My Children Confront Death Again

Dear children,

It is almost midnight on Tuesday night and I am back at the computer lost in the memories of my past. I went to visit your great-grandfather today and we had a very serious talk about death. He looked me in the eye and told me that he knows that he is dying and I told  him that I had heard the rumor. I asked if him if he is afraid or concerned about it and he said no. He is not afraid and he is ready to go.

Tomorrow I’ll take you over to his home to see him so that you can say goodbye. He has been receiving palliative care and tomorrow that changes to hospice care. What that means is that they are going to do some things to make him more comfortable and to prepare for him to leave us. That is a softer way of saying that they are helping him get ready to die.

I don’t know all of the details. I don’t know if they are going to give him a morphine drip or medicate him in a way that will prevent him from communicating with us. But that is what I have seen happen in the past so that is why I want to get there early enough to see him while he is still cognizant of where he is and who is around him.

He told me today that he loves you very much and asked me to tell you stories about him. He made sure to tell me to make sure that I include grandma in those stories. One day when you are much older I will tell you that I think he is dying of a broken heart. It is 18 months since grandma died and he misses her terribly. No one is surprised by this. They were married for 76 years and were friends for close to ten prior to that

My wish for you is that you should know the sort of love that they had for each other and that it be for even longer.

+++++

You may not know this, but most grownups will tell you that you never really out grow your parents. That doesn’t mean that you will always need their help but chances are you will feel better knowing that they are there…just in case. Today I sat next to grandma and I watched her closely. She is preparing to say goodbye to her daddy and I can see that she is sad. She understands why this is happening and knows that it is part of life, but she is going to miss him.

There were a few times when she held my hand and asked me when her little boy got to be so big. She doesn’t talk like that normally. Ok, when your aunt turned 40 this year she told me that she is not old enough to have a 40 year-old child, let alone several. I of course took the opportunity to tell your aunt that mom thinks she is really old. Sorry, you may call me dad but in the big brother guidelines it states that we are required to tease our little sisters for life.

+++++

It feels very strange to me to think that in a short time all of my grandparents will be gone. They have been a huge part of my life. I can’t think of a time where they weren’t around and now I am on the verge of having…none.  One of the things that makes me happy is to see that you are developing the same sort of relationships with your grandparents that I had with mine.

And at the same time I feel sad knowing that none of them will be at your aunt’s wedding. Fact is that no one from that generation will be there. It is less than two weeks now and the docs say that they don’t expect grandpa to live that long. Even if he fools them he won’t be in a position to be there.

One more piece of my childhood is disappearing. I suppose that sounds selfish, but grandpa would appreciate it. Tomorrow you’ll ask me what comes after we die and I expect that you’ll want to know if I think that grandma is waiting to see him. I’ll probably answer by asking what you think.

Me, I am torn. This is all bittersweet for me. I don’t want to let go of my grandpa. It makes me think this:

0 My Children Confront Death Again

I guess that it stems in part from some of the last memories I have of grandpa and grandma. They used to sit next to each other and hold hands. Sometimes when grandma would get up and walk away grandpa would tell me that she had a great ass for a senior citizen and then he would laugh. And sometimes that laugh would fade and he’d tell me about how he didn’t see an old woman. He’d tell me that he still saw the girl that he fell in love with. He’d tell me about how she used to jump on his back and he would run and the two of them would laugh.

He’d tell me lots of stories. During the last few years of grandma’s life he would tell me how frustrated he was that he couldn’t pick her up anymore and how it killed him not to be able to care for her the way that he used to.

+++++

I don’t know what happens after we die. I know that 3 out of 4 of my grandparents lived well into their nineties so I hope not to learn for a long time. I know that though it pains me to have to say goodbye to grandpa I am happy that he is at peace with it. I really do hope that he finds grandma waiting for him. He told me that he talks to her everyday and that when he goes to sleep he always tells her that he loves her.

