It started with a message, like it does for most- my mother’s voice breaking, saying I needed to call her, her tone saying more than her words ever could. The call was short,her dad, my “poppa”, was dying, and wanted me to come home. The unbearable back pain thought to have resulted from a slipped disc, had actually been the rapid insinuation of liver cancer throughout the rest of his body.
Numb, sitting on the couch with tears streaming down my face, I thought of how poppa must have woken up that morning , never knowing that the new day breaking was actually the beginning of the end. I went home immediately, overwhelmed at the thought of everything I had never said, or done, regretting having waited. Selfishly, I wondered how I would pack a lifetime of memories into the 4 weeks we had left.
I was closer to poppa and nani, my maternal grandparents, then anyone else in this world. They were the grandparents childhood dreams are made of- loving, indulgent, comrades in arms if I was in trouble, a soft spot of caring when I was hurting.The crude tattooed number on his arm, and her leg, taught me that what doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger. And now, the only thing I could do to help this man who had given me so much of himself, was to be by his side as he began his departure from my life.
What do you say to someone who’s dying?
There are no words, so much being said when we met each others eyes for the first time.
Those last days were filled with moments so tender and poignant; cutting his hair for the last time( he wanted to look good when he died !) and discovering ways to soothe and nourish him, making his passage as easy and painless as possible.
The moment I cherish most happened in the middle of one of his last nights. Awoken by his cries for help, I padded down the hall into his room, where he asked me to get Nani to help him go to the commode. I refused to wake her, exhausted as she was from the ordeal we were living, and said I would help him.
Embarrassed, and frustrated by the constraints of his weakness, he refused, not willing to relinquish the dignity of toileting himself. Angered and exhausted, I simply lifted him up, escorted him over to the commode and told him to consider it repayment for handling all my diapers when I was a wee babe.
He laughed, and leaving him alone to do his business, I leaned against the outside of the door and cried, not wanting to ever forget the sound of his laughter.
We sat alone in the dark on his bed that night, side by side, a blanket wrapped around his shoulders against the cold.
There was so much I wanted to say, but couldnt – how much I loved him, and needed him , how much I appreciated every little thing he had ever done for me.
I looked at him, and seeing the sparkle of tears on his cheeks in the dark, I knew that he too was struggling to find the words. I learned then that sometimes words are unable to express what can only be told by the heart and soul of two people who are truly connnected in ways beyond the body .
As we hugged for what seemed like a lifetime, I knew he would be with me always.
He died exactly 4 weeks to the day of my mothers call, and I was devastated. My grandmother never recovered from the loss of her lifelong love, grieving for years still, until she joined him in death last year.
Why am I writing this today ? I miss him. He would have had a hoot , seeing what I am doing now, following my dreams.
Our days on this earth are numbered, and it’s something we often forget. If there are things you want to do, or things you want to say to someone, don’t wait. Are you living the way you want to be remembered?
If I could go back, I would in a heartbeat. Carpe Diem , my friends. Seize the day. I plan to honour my poppa by living my life to the fullest and leaving plenty of stories for my children when I am gone….