despite being retired, he still managed multiple apartment buildings and a barber shop.  He was the one who took care of the rest of us. Sadly, now I know from my current career, that for every happy ending that you hear there is a sadder story that exists.  There are surgeries that don't save lives.  There are patients that pass away onto the next life during a life saving surgery or after.  There are always miracles, but not always the miracles we are hoping for.

A few days later, my papa was rushed into emergency surgery to remove part of his bowel.  They speculated that it was due to his cardiac arrest at home and the ischemia (loss of blood flow) that followed.  Another major surgery only made him weaker, but he fought until he was strong enough to be transferred to the rehab floor.  More setbacks followed. He developed a gastrointestinal bleed that left him weakened. He went back to the cardiac floor.  He was no longer strong enough for hospital rehab. He coded and was transferred back to the ICU.  On Saturday, December 27th, 2008, I would see him in the hospital after he was extubated. In simpler terms, he had been breathing using a ventilator and was now able to breathe on room air.  I was the first one to make it to the hospital and I will never forget how happy and alive he looked.  He held my hand and said "I never would have made it through this without grandma and you kids. You are my whole life".  I wouldn't know at that time, that it would be the last good day.  Two days later, on Monday, December 29th, 2008, he would pass away from this world and onto the next.  We were with him when we went and to this day, I can still remember holding his right hand.

I would learn an important life lesson that day, one that I would carry with me forever. On the day he left this world, I would learn an important lesson that I had never before understood. Love does not stop with death. Love carries over time, distance and dimension into whatever place we go next. I still feel that love surround me, sometimes when I least expect it.  I count every single second I was given as a blessing. Every story has a miracle, just not the miracle we always want.  Our miracle was all of the days.  You see, my papa could have left the earth that fateful September 29th day but instead he decided to fight until he had no fight left.

It broke my heart to see him fight through all of those days, he fought to stay with us, he fought it all with love. Despite all of the days in the hospital, I won't remember those days.  Instead, what I'll remember is his courage, his strength and his love. I'll remember how he used to scoop iced cream in perfect round spheres.  How in first grade, I pretended to be sick to play with my toys the day after my birthday and how he told me I couldn't ever do that again, so I never did.  I'll remember hiding fake bugs in his shoes. When I got older, I'll remember him teaching me how to drive. I'll remember his temper. How he loved to buy cars. How when it snowed he would be the first neighbor out there shoveling your sidewalk.  I'll remember how he told me when our dog died that we're all going to leave sometime and that we aren't able to pick our time. When I would call the house how he would ask me if I had a nickel when I asked to talk to my grandma, sometimes it was a quarter because of "inflation".  I'll remember how the phone always seemed to pause when he as the one to answer it and how this continued after he died. I'll remember his funny jokes. His lessons on saving. How he loved to buy all of us flowers and donuts.  I'll remember how for every single second of his life on earth, he surrounded me with love.

Today, I am eternally grateful that I was blessed to be loved by him.  I still feel sadness in my heart and that sadness will never go away. The scar will always be there, but instead of being a source of pain it's now a reminder.  I will always remember the love and the importance that he placed on family and will carry that lesson with me wherever I go.  It is and always will be engraved on my heart.

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