Saturday, August 11, 2007

So This is How We Say Goodbye

Today Grandpa died.

Mom called me the blessed grandchild, because I was in the hospital room with Grandpa when he passed; Dad and I were the only two people in the room to share in his last moments, and his last breath.

He was not conscious: at least not that I could tell, although Dad believed he might still be able to hear us. His eyes were open and his chest rose beneath the bed sheets intermittently with each breath - something Dad noticed. I sat down beside his bed and decided to tell him about my garden.

I think Grandpa liked to hear about my garden. He was quite the gardener himself, although he frequently indicated that he felt more like a salad chef for the deer that sampled his vegetable patch than a green thumb.

I told him the latest developments. Pocket gophers had decided to make dirt piles in my garden. Pocket gophers, I explained (more for Dad's benefit) live underground and dig holes, collecting the dirt in their checks then spitting it out in a pile designed to hide their hole. A friend told me he thought the gophers (which look like big chipmunks) had targettted my garden because the soil there was moist (watered daily by me) while the rest of the ground was experiencing a subsoil moisture deficit(blame that on mother nature). He thought the moist soild was easier for them to dig through. He offered to put traps in the holes (provided we find them beneath the piles) but assured me the piles were an aesthetic inconvenience, and the gophers were little more than a nuissance.

"I don't think they even eat vegetables," he told me. Because there was no evidence to the contrary, I left the dirt piles, and (I presume) the entryway to the gopher lair as well, in tact.

I explained this to Grandpa; he would understand, he might even be sympathetic - he had battled with his share of garden pests.

I thought I saw a flicker of some kind of recognition in his eyes, even if for a moment. I suppose it could be wishful thinking. I knew he wouldn't be able to offer advice, as he had before. Still, somehow I felt like he knew we were there and maybe he was listening.

After trying to find a better radion station for Grandpa, (the nurse had turned on the radio for him earlier in the morning) Dad approached the bed and noticed that evidence of Grandpa's shallow breathing had vanished. I noticed the flicker I thought I had seen in his eyes was also gone.

The doctor confirmed what Dad already seemed to know, and I was trying to believe -- even though his body was in front of our eyes, Granpa was gone.

The time the doctor declared him was 1 p.m., although he passed before then. When exactly, I am not positive. I am pretty sure I had my hand on his shoulder though, when it happened.

Dad commented that death came as a surprise in the sense that it came unannounced, even if expected. We humans seem to think that because death is such a milestone in our lives...our final milestone, that it should involve some amount of fanfare: "drumroll please..." Instead in its final moment, at least in Grandpa's case, death came quietly, without giving any obvious, immediate cue that this was the end.

It almost seemed fitting for Grandpa. In the way that I knew him, he wasn't a person who liked to draw attention to himself or make a big fuss.

I am happy for him. I know he is in a better place now. But I am sad for the rest of us. We have the human job of dealing with the void in the family that has been created by his departure. It's a void with no chance of being filled. That is really the hardest part, and that is really all that is left to do.


trish said...

I am so sorry for your loss. I know how hard it is to lose a loved one and you know that I am always here for you. Please, please do not hesitate to let me know if there is anything I can do.