Before I wrap this up I want to share a few more things with you. I am not afraid of death. I don’t want it to come for a long time because I have too much to do and I am determined to see who you become when you grow up. I am determined to help show you that life is meant to be lived and that our job is to suck the marrow out of life.

And if you want to know why I repeat myself here you can attribute it to this:

If you have an important point to make, don’t try to be subtle or clever. Use a pile driver. Hit the point once. Then come back and hit it again. Then hit it a third time-a tremendous whack.
– Winston Churchill

I love you,

Dad

 

Comments

  1. says

    Very touching Jack, I lost my last grandparent last month at 93 years of age. She was my second mother but my memories of her remain. Wrote o e final tribute to her shortly thereafter that will share with my own kids one day.

  2. says

    @ginidietrich It went ok. They were a little freaked out by how fast he went downhill. It is not like he was running around climbing mountains, but until recently he was doing ok for 97.5.
    Twitter:

  3. says

    @ginidietrich It went ok. They were a little freaked out by how fast he went downhill. It is not like he was running around climbing mountains, but until recently he was doing ok for 97.5.
    Twitter:

  4. says

    @janetcallaway Hi Janet. My grandparents are among the best people I have ever known- don’t care if I am biased. ;)

    They deserve all of the accolades and it is strange to me to not have them around. The visit went pretty well, but my son had a very hard time with it. He and I have to talk later about it.

    Anyway, thank you for visiting, it is always nice to see you here.
    Twitter:

  5. says

    @Biebert Hi Aaron. I wouldn’t say that the topic is too dark or too sad, but I suppose that’s obvious. It seems to me to part of our obligation as fathers to talk to our children about this so that they understand what is going on.

    They need to see what is normal, what is real and to understand what is important.
    Twitter:

  6. says

    Jack, aloha. What a beautiful love story your grandparents are. No doubt you are right that he is dying of a broken heart. How wonderful to have grown up having them as role models and how happy you must be that you children are growing up with the same grandparent experience you did.

    Jack, thank you so much for sharing this special story; I hope the visit went well. Aloha. Janet

  7. Biebert says

    Jack, I’m going through the same feelings right now. (The reason I wrote http://bit.ly/prwZg2)

    Some people complain to me that the topic is too dark, sad, etc. To them I would say this is a big fact of life that we must deal with. Thanks for sharing, thanks for being brave.

    My heart goes out to you.

    Aaron

  8. says

    @Kristen @ Motherese Hi Kristen. Thank you. I have to give credit to my parents for teaching me so much of what I try to pass along to my children.

    These moments are hard but they are worth it. It is the price we pay for having special people and special moments in our lives.
    Twitter:

  9. says

    @bdorman264 Hey Bill. It is not easy to say goodbye to the people that we looked up to. Their light shines so brightly that it makes it that much more apparent when it goes out.

    But if we don’t take what we learn from them and use it- well then we fail them. At least that is how I see it.
    Twitter:

  10. says

    I’m sorry to hear this news about your grandfather.

    This letter to your kids is raw and honest and perfect – they are lucky to have a father who speaks from his heart and tells them the truth about life and its mysteries. I will keep all of you in my thoughts.

  11. says

    My grandmother lived to 102 and I cried like a baby at her funeral. She was truly the matriarch of the family and it was so sad to see that era ending.

    The three things that resonated most to me from your story:

    – Sometimes when grandma would get up and walk away grandpa would tell me that she had a great ass for a senior citizen. I want to be a grandpa like that…..

    – I am determined to help show you that life is meant to be lived and that our job is to suck the marrow out of life. Yes, that is the way to live life.

    – If you have an important point to make, don’t try to be subtle or clever. Use a pile driver. Hit the point once. Then come back and hit it again. Then hit it a third time-a tremendous whack.– Winston Churchill. Absolutely!

    Amen.

  12. says

    @ginidietrich Hi Gini. Thank you. I always feel badly for those who haven’t gotten to experience what I had with my grandparents. It is such a special relationship.

