Four years ago my Grampa went into the hospital, and none of us thought he'd ever go home again. The cancer was making it impossible to eat, and he was getting worse by the day. It was a few weeks before my wedding, and we were already sure he wouldn't be able to make it to see me get married. I went in to visit him, and he didn't know who I was. I didn't think anything could have hurt me more. They told me it was the morphine he was on, and that in between doses he was fully aware of what was happening and who everyone was. But the morphine made him forget and hallucinate. Moments later he mimed eating oatmeal because he really thought it was there. I suppose that should have made me feel better, because it really was the morphine and not his memory going. But the pain never went away. I cannot imagine what the family and friends of Alzheimer patients have to deal with. I know I'm just not strong enough to deal with that kind of hurt.
They said he was getting worse, and when I left for my honeymoon, I was sure I'd never see Grampa again. But he made it. And the medicine began to shrink the tumor in his esophagus. He went home a while later, and while he never got back to his full pre-hospital health, he had a great two and a half years, before he started getting worse again.
On Friday I got a call from my mom telling me what I'd hoped to hear for almost a year. Grampa was almost gone, and it was finally time to say goodbye for good. His quality of life had been so awful during the last year, that it's hard for me to feel guilt about wanting it to be over for him. It was so painful to watch him struggle to eat, to breathe, to walk. Saturday I went to see what was left of him. It wasn't my Grampa. It looked like him, but the important parts were missing. The twinkle in his eye, the laughter in his voice, the strength in his face. All of that had been gone for a while, and all that remained was the shell of the man he'd once been.
He died in his sleep early Sunday morning. After the majority of the family had come to say goodbye. I am relieved and miserable all at the same time. He's no longer in pain, and that makes dealing with the loss a tiny bit easier for me. But the pain is still intense. I think part of me still clung to the hope that he would miraculously get better, despite every single sign pointing to the opposite. It's hard to believe and accept that your Grampa will die, no matter how obvious it is. The worst part right now, for me, is that I can't remember him healthy. I can't get past the frail old man he'd become and remember the healthy strong man he was. If someone says "Remember when..." I can remember the situation, but the image of him is of the sick man, not the healthy one, despite the fact that he was healthy at the time of the memory. I know that will pass in time, but right now it hurts more than anything. I'd give anything to have a memory of him being healthy.
I love you, Grampa. I'm so glad you're not suffering anymore, and are no longer in pain.