Life is More Precious than I Could have Ever Imagined

My grandfather is one of the most beloved people in my life. He has his endearing quirks, such as his strange hobbies of collecting chess boards [never seen him play them, lol] and making up wild stories about "his adventures in the land of the Pigmys." He once rented half a bee-farm on a whim and his entire house is basically a library, there isn't a single room without books in it. Some of the most bizarre books and knick-knacks I had ever seen were in his house. I had found a copy of "The Satanic Bible" and a bunch of wierd books on Witchcraft, a copy of the Torah [official], a Hindu Holy Book, the Book of Mormon, numerous books on Lighthouses and American Indians [two other obsessions of his - he has an extensive collection of North Carolina lighthouse statues and strange American Indian Artifacts and Ceremonial masks (etc). His quirks made him beloved to all of us. He is a Presbyterian in the Bible Belt, and very devoted to his faith. And if his faith is what pulled him through the ordeal I'm about to mention, then I'm glad he believed, because if he had died... well I don't know how I would have taken that, and I don't want to think about it.

Perhaps I should give some background on the disease that brought his to his current state and predicament.

Several years ago my beloved Grandpa was officially diagnosed with Parkinson's Disease. It was both a surprise and not a surprise at the same time. He's 75 today [I think] and this disease is not uncommon among people his age. I knew what the end result would eventually be: death. Someday, his Parkinson's will take him away from us... and I will do then what is most appropriate when you are faced with death in a loved one, express my rage and grief at nature for taking him away from me... selfish though this may seem it is far more conductive to healing than doing what a lot of Christians do and pretending not to be sad [and failing miserably] because "he's in a better place" or some such BS. I don't believe in life after death, so when he does leave me, all I will ever have left of him is my memories of him and the photographs and family videos. Haven't I got a right to be enraged at nature and the universe for my Grandfather's eventual death sentence?!

Anyway, over the 4 to 5 years since his diagnosis, he has been steadily, and horribly, deteriorating. He has become very feeble and often depressed. That "twinkle" in his eyes showed up less frequently and he would often have to be helped out of chairs and into cars. When he went up stairs, he would go very slowly and cling onto the railing for dear life. He became very quiet and started retreating from family activities a lot, spending his time watching his enormous HDTV [which he's very proud of. - my grandparents are far more "well to do" than my immediate family] and reading books. He would smile sometimes when I would come in and engage him in conversation about deep intellectual topics. He is, afterall, a very intelligent man. A retired Nuclear Engineer and he possesses that kind of unusual brilliance and eccentricity often found in the great minds of the past. I enjoyed our conversations.

But... as time went by, that tremor in his hand got worse, eventually so bad that I would sometimes have to grab his wrist to stop him from accidently hurting himself or spilling his coffee on himself. I could see his pain more clearly than ever those times. And I curse the universe that is doing this to him.

Anyway, recently it was revealed that he would have to go in for surgery on his brain. The chances of him dying may have been 1000 to 1 but that didn't stop me from worrying. The surgery seemed to go well, but...

On the night after I left his house [we were visiting him and his family to provide support before he left for the surgery] I got some news that floored me, and I was left in horrified and worried shock. Something had happened... the doctor said it was "a minor complication that would clear up" but...
I heard then that because of an air pocket that had developed on his brain from the surgery... he had had a severe seizure.

When the medical staff reached him my grandfather had been clawing at his face... he had scratched his forehead till blood had run down his face and his clawing at his eyes had ripped open the skin that covered his tearducts. I was worried... it didn't matter that the doctor said this was not that big of a deal.

He has been moved to a "rehabilitation" place and is currently healing. I talked to him today and realized that he had pulled through. His voice still sounded tired and confused but he was slowly recovering and he had had a cup of coffee today. I hung up the phone and collapsed into tears, I had spent so much time terrified that I might lose him... the seizure had me even more worried. But thanks to medical science and the support of his friends and family he is going to make it through.

Life is more precious to me now than ever... I can't express my relief, but also my realization that at every moment our lives are so vulnerable... we always hang in the balance between life and death and death doesn't always wait for an invitation or give a warning.

Celebrating life is more important to me than ever now, because there is no way to know when it could be over.

Views: 148

Tags: atheist, death, dying, family, love, members, personal, reactions, story

Comment by Doug Reardon on August 13, 2011 at 6:08pm

Having lost both parents recently, my heart is with you, skycomet.

Comment by CJ on August 13, 2011 at 6:27pm

 You and your family will be in my thoughts.  

Comment by CJoe on August 13, 2011 at 6:37pm

Thanks for sharing this, Sky. It hits really close to home. I lost my grandfather a little over a year ago. I tell ya, there's a little shadow over my life now. It just seems wrong that he's not in the world anymore, and that everything has just gone on without him. I can't say that I'm angry at the universe, but I feel how temporary life is that much more profoundly. I hate that my grandmother is without her life-long buddy, although she is an extremely strong, practical, intelligent woman. I absolutely dread the day when she passes on. We had a scare recently. I guess she had a minor stroke. Fortunately, she's fine... no lingering side effects... just the knowledge that she's 75, and something like that taking her life or permanently crippling her isn't out of the question. It seems so unfair... for someone who's still so full of life... for someone who used to be athletic and healthy... old age is cruel.

Who's to say what is selfish? We already know we can't live forever, but of course it is deeply painful to lose someone we love. We have no concept of death in a way. It's just that suddenly someone we depended on is gone, and all we want is for them to still be around... their laugh, their jokes, their smell...

Anyway. If he understands you, tell him how you feel. My only regret is that I had no idea how close my grandfather was to death and didn't get to tell him how much I loved him, and how he has set the standard for the man I'll spend my life with. I just wish I'd had one more heartfelt conversation with him. And... I wish he'd thought I was a Christian. Maybe that sounds like a sell-out. I just know he worried so much. I wish he could've had that peace. Oh well... at least he isn't suffering now, and that worry he felt is only a projection of my memory.

:)

Comment by Arcus on August 14, 2011 at 2:34am

I guess I can relate pretty well too as my grandfather really suffered from Parkinson's the last 15 years of his life. Like yours, he was quite accomplished as a CEO and politician, one of these wise old men who seems to know everything (his knew Thor Heyderdahl). It was for the longest time just a tremor and he asked for his cup of coffee half full, but after his 3rd stroke he lost some of his motor function and became nurse dependent. After the 4th he lost the ability to speak and became bedridden. 

It is a horrible disease, and it is worth celebrating every moment of life. Grandfather 1 - Parkinson's 1. :)

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