Sunday, November 6, 2011

Goodbye for now, Grandpa

Today we bury Grandpa. Today we say goodbye. It hurts to see him go, but we rejoice that he is at peace.

It's been a difficult year since he was placed in the nursing home. His deterioration due to the Alzheimer's/dementia seemed to speed up a lot. I had hoped to visit him regularly. I only got to visit him a handful of times. Each time was more difficult than the one before. The last time I saw him alive was only for about 10 or 15 minutes. I went in September with my mom and grandma.When we got on his wing, they had all the residents in the community room playing what they called, "Noodle Ball". The residents would bat a big beach ball to each other with swimming pool noodles. It looked like great fun for kids. But, when I looked around that room and realized that each one of those residents had at one time led productive lives with real responsibilities, I was saddened to see what they had been reduced to. We weren't able to stay long because he was very agitated and wouldn't acknowledge us. I think he knew that his life should be more than eat, sleep, be dressed and groomed by someone else, and hit a ball with a stupid stick. I HATE Alzheimer's! It stole Grandpa's life from him and it stole him away from us.

Two weeks ago today, Grandpa was admitted into the hospital with pneumonia. I was upset by the news and that I was so far away. I was at church when I received the phone call. I was blessed to have some of our new church family there to pray with me. From the time I got the news of his hospital admittance until the day last week that it was clear he would not be in this world much longer, I prayed that God would either completely heal him, including the Alzheimer's/dementia, or take him Home. Grandpa had such a strong body. At 87 the only medication he was on was occasional acid reflux meds, and something for the anxiety and aggression brought on by the Alzheimer's. He had never been hospitalized for illness his entire life until he contracted the pneumonia a couple of weeks ago. It would have taken Alzheimer's years and years to kill him. In the meantime he would have forgotten each one of us, who he was, all of his life, how to talk, how to walk, how to eat, until he finally forgot how to breathe. My prayer was that he would be spared all of that. My prayer is that we, his family, would be spared all of that. I'm so grateful to God that he did spare us all of that. Grandpa may not have had the opportunity to die at home on the farm, but he still had some of his mind. He still knew who he and who his wife and children were most of the time. I'm so grateful that he died with some of himself intact and that now his mind is fully restored and he is fully aware once again.

When I received the news of his passing Shawn, the kids, and I were on our way to see him, but we had been delayed by everyday life and we were still hours away. On Facebook I said, "He's gone. We're still hours away and he's gone. I'm so thankful that he is with our Jesus, thankful that his distress has seen it's end, thankful for his life, thankful for his love. I just wanted to see him again, and hug him again, and tell him one more time how much I love him." For some reason I thought I would have enough time to get there. I couldn't speak for a little while. All I could do was cry. I was so glad his suffering was over, but I was devastated. I was within hours of seeing him again and I missed the chance. I know we will be reunited one day. I know he is watching over me and the rest of our family, but I wanted the chance to say goodbye while he was still alive. I know it's selfish. He was struggling for each breath at the end, but it still hurts. My sister and I only have one living grandparent now. I wish I had valued the relationships with my grandparents more, cherished each moment with them as they were happening. I can't let myself get lost in woulda, coulda, shoulda, though, as easy as that would be. I'd rather get lost in gratitude.

I thank God for each moment I had with Grandpa. I'm glad I realized how much he loves me and how much I love him.  I'm thankful for his dedication to his family and his country, and for his love of farming. I'm grateful for his strength. He was a rock for his family. I'm profoundly grateful for the Christian legacy he left us. I am indebted to him for this. I'm so thankful that God put me in Grandpa's family. It's been good to be with family the last few days. I don't think I've ever appreciated them more than I have this past weekend.

I have reposted a couple of articles I posted last year when Grandpa was first admitted into the nursing home. This is a link to his obituary. I will be sharing a few words and singing "It is Well With My Soul" at the end of the funeral. I hope I have the composure to make it through. Please keep my family in your heart and prayers today. It will be a day of heartache and rejoicing.

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