    Well, it is time to talk to them about it. We’ll see how it all goes.
    Twitter:

  13. says

    @ginidietrich Hi Gini. Thank you. I always feel badly for those who haven’t gotten to experience what I had with my grandparents. It is such a special relationship.

    Well, it is time to talk to them about it. We’ll see how it all goes.
    Twitter:

  14. ginidietrich says

    This made me cry, Jack. I lost my grandpa was I was 13 and I still miss him every, single day. Your kids are lucky that they got to know their great grandfather but, just because he’s lived into his 90s, does not make this easier. Thank you for sharing this part of you. I’ll be thinking about you over the next several days.

  15. says

    @Lori Hi Lori. Forty-seven is far too young, sorry to hear about that.

    I have a lot of experience with death. Buried more than a few friends and relatives. I don’t like it, but I am mostly ok with it- not that there is a real choice in the matter.

    My big concern now is trying to make sure that the kids are ok with it all. I’ll miss my grandfather terribly, but I do have some amazing memories to think about and or share…

    Hope you had a great vacation.
    Twitter:

  16. says

    @Leon I look forward to being a grandfather and am sure it will be great fun. But I am happy to wait for it. Told my daughter just the other day that she needs to wait until she is out of college before she has a baby. That girl of mine loves babies…oy.

    I expect you and Julie to stick around for another 30 or 40 years so that we can revisit this then.
    Twitter:

  17. says

    @3HatsComm Thanks Davina. Great grandparents are pretty cool. I knew three of mine. The next period of time will be hard, but if it wasn’t I would be concerned.

    When we feel loss it helps to indicate just how much we had and how special it was.

    As for my pal Churchill- he has some great quotes and that is one of my favorites.
    Twitter:

  18. says

    @marianne.worley Marianne, I really believe that is what happened here. Grandpa lost the woman who kept the fire in his belly burning and there is only so long that you can go on without that.

    It would be different if he were younger. I can’t imagine what it is like to be with someone for 50 years, but it has to have something special to it.
    Twitter:

  19. says

    @marianne.worley Marianne, I really believe that is what happened here. Grandpa lost the woman who kept the fire in his belly burning and there is only so long that you can go on without that.

    It would be different if he were younger. I can’t imagine what it is like to be with someone for 50 years, but it has to have something special to it.
    Twitter:

  20. Lori says

    Hi Jack,

    So sorry for this difficult time you are facing. It’s so sad. On my vacation i noticed signs of aging in several of my aunts and my uncle and it is disturbing. I want to keep everyone young and healthy, as if I could. But more disturbing were the stories which came from younger people, like my brother-in-law who at the age of 47 was just told he doesn’t have much time. This was a great shock to all of us because we didn’t even know he was having tests. It made me look at the older generations’s tell-tale signs of age and feel differently about it.

    It isn’t easy at any age. I’m a wimp even at the AIRPORT on departure days. I HATE the departures. I don’t handle them well. You’re lucky that your blog gives you a voice to express (rather than hold in) what you feel.

    Hang in there. Life does go on.

    Lori

  21. Lori says

    Hi Jack,

    So sorry for this difficult time you are facing. It’s so sad. On my vacation i noticed signs of aging in several of my aunts and my uncle and it is disturbing. I want to keep everyone young and healthy, as if I could. But more disturbing were the stories which came from younger people, like my brother-in-law who at the age of 47 was just told he doesn’t have much time. This was a great shock to all of us because we didn’t even know he was having tests. It made me look at the older generations’s tell-tale signs of age and feel differently about it.

    It isn’t easy at any age. I’m a wimp even at the AIRPORT on departure days. I HATE the departures. I don’t handle them well. You’re lucky that your blog gives you a voice to express (rather than hold in) what you feel.

    Hang in there. Life does go on.

    Lori

  22. says

    @Ameena Falchetto (MummyinProvence) Hi Ameena. I feel very lucky to have had grandparents for as long as I have and grateful that my children got to know them.

    It all feels….surreal.
    Twitter:

  23. says

    @Ameena Falchetto (MummyinProvence) Hi Ameena. I feel very lucky to have had grandparents for as long as I have and grateful that my children got to know them.

    It all feels….surreal.
    Twitter:

  24. Leon says

    G’Day Jack,

    Bloody hell! Taint easy. My wife, Julie’s grandparents all died before she was born. Same for me and my mother’s parents. My father’s parents were both dead by the time I was six.

    Our eldest grandchild, Camille, turns 18 next week. We have five others. We have a great relationship with them. That’s something that Julie and I missed out on. But we didn’t realise what we’d missed until we became grandparents ourselves.

    Just thought you might like to know that.

    If we’re really lucky and we’re still around when she turns 42, I hope we have the sort of relationship you have with your great-grandfather.

    Look after yourself,

    Leon

  25. Leon says

    G’Day Jack,

    Bloody hell! Taint easy. My wife, Julie’s grandparents all died before she was born. Same for me and my mother’s parents. My father’s parents were both dead by the time I was six.

    Our eldest grandchild, Camille, turns 18 next week. We have five others. We have a great relationship with them. That’s something that Julie and I missed out on. But we didn’t realise what we’d missed until we became grandparents ourselves.

    Just thought you might like to know that.

    If we’re really lucky and we’re still around when she turns 42, I hope we have the sort of relationship you have with your great-grandfather.

    Look after yourself,

    Leon

  26. says

    Very touching story.. glad you wrote this for your kids, that they will have a chance to say goodbye. I too was blessed enough to know some of my great grandparents, have fond memories of them from my childhood and I still have a living grandfather. Thanks for sharing this and the Churchill quote. My heart goes out to you and your family.

  27. says

    Jack, all I can say is that I am thinking of you as you go through this time. I think that great people like your grandpa never die because their memory lives on with the ones they touched.

  28. says

    I believe you CAN die from a broken heart–I’ve seen it happen. My great-aunt Ella and great-uncle Bill were married for 50 years. A few months after the anniversary party, Uncle Bill developed pneumonia, and he couldn’t fight it. Aunt Ella was devastated. She told me she didn’t want to live without her beloved partner and friend. She had always been a spunky character, sharp and witty. But when Bill died, those characteristics started to fade and her body started to waste away. Within 6 months, she was gone too.

    It’s a hard thing, saying goodbye. But when they’re ready, you have to let them go.

  29. Faryna says

    I don’t know how to comment to this post. So, I’ll just tell you that I sent your link to someone written in my heart.

    And I wrote: I want a life something like what this makes me feel.

  30. says

    Jack, All I can say is this made me cry. It stinks to say goodbye. I don’t care what your beliefs are, it always stinks! (And I love to cry because I know it means my heart was touched by something important)

  31. says

    Jack, All I can say is this made me cry. It stinks to say goodbye. I don’t care what your beliefs are, it always stinks! (And I love to cry because I know it means my heart was touched by something important)

  32. Ameena Falchetto (MummyinProvence) says

    I’m sorry Jack. This letter is very touching. It’s never easy to lose a loved one. It’s wonderful that your grandfather was able to enjoy being a great-grandfather – that is a precious gift.

    My maternal grandmother, who was my last living grandparent, passed away 10 days after my daughter was born – they never met. Good luck with the talk. Will be thinking of you and your family

  33. amykramer says

    Aw Jack. Just lovely and loving. And I’m sorry. It’s not easy. My grandparents are all gone, the first long before I existed and the last a year before my son was born. My husband’s grandmother passed away the day after my son was born. That was traumatic for my husband, so much gained and lost within 24 hours. Good luck with the talk tomorrow.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>

CommentLuv badge

This blog uses premium CommentLuv which allows you to put your keywords with your name if you have had 3 approved comments. Use your real name and then @ your keywords (maximum of 